Have you ever surfed to the United Kingdom National Database of Telemedicine?

Heidelberg 20 September 1999In October 1998, a National Database of Telemedicine (NDTM) was launched for the United Kingdom at the University of Portsmouth, with large funding assistance of the British government. An agreement was signed to maintain this Web-based service up to May 2001. Already since 1996, there have been plans in England to measure the telecare activity in detail. At the MedNet'99 Conference, during the Monday afternoon telemedicine session, Dr. Jim Briggs illustrated how the NDTM has been of great use in monitoring the effect of marketing and publicity for the telemedicine related activities of companies and institutions. By means of the "extreme tracking" technique, it is possible to accurately measure the readership of the NDTM Web site.


There exist several technologies to measure the readership of a Web site but not all of them are suitable tools for analysis. Guestbooks for instance, are barely representative. The simple counters are compulsory to use but they provide no information whatsoever about the type of readers who are visiting the Web pages. In turn, the server access logs are easy to record and they clearly identify the user of the browser but they do not tell how the reader has found the page. The team of Dr. Briggs therefore chose the technique of "extreme tracking" to obtain an idea of the kind of people who consulted the National Database of Telemedicine. The Dutch provider supplied the NDTM staff with a piece of "html" which included Java-script to equip the browser with a history mechanism.

The researchers also had to define what they understood by the concept of reader. Each visitor of the NDTM Web site with a unique IP-address and a dynamic allocation was considered to be a reader. The results have shown that since the set-up of the site 9000 visits have been paid by 5000 different visitors. Logically, the highest number of hits has been scored right after the initial publicity at the launch of NDTM. Since then, a steady statistical score of some 500 readers a month is achieved. On weekdays, the site is obviously more frequented than on weekends. The busiest hours are from nine to five, which seems to indicate that reading the NDTM site is a part of the visitor's job. Most of the hits are performed through an Internet Explorer browser.

From all the tracked visits, 54% constitutes readers who come via links from other Web sites but this percentage is decreasing. 35% of this category is linked through via the National Health Service's site. Search engines provide 39% of the visits, with 80% from Yahoo on top of the list. This amount of readers is still increasing. It appears that most of the readership is based in the United Kingdom and that Netscape is losing the browser war. In any case, the home page of the National Database of Telemedicine still continues to attract new readers whereas the NDTM team can count on many repeat visitors. Dying to become a fresh reader of the NDTM? Just point your browser to http://www.dis.port.ac.uk/ndtm.

Leslie Versweyveld

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