Use of Obstetric Practice Web Sites to Distribute Zika Virus Information to Pregnant Women During a Zika Virus Outbreak

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe the current use of obstetric practice Web sites to disseminate Zika virus information to patients.

Design:

Review of 913 randomly selected practice Web sites and associated social media accounts in January and August 2016.

Setting:

Obstetric practice Web sites and associated social media accounts, United States of America.

Participants:

N/A.

Main Outcome Measures:

Proportion of obstetric practice Web sites and linked social media accounts providing Zika virus information.

Results:

Twenty-five percent and 35% of obstetric practice Web sites had information posted about Zika virus in January 2016 and August 2016, respectively. Between the 2 time points, the proportion of practices posting Zika virus content on Facebook and Twitter declined (Facebook: 15% in January, 9% in August; Twitter: 12% in January, 8% in August). In August, the most frequently observed Zika virus–related content themes were the use of insect repellent (14%) and travel advisories (14%). At both time points, practices affiliated with large university hospitals were more likely to have posted information on Zika virus than independent OB/GYN-only practices: January: odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval [CI]) = 5.68 (3.50-9.20); August: OR (95% CI) = 8.37 (5.31-13.17). Similarly, practices associated with nonuniversity hospitals were more likely to have posted information than independent OB/GYN-only practices: January: OR (95% CI) = 2.71 (1.88-3.92); August: OR (95% CI) = 6.75 (4.75-9.60).

Conclusion:

Obstetric care practices are not fully utilizing their practice Web sites to relay Zika virus information to their patients. Since practitioner-sponsored Web sites have the capacity to directly reach the populations at greatest risk for Zika virus complications, public health professionals should consider adapting their materials and provider outreach campaigns to more easily accommodate Web site–based information dissemination during this type of public health emergency. There must be greater recognition of the value information gains in the eyes of the patient when it is validated by their own provider, especially when that patient is part of the highest-risk population for a given emergency. Public health organizations should strive to minimize the burden it takes for providers to relay useful resources to patients in order to maximize the impact that those resources can have.

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