Do Websites Provide What Applicants Need? Plastic Surgery Residency Program Websites Versus Applicant Self-reported Needs

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Background:Plastic surgery residency program websites (PSRWs) remain a major resource for applicants to one of the most competitive specialties in medicine, yet it is unclear how the website content aligns with information applicants need.Objective:To evaluate PSRWs and whether they are meeting applicant needs.Methods:An anonymous online survey of 2016 plastic and reconstructive surgery applicants evaluated the use of PSRWs and information desired. Two researchers then independently analyzed all 93 PSRWs in the United States to determine whether the websites met the needs of applicants based on a quantitative scoring system.Results:Out of 369 total applicants to plastic surgery, the survey was sent to the 189 applicants to University of Southern California, and 87 responded (46% response rate). Ninety-eight percentage of respondents used websites during the application process. For 31%, websites served as the only source of information. Websites were moderately (60%) and only slightly useful (32%). For 22% and 34%, the quality of a website influenced their decision to apply or interview, respectively. Out of the 22 common components between the applicant survey and scoring assessment of websites, there was a significant difference in 17 components (77%) between those rated as “important” by applicants and availability of the corresponding component on websites (P < 0.05). Average (SD) score among websites was 18.7 (5.3) out of 49 maximum points (36.9%). Over 30% of websites displayed broken links or missing or outdated information. Only 19.6% displayed a link to provide website feedback.Conclusions:PSRWs commonly include pertinent information that is useful; however, most are lacking components valued by applicants. These findings can help guide the design, content, and improvement of PSRWs to be quality resources for applicants.

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