Insights on Today's Healthcare Consumer

5 Things Every Hospital Website Needs to Better Engage Patients

Posted by Brent Walker on Fri, Jul 17, 2015

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Form follows function, we know that. But healthcare market conditions are now forcing traditional functions to change.

American consumers are finding themselves more in control of their care delivery than ever before. They're seeking new ways to find and compare providers. They're looking for additional information resources. They want better ongoing care support. And we in the industry are thus tasked with developing and deploying tools that help them to do so. As functions change, the form those tools take must change with them.

Nowhere is that more true than in the cybersphere. Your healthcare organization's web portal isn't just a bit of electronic real estate on which to post up a billboard. Though the billboard function is certainly one of the reasons you need a decent website, it is far from the only function you need it to address.

Consumers demand to be able to access their care providers online in a variety of ways. They want to be able to communicate with their doctors. They want specialists to be able to automatically import or view their medical records. They want to be able to pay their bills online, track their health improvement efforts, view test results and verify the information that their providers give them during office visits. Better patient engagement proceeds from addressing all these demands.

There are so many angles now. So, maybe it's time to renovate your website? How, then, do you start?

Begin by asking the right questions.

Again, if form follows function, you need to ask what functions your particular consumer base will demand from your site. Patients aren't homogenous across all demographic categories, geographic areas, or disease conditions. That's where psychographic segmentation can become really valuable to healthcare providers — it gives you the guidance you need to shape your website's design. This is because psychographic segmentation groups patients and other healthcare consumers into distinct categories based on their motivations and communication preferences.

But before you get into the nitty-gritty details of layout, menus, images and more, there are some basic questions you'll need to answer:

  • Why does your organization need a new website?

The answer probably closely dovetails with "What doesn't your current website do?" Think of your web portal like you would your physical location. If your healthcare consumers’ online experience is poor, it will negatively impact their overall care experience, just as dirty walls, cramped corridors and poor wayfinding would.

  • Do you have the resources to undertake a redesign?

If not, and a redesign is warranted, you need to identify and obtain those resources fast, or you'll risk losing market share. In 2015, a sufficient website is the price of playing. You're going to need experienced web developers, solid copywriters, graphic designers, branding strategists, clinical care experts and an excellent project manager to pull them all together. You don’t need to manage all of these resources individually; an agency can do this for you, and there are very reasonable agencies available. c2b solutions uses Cleriti for its digital marketing, and we have been happy with their expertise and value.  You also need time. A website redesign can't be an ongoing project that is worked on in between higher-priority projects. It needs a firm start date, design schedule and target launch date.

  • Who are you designing your website to serve?

Again, this is where psychographic segmentation data is going to be a key driver of success. Know your consumers, and you'll know the functions you need.

  • What is your organization's brand strategy?

Are you an academic hospital with strong specialty programs? Are you a community hospital or health center? Are you a small, independent practice? Each of these has a very different audience; community hospitals, for example, are more patient-facing (B2C), while a tertiary care center would be more provider-facing (B2B). Your brand strategy should be developed around your core audience.

  • What is your website content strategy?

In part, this should proceed from your brand strategy. If your core audience, say, is other providers, your content should add value to their experience — easy-to-find information about patient transfer protocols, admission criteria, care coordination, etc. You'll be able to post more technical information in an elevated tone.

If, however, your website will be geared toward increasing patient engagement, information should be presented in a tone that is easy for consumers of all levels of experience to understand. Visuals should be easy to follow. And your website should directly address the functions that your consumers demand of you. Before sketching out your content plan, you should do a requisite amount of consumer research, and you should plan to focus group or beta test your web solutions before taking it live… you may be in love with your website, but you need to look through the lens of your patients.

5 website features that healthcare organizations are already using to increase patient engagement.

So what could you do differently? Once you know who you're talking to and what they need from you, you could consider adding some of the following:

1. Patient and provider reviews.

There's no better way of convincing people to trust themselves and their loved ones to your organization's care than to develop and tout an excellent reputation.

2. Transparent pricing information.

Difficult, naturally, but if we are going to live in a consumer-driven healthcare environment, consumers will demand price comparisons.

3. Medical records access.

Another tricky area — especially given our legal responsibilities under HIPAA — but patients and outside specialists will increasingly expect to be able to access care summaries and test results online, in real-time.

4. Pricing offers and financial incentives.

In healthcare? Really? Well, yes. Really. Again, if we are going to consumerize the delivery of healthcare, we must to a certain extent think like retailers.

5. Opportunities for live interactivity.

Be they for patients and providers to chat back and forth or video consult, forums for patients to discuss care and support each other, or for loved ones to communicate with patients in the hospital, real-time chat and video-based communications will likely become a necessity. You need to design your site to handle that bandwidth. A more basic level of interactivity involves a patient’s ability to book appointments and receive quick answers to questions via email or Instant Messenger.

If you would like to learn more about psychographic segmentation, download our whitepaper or contact us to discuss how c2b solutions healthcare consumer insights can be applied to your digital marketing efforts.

Free Whitepaper: Psychographic Segmentation  and the Healthcare Consumer: Insights for the Healthcare Industry

Brent Walker

Written by: Brent Walker

As Chief Marketing Officer, Brent's primary responsibilities include leading marketing strategy and execution for c2b solutions, development of c2b solutions' proprietary consumer segmentation model and insights products, research on healthcare consumers’ motivations and behaviors, and providing marketing guidance to c2b solutions clients.

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