Websites have always been an important marketing tool for all businesses, acting as virtual storefronts designed to attract visitors and therefore improves engagement with target audiences, building confidence in the services or products provided. Similarly, an HCO’s website becomes a platform to showcase its strengths and services, demonstrating the brand’s values in the healthcare ecosystem.
In order to find out about the growing trend of online research for healthcare resources by patients and the public, Google partnered with Compete Inc and surveyed over 500 hospital researchers to determine the patients “Digital Journey to Wellness”.
Research showed that while looking for answers to health related topics online, 76% of prospective patients scoured hospital websites for information.
They also take a considerable amount of time to conduct their research before booking appointments, with data showing that 61% of patients visit at least two different hospital websites before converting. After their appointments, 50% of the patients recommended their chosen HCO to friends or family, while 12% posted online reviews on various social media sites.
It is therefore beneficial to hospitals and healthcare organizations to use their websites and online presence to gain visibility and grow a strong patient base.
The THREE KEY POINTS to keep in mind when building a winning website are:
- Right Foundation
- Service Addition
- Content Creation
Websites should be optimized to maximize user experience. Organizations that invest in carefully designed websites, Organized for easy navigation by their target audiences like potential patients, physicians, stakeholders or donors, and even prospective employees; usually witness active engagement through their online portals. In addition, websites should provide:
- Accurate contact information and location guidance
- Organized, categorized information that is prominent and easy to find
- A secure web presence: i.e. show compliance with the PIPEDA Act (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) in Canada, ensuring patient privacy with end-to-end encryptions and data breach protocols.
- Mobile-friendly interface. There are many ways to optimize a website to improve traffic on the site. A website should carry a responsive design so that it is optimized for both desktop and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. While this makes research convenient for patients, considering mobile devices have become an inseparable part of our lives, it also makes sense in case of emergency or urgent care situations, where a responsive website could make all the difference during key moments. Studies showed that people who research hospitals online are visiting HCO websites to plan their next appointment.
- Accessible: Canada approved legislation in 2010 that aimed to bring about additional processes for companies to make their services and facilities more accessible to individuals with disabilities, through the introduction of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that accessibility issues are identified and addressed on an organization’s website so that employees and customers can enjoy equal access and the healthcare company avoids potential claims. Healthcare providers can start offering accessible information online by ensuring that their websites comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
44% of patients who looked for hospitals on their mobile devices, scheduled an appointment, making a mobile friendly site a necessity, not an option.
Supplementary to a solid foundation, value-added services on an organization’s site will certainly attract patients who are looking for a convenient way to interact with healthcare providers. Some of the services are:
a. Patient Portals
A Patient Portal is a website feature that allows patients to interact with their healthcare providers through their secure accounts with services like direct messaging, appointment management, payment of bills online, lab results, visit or admission summaries, and medical record access and management. This gives access to transparent real-time information about their health. Pre-registration and online form filling reduces time spent at the HCOs or physician clinics. With COVID-19, patients are apprehensive about visiting hospitals and clinics and would appreciate attempts to decrease waiting times and maintain social distancing, through online procedures that help with crowd control. Providers are trying to build a relationship with their patients, not just increase patient loyalty. For healthcare providers, the use of patient portals is largely about building trust and enhancing care.
“Having bi-directional messaging between the patient and provider, not only is convenient on both sides, but it saves an administrative burden as well. And being able to show that health record to the patient enhances the communication lines and provides self-service which is great for the patient and the provider.”
Director and General Manager of Member Engagement at Cerner.
The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) noted that when patients have access to their medical records, they have a better understanding and show better compliance with their plan of care. Patient portals also serve as an important risk management tool as well.
b. Chat Bots: Digital Personal Assistants
Smart Chatbots are algorithm-powered, voice or text-based interfaces on websites, which have multiplied, taking their place in the healthcare ecosystem. The advantages are many, starting with better organization of patient pathways, medication management, help in emergency situations or with first aid, and offering a solution for simpler medical issues.
These are situations where chatbots can step in and ease the burden on medical professionals.
