By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
In what is described as “the first systematic assessment of hospital websites,” a new study suggests that most physician, hospital and health system websites could improve their websites.
The analysis, published in the Journal of Healthcare Management, evaluated over 630 websites from four dimensions, ACCESSIBILITY, CONTENT, MARKETING and TECHNOLOGY. And, according to this in-depth study, there’s room for improvement on every front.
There’s also something of interest for everyone in the nation’s evolving healthcare delivery system. Physicians, healthcare managers, administrators, medical marketing professionals, and their IT staffers will be looking more critically at their websites in consideration of benchmarks and standards for effective consumer engagement.
This was not a casual or subjective look at healthcare websites. The academic credentials here are solid, beginning with lead author Eric W. Ford, MPH, PhD, Forsyth Medical Center Distinguished Professor, Department of Business Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The authors conclude: “Our findings identify several areas in which the average [US Health System] organization’s website can be improved. Given the movement toward having health systems serve as ACOs that can empower consumers, the number of poorly performing websites across all the scores is concerning in the near term.”
And because the Internet is a dominate source for patient information, and an organization’s website is the first point of contact for consumers and patients, this online connecting point needs improvement for its present value and for its increasingly important future role.
In a gentle word selection, they said: “If such [first] contact fails to make a positive impression on the consumer, alternatives may be explored.” (In more direct marketing talk, a prospective patient will go elsewhere…likely to the competition.)
And why is this important? “In saturated markets where several organizations’ services are interchangeable, a strong and well-designed web presence can be the difference between patients taking the first step into a facility or doing everything they can to avoid it.
“Health organizations should strive to standardize the quality of information presented on their websites, but they should also take care to deal with issues of accessibility, standards compliance, and SEO.”