Medicare.gov expansion aids elderly

Medicare Web site

With the help of focus groups and a few nurses, the Medicare Web site keeps growing.

The Health Care Financing Administration, which administers the Medicare health program for senior citizens, is expanding the popular government Web site with several new interactive databases. Among them are sites to compare nursing homes within localities and one comparing drug pricing.

Medicare wasn't interested in "marketing and glitz," said Andy Ho of American Management Systems Inc. AMS developed the site along with HCFA.

"HCFA's real goal is to target those age 65 and older. [It wants] to make sure that those who are disabled can access the Web site," he said.

The newest feature on the site helps seniors compare dialysis facilities, including hours of operation and quality of services. It also enables consumers to find dialysis facilities open after 5 p.m.

To find out what visitors wanted to see on the Web site, HCFA used focus groups and tested ideas for consumers. AMS brought in dialysis patients and nurses to test the new section, Ho said.

The site also was designed to make it easier for elderly users to read, avoiding pastel colors and using large print. Large stars—rather than small icons—are used for clicking to links, Ho said.

The site gets 800,000 visitors a month and about 5 million hits a month, he said.

"The most popular sections are the interactive databases," said Mary Agnes Laureno, the director of beneficiary education and publications for Medicare.

Next up for AMS is a redesign of the official HCFA site, which provides information about a range of Medicare and Medicaid features, rules and documents, Ho said.

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