Robotic Surgery Claims on Hospital Sites Not Balanced

U.S. hospital Web sites rely on text and images provided by manufacturer, do not mention risks

FRIDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital Web sites in the United States may be overestimating the benefits and underestimating the risks of robotic surgery, potentially misinforming patients, according to a study published online May 17 in the Journal for Healthcare Quality.

Linda X. Jin, from Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues analyzed the prevalence, prominence, and content of robotic surgery information on 400 randomly selected U.S. hospital Web sites in June 2010. Data were collected on the presence and location of information, use of images or text provided by the manufacturer, use of a direct link to the manufacturer's Web site, claims of clinical superiority and improved cancer outcomes, mention of a comparison group, use of supporting data, and description of specific risks.

The investigators found that 41 percent of the hospital Web sites reviewed described availability and mechanics of robotic surgery. Of these, 37 percent had the information presented on their homepage, 73 percent used text or images provided by the manufacturer, and 33 percent provided the link to the manufacturer's Web site. In 86 percent of Web sites, there were statements of clinical superiority, and improved cancer control was described in 32 percent. Only 2 percent of hospitals described a reference group. None of the hospital Web sites mentioned any risks.

"Materials provided by hospitals regarding the surgical robot overestimate benefits, largely ignore risks, and are strongly influenced by the manufacturer," the authors write.

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