Online access to spine care: do institutions advertise themselves as multidisciplinary?

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J Spine Surg


BACKGROUND: The primary aim of our study is to assess the extent to which healthcare systems advertise their spine care programs as multidisciplinary and furthermore clarify whether these institutions accurately reflect this description in their online access to spine care. The secondary aim of our study is to determine what proportion of institutions enable patients to self-schedule appointments online and select providers.

METHODS: Newsweek's 2021 list entitled "Best Hospitals 2021-United States" was utilized to obtain an extensive list of top-rated hospitals in the country. Institutions were considered to be advertising themselves as multidisciplinary if they used this term or similar wording (such as "care encompassing broad range of specialties", "interdisciplinary", "multidisciplinary"). Each institution's website was additionally assessed for the existence of: (I) a standard overview website or multiple individual sites for respective spine-focused divisions (i.e., orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, anesthesiology); (II) online self-scheduling; (III) triage questions prior to requesting appointments; and (IV) selection choice for specific providers.

RESULTS: In total, 334 institutions were included in analysis, with 66% utilizing multidisciplinary terminology in describing their institution on their website. However, most institutions only had a standard overview website with no separate websites for respective divisions (54%). Institutions described as multidisciplinary were more likely to have a link on a central page to each division (31% vs. 4%, P<0.001). No significant differences were found between institutions described as multidisciplinary and those not described as such when considering triage questions, online self-scheduling, and choice of provider.

CONCLUSIONS: Though the majority of spine care centers are described as multidisciplinary, the patient experience when navigating websites online does not always meet this standard. Further progress in website design, automated triaging, and online scheduling are needed to truly achieve multidisciplinary care.

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