Published 11/1/2007
Elaine Fiedler

AAOS upgrades patient education Web site

“Your Orthopaedic Connection” now offers enhanced navigation, revised content

If it’s been awhile since you last visited “Your Orthopaedic Connection” (YOC), the AAOS patient education Web site at www.orthoinfo.org, you’re in for a surprise. For the first time since it debuted 6 years ago, YOC has undergone a significant upgrade.

The revamped site unveiled last month boasts a wealth of new and revised content, more intuitive site navigation tools, a pleasing new color scheme, and much more.

Developed and maintained by the Academy in partnership with specialty societies, YOC is a convenient, practical source of orthopaedic information that has automatic credibility with its readers.

“Many patients with known orthopaedic conditions search online before their first visit with an orthopaedic surgeon,” says Stuart J. Fischer, MD, YOC’s interim editor-in chief. “And YOC is one of the largest sources of musculoskeletal information on the Web.”

In fact, many of the site’s articles are the first to appear when patients use a Web search engine such as Google. “I always ask my patients which Web sites they’ve visited and almost all report they have been to YOC,” he adds.

Keeping the site “the primary source”
The improvements are part of the Academy’s ongoing efforts to keep the site as the primary patient education source for musculoskeletal information.

Updating and editing YOC’s content has been a major challenge in the renovation of the site, according to Jane Baque, AAOS senior manager, Web sites. People who visit Web sites for medical information want clear, direct, and concise language and are especially turned off by wordiness and repetition.

On the other hand, they’re not looking for a “cute” or overly casual style of writing either, according to Ms. Baque. And above all, the information must be accurate and authoritative.

YOC now offers a total of 448 articles, including 214 clinical topics; 168 topics on prevention, safety, patient-centered care, and tips; 33 articles in Spanish; and 33 patient stories. Those numbers will continue to grow as new articles are added.

“We’re really looking for more contributors to YOC,” says Ms. Baque. “We provide all contributors with a template to help with formatting consistency, and we encourage the use of short paragraphs, bullet points, and a reader-friendly style.”

Photographs and video are extremely helpful tools that can give a medical information site a definite edge over less sophisticated sites, she adds. The upgrades to the site ensure that photographs and illustrations are easier to download and print. Videos have been edited to improve their educational quality and to ensure that they will serve as useful media tools for members.

In addition, YOC editors are coordinating article content and images to improve the visitor’s overall experience of the site. Instead of oversized illustrations that didn’t always align properly with the relevant text, the site now features properly sized and aligned photographs, X-rays, and images. From any page on the site, simply select “File” and click “Print”; the result is a professional looking patient education handout for your patients.

More intuitive navigation
One change that significantly improves the site’s usability is its new menu, which has been broken down into more logical categories.

“We want users to get a sense of the scope and breadth of the content on YOC when they first come on to the site,” Ms. Baque says. “The new menu makes that possible.”

On the old site, the main menu comprised a list of topics, such as “arthritis” or “injury prevention,” along with a few generic categories such as “general information” that contained a collection of unrelated topics.

On the revised site, a new navigation bar appears on the left side of every page so users can jump from one article to a totally different topic area with just a click of the mouse.

The table of contents is another new tool that allows for faster browsing within individual articles.

“A table of contents now appears in the upper right hand corner of each article, with a hyperlink to each of that article’s subtopics or headings,” she says. “This allows users to jump directly to the specific topic they’re looking for without having to read through the entire article.”

Enhancing readability
A new addition to the site is the glossary of orthopaedic terms. A link to the glossary appears on every page, so a patient who is puzzled by a word such as “agonists” can quickly find out that it means “muscles that produce body movement in the same direction.”

Articles on YOC are written to reach a wide audience of readers. Although orthopaedic terms are used, articles are written to be understood by an eighth-grade reader. For example, the article on “sprained thumb” has a 7.7 reading score, while the article on chordomas has an 8.7 reading score.

“Browsing is encouraged”
Web site usability studies show that most people find information on a site through browsing. When users can navigate a site easily and find other topics along the way, they usually delve farther into the site, increasing their overall usage, Ms. Baque explains.

“On the redesigned site, if you click on the topic ‘Diseases’ to hunt for information on plantar fasciitis, for example, you’ll also see other topics and you may visit those pages as well,” she says. “So a visit that would have been limited to a one-page hit now might result in hits on three or four pages.”

YOC benefits both patients and physicians
Dr. Fischer recommends YOC to all of his patients. “YOC articles are concise, informative, and up-to-date,” he says. “Many AAOS booklets and brochures are now online on the site as well. In particular, I ask all of my joint replacement patients to read the ‘Total Hip Replacement’ and ‘Total Knee Replacement’ booklets, which are detailed and well illustrated.”

AAOS members will also find that YOC is an easy way to enhance their patient education efforts.

“This site is the best educational tool orthopaedic surgeons can provide their patients,” Dr. Fischer says. “Physicians can print out YOC articles on specific topics and hand them out to their patients or refer them to articles on the site for more information after an office visit. Members can also provide direct links to YOC articles from their own Web pages.”

Orthopaedists rely on many different kinds of tools to take care of their patients, and YOC should be one of those tools. As with any other implement, however, a medical Web site requires constant honing and attention to stay up-to-date, something to remember the next time you visit www.orthoinfo.aaos.org

Behind the scenes of a Web site redesign
As Your Orthopaedic Connection neared its 5-year anniversary last year, the Academy called for a review of the site’s effectiveness.

“We wanted to find out what we could improve for YOC to better reach both patient and physician audiences,” says Jane Baque, AAOS senior manager, Web sites.

Because a more accessible and easily browsed site also can translate into a higher ranking on Google’s results page—leading to even more users—the Academy contracted a usability testing group from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to conduct an impartial evaluation of the site’s design and usability and make recommendations for improvements. The results of IIT’s usability study and focus groups led to improvements in YOC’s organization, depth and breadth of content, navigation, and design.

What patients want
According to focus group participants, a successful medical site gives them a better understanding of their medical condition and the options available to them for treatment. Users also find it helpful when a site reminds them of what their physician told them or further clarifies that information.

Patients are looking for complete and easy-to-understand information from a credible source, and they’re most attracted to sites with good visuals, interactive tutorials, comprehensible videos, and printer-friendly information.

One participant said, “A good site helps you to be educated so that you can ask good questions [of your doctor].”

Tips for improving YOC
When asked for specific feedback on the YOC site, focus group participants expressed concern about the age of the site’s articles—many of which were 3 to 5 years old—saying they wanted the most up-to-date information available. They also wanted to see more consistency within the site, improved menus that would make navigation more intuitive, and a table of contents for each article.

Focus group participants also voiced concern about the language and terminology being used on YOC. They asked for simple language, not jargon, at a comprehensible reading level; a glossary to explain orthopaedic terms; and a consistent voice across all articles. Better use of imaging was also advised.

Taking action
The changes to YOC address the concerns raised in the IIT report. With a new editorial board, every article has been reviewed, revised, and updated. Section editors and physician members review each article for accuracy and currency. All of the articles will continue to be revised and updated on a regular basis.