Study objectives: This study assesses how often local US hospitals provide smoking cessation information in the following two ways: via hospital Web sites; and via routing incoming phone calls to their hospital switchboards to an in-house smoking cessation clinic.
Design: Random survey of US hospitals.
Setting: US hospital Web pages and telephone switchboards.
Patients or participants: One hundred two randomly selected US hospitals.
Interventions: One hundred two hospital Web sites were randomly selected across the United States. The site was searched for the topic of smoking cessation. In the second phase of the survey, the main switchboard number of the same 102 hospitals was anonymously called and the “stop smoking clinic” was asked for.
Measurements and results: The overall results indicate that among the hospital Web sites surveyed, only 30% contained information relating to smoking cessation programs. The phone survey of hospital switchboards showed that 47% had a smoking cessation program available via phone inquiry, while 53% did not.
Conclusions: Of the US hospital Web sites visited, only 30% contained information on smoking cessation. The yield of finding the desired information was increased by the presence of an intrasite search option, which is a low-cost enhancement to any complex Web site. The relatively low cost of promoting healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation on a hospital Web site should be used more widely. Surprisingly, the phone survey of hospitals showed that the lower technology route of providing smoking cessation information to patients via a patient-initiated phone call is only available in 47% of hospitals. Both the Internet and phone-based switchboard referrals could be more widely and effectively used. Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations guidelines would be one avenue of increasing the availability of smoking cessation information at hospital switchboards and Web sites.