Joyce Flory, a communications consultant who is co-writing a series of books on healthcare World Wide Web sites, said too many hospitals rush to develop a Web site without thinking about a message or an audience.
Flory, who is based in Chicago, suggests ways hospitals can use the Web:
Develop community partnerships. She points to the Memphis (Tenn.) Educational Computer Connectivity Alliance, which put computers in housing projects, and Flower Hospital in Sylvania, Ohio, which is partnering with businesses and educational institutions.
Take a lesson from Hollywood and managed-care organizations such as FHP Health Care, which offer fun, interactive sites.
Put computers in the communities you want to reach, such as low-income housing and stores. PorterCare Hospital in Denver did this, she said.
Offer patient forums and support groups or subscriptions to mailing lists for specific diseases.
Locate the best healthcare information on the Web and help consumers access it.
Seek other Web sites where the hospital can promote itself, or co-sponsor a site with another business.