Background: Information prescriptions (IPs) are part of a Department of Health (DH) initiative to improve patient care. IPs aim to meet health information needs by providing personalised, high quality patient information about conditions and treatment.
Objectives: This paper identifies current online IP provision and evaluates a sample of IP websites against the original DH aims of IP provision; British Medical Association usability criteria; and information seeking vignettes.
Methods: Five UK and one international IP website were randomly selected as a sample. Two checklists designed to appraise the websites were used to review each IP provider. Two patient information seeking vignettes were developed to enable the websites to be assessed from a patient-centred perspective.
Results: Information prescriptions currently vary in content, accessibility and quality. National IP websites score more highly than local IP websites, which are often weak on content for specific conditions and poorly designed but strong on signposting to local services.
Conclusions: Guidelines for IP provision need to be improved to ensure higher quality, more easily accessible information is available. A synthesis of expertise included in national and local websites would improve usability for patients. IP websites should conform to standards of web design and accessibility.
© 2010 The authors. Health Information and Libraries Journal © 2010 Health Libraries Group.