Health Sites Found Lacking in Services

An evaluation of 52 pharmaceutical and health care Web sites found many missing even the most basic services and information.

On a scale of 1 to 10, health care and pharmaceutical Web sites score a measly 5.8, according to an evaluation of more than 50 sites by research and consultancy company Consumer Research Group. But considering that a broader survey of almost 600 corporate sites averaged a 5.9 rating, maybe thats not too bad.

More than one-quarter of the pharmaceutical or health care sites evaluated in the study simply ignored user queries submitted to them, with a total of more than one-third providing either nonexistent or inconsistent responses.

But that poor performance is actually an improvement over the previous year, when almost half of sites didnt respond to users or did so inconsistently. An additional 15 percent do not provide any online means for users to communicate with them.

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Another improvement, albeit again slight, came with the almost universal placement of privacy policies on sites, up to 94 percent from 87 percent last year.

But 16 percent of these pharmaceutical and health care sites continued to share user information with business partners or unrelated businesses without permission, while 40 percent of sites provided no means for users to opt out of marketing from the company itself.

Medical practice, prescription benefits management and health services companies performed the best as a group, with an average site rating of 6.2. The best performing company in this category was Medco Health Solutions with an 8.6 rating, while the worst, Community Health Systems, rated a 4.0.

Medical equipment and device companies fared better than the industry average with a 6.1 rating, as did pharmaceutical manufacturers with a 5.8 rating. The top-rated pharmaceutical site was Allergan at 7.0 while the lowest was Eli Lilly at 4.0.

Health care plan companies fared the worst on average, with a 5.0 rating overall. Kaiser Permanente was the best performer in this category at 7.6, while PacifiCare Health Systems garnered a 3.5.

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