Question: Our website provides the overall community with public health information. Does the time and costs associated with improving the website that is not related to marketing or recruitment of patients count as a community benefit expense?
Recommendation: In our experience, hospital websites are primarily used to give the public information about the organization rather than public health information. It is more likely the public will go to other sites for public health information. However, we recommend reporting the cost of providing web-based information on public health issues in the following circumstances:
- If you have a designated public health education section on your website that addresses health problems in your community (for example, obesity is a problem in your community and you address the issue on the website),
- If the primary reason you are providing information on your website is to address public health education needs (as opposed to generating good will for the hospital), and
- If you are able to separate costs for public health education from costs associated with your website's business functions.
Please keep in mind that the IRS instructions for reporting community health improvement services on the Schedule H say that the primary purpose of reported activities should be to address a community need, so to report any expenses, the primary purpose of the website should be to provide health information. This is a high standard. (August 2009)