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10 Best Practices to Create a Patient-Centered Hospital Website

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Desktop computer, laptop, iPad, and smartphone all displaying "Web Design" screenA major hallmark of delivering patient-centered care is convenience. Today’s hospital and medical practice patient has become a sophisticated consumer. This is someone ready and willing to select a hospital or provider based on the quality and ease of service that truly puts the patient first.

Millennials—the largest of the demographic groups—want and expect health care delivered with a sense of immediacy and convenience. What’s more, to get what they expect, they have the buying power and sense of independence to take their business elsewhere.

For this audience as well as others, here are ten ways to put patients at the center of your hospital website:

  • Talk and listen to your patients and consumers. There’s no better input than to listen to the voice of the customer. Be open to ideas that flow from patients, friends, family, staff and management. Let patients and other stakeholders lead with input. Show your interim ideas and work-in-process for audience feedback and reactions.
  • Think mobile first. Individuals in need of health care or medical information are most likely to go online first, and nearly all of them (90 percent) will begin with a mobile device first. In fact, with the proliferation of smartphones—there’s one in everyone’s pocket—today’s Internet use has tilted strongly toward a mobile-first user world. Patients use a mobile device to locate and select facilities, as well as interacting with prospective and current providers.
  • Begin with a blank page. To be completely original and fresh, forget about the past and make your initial plan for a new website without the bias of “what we’ve always done.” Be willing to discard previous ideas if necessary, but build first from a new, solid foundation. Legacy systems (“what we did in the past”) can pull down on progress and genuine gains.
  • Watch your language. Website visitors have zero tolerance for medical jargon, indecipherable acronyms or text that is not easy to read and understand. The same is true for financial terminology as well as local or regional terms or vernacular. One study reveals that some (if not many) hospital sites present a graduate degree reading level. Tune the web text to a high school reading level, by some recommendations.
  • Patients and prospective patients are looking for happiness. Website visitors are primarily interested in finding answers, wellness or solutions to health issues. Details about high technology or clinical achievements are likely to be secondary. 
  • Provide intuitive and easy to use navigation. Arrange and present information in a patient-first manner. Make additional details and more information easy to find. Present content as the visitor would want or need and not what the facility wants to promote. 
  • Create multiple channels for communication. Provide the visitor with various pathways to easily locate useful or actionable information. Wherever possible, allow for two-way exchanges and prompt follow-up.
  • Make it fast. Internet-reliant visitors, especially those individuals who have always known the digital age—expect web pages to load instantly. Any delay that is more than a few seconds is a signal for many people to go elsewhere (presumably to the competition) for more immediate answers.
  • Align the patient-centered website with typical touchpoints. Devise ways to be reassuring, compassionate and emotionally supportive. Whenever possible, present site content that is responsive to, and supportive of, the contact points in a typical patient journey.
  • Maximize Search Engine Optimization. An individual who is in need of healthcare services often needs to find answers and direction quickly and close at hand. Hospital SEO anticipates search activities based on popular keywords, personal needs, and helpful solutions.

And always be accessible…

Design your patient-centered website so that the hospital, practice or provider is always accessible. With every page, prominently display a phone number (and any other means to connect quickly) on every page. If they have a need, they don’t want to wait or search for services. Be available to respond quickly when someone wants to access your services.

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