To demonstrate the success of the use of chatbots by healthcare organizations through their websites, a Canadian HCO, Saint Elizabeth Healthcare, introduced an AI-powered chatbot named Tess. The chatbot was able to interact with patients, reducing the workload of healthcare workers when booking and taking appointments, follow-ups with messages, and providing education on common health issues. Similarly, Northwell Health in New York launched their chatbot, through Conversa health’s automated conversation platform, to improve patient engagement with patient education and regular follow-ups for missed appointments.
c. Doctor and Staff Profiles: A Personal Connection
Showcasing the profiles of medical professionals on healthcare organization websites helps:
- To establish credibility and build trust between the doctors and their patients.
- Patients to find out more about their doctor, including their years of experience, additional qualifications, and areas of specialization.
- Patients build a personal connection with their doctors by adding a few personal details like hobbies or interests outside medicine, inspiring a more collaborative partnership, rather than an impersonal and sterile interaction.
- Patients put a face to the name which eases the stress of going in for an appointment with a new doctor.
- With search engine optimization (SEO) and the position of the website on Search engine results pages (SERP) as people tend to search for doctors by name and not necessarily for the organization where they work.
In 2018, Google rolled out its “Medic” algorithm, which changed the visibility of websites related to health and wellness, depending on how the content creator enhances or detracts from the quality of the page according to Google’s E-A-T criteria. (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) Displaying author, creator, and expert profiles on the site may help boost the visibility of the website.
We will provide a few tips on the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the health and wellness space, in order to improve website performance, with evolving search engine algorithms, in a future post.
d. Testimonials: Tell Moving Tales:
Patient and client testimonials add value to the reputation of an HCO, as they are real-life stories and experiences narrated by people… to people. They are personal stories that help to build a patient’s confidence in the services provided. The power of consumer opinions is evident as data shows that 92% of consumers read online reviews and testimonials when considering a purchase.
And, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
e. Frequently Asked Questions: Be Prepared
Anticipation of the possible questions or difficulties a patient might face when facing a medical illness, and compiling them in readily accessible FAQs on an organization’s website, assure the patient that the HCO is experienced and empathetic towards their needs.
Providing FAQs also improves SEO and website rankings on search engine result pages, thereby improving site visits and website performance.
Topics can include:
- Tips on how to prepare before a doctor’s appointment, paperwork to bring, history to keep in mind
- Fasting before tests and blood work what is allowed or not allowed and what to expect
- General information about procedures like endoscopies, CT scans, or MRIs may be daunting for patients who have never had the experience before
- Address various policies and procedures unique to the organization, like visitor policies, billing practices, or insurance formalities
- Information about actual location, parking facilities, public transit access or transportation options, site maps, etc
- For patients who may be traveling from other regions to the organization or center, and are new to the area, a few tips about the closest hotels or accommodations, restaurants, or places to visit, would be helpful.
Websites provide a platform to reach a large number of potential patients, clients, or donors and the varied content presented can be leveraged to develop interest and establish faith in the competence of a healthcare organization.
Some methods that could be used are:
- Visual Guides of facilities or departments through video or virtual tours
- Press releases and announcements regarding updates in services or policies
- Showcase community outreach activities like health camps and educational events
- Publish Case studies to highlight the clinical expertise of the medical professionals on the panel, which helps to establish credibility. Using mediums other than the written word, like videos or infographics which are visually appealing and easier to understand, can also appeal to a larger patient base.
- Write blogs detailing industry news, community news, and specific disease updates or tips and advice on general wellness to improve health education. This helps to showcase knowledge and expertise.
While creating a Winning Website is certainly the first step in establishing an HCOs digital presence, it is equally important to maintain and update the site. A current, modern website, responsive on all mobile platforms with continuously evolving content shows that an HCO is up to date. ( …. Continued)
Things change so often in the healthcare industry, from the types of technology used to the different treatment options to the newest award rankings. If a hospital website is out of date, then it can appear that the hospital’s practices are as well,”
OLAA Sr. Integrated Advertising Executive.
At Wow Digital we are committed to CREATING, MAINTAINING, AND UPDATING a winning platform for healthcare organizations, to showcase their operations and improve patient engagement in the online world.