What makes a good hospital website in 2017?

Patient using smartphone in hospital waiting room
From the growing popularity of personal health wearables, like Fitbits and Apple watches, to requesting appointments or test results through online portals, patient care is becoming more digital than ever before.

With practically everything turning to tech, even the healthcare industry, the best hospital websites are outperforming their competitors. What does this mean for your website?

Trends show hospitals and other healthcare providers could benefit from an improved online experience for users. A well-designed, responsive website can help hospitals to gain new patients, educate existing ones, and provide resources for both—all of which translates into dollars and cents ROI. Online representation matters, and your potential patients are on the lookout for a trustworthy branded online presence.

Read on for three truths about what makes the best hospital websites.

Your website has a bedside manner

Americans spend up to five hours per day on mobile devices (TechCrunch) and 10+ hours per day online in general (CNN). That's a lot of screen time and a lot of opportunities for your website to make an impression—good, bad, or ugly. If your website isn’t simple to navigate or valuable information is hidden away in a dusty corner of the site, you’re more likely to lose out to the competition.

To put your best foot forward, your hospital website should be strategically focused on the user experience. In the same way a doctor's approach to sharing information with his patients can win over their hearts and put their minds at ease, your website makes its own impression.

Consider your audience every step of the way, from website menus to interactive forms to accessibility of health resources. This will help you to build trust with your audience from the moment they land on your website to the moment they walk through the hospital door to meet with their doctor.
Action item: Review your website as a user
Spend some time on your hospital website as if you were a new patient looking for information about specialty care. Is it easy to find what you're looking for? Are your basic questions answered? Do you feel reassured and confident that your needs will be met?

Your website is your 24/7 customer service desk

Trends show that today’s consumer does online research before making purchasing decisions, even when it comes to healthcare providers. Win over these potential patients with clear calls-to-action and seamless technology. With our own healthcare clients, we often hear that their new and existing patients are looking for online appointment scheduling and the ability to request medical records and other health information via the website.

Third party form providers such as Luxsci or Formstack offer secure, customizable HIPAA compliant forms. Software like this allows hospitals to collect patient information on the web while still following regulations and protecting patient privacy. Appointment scheduling is just one opportunity for a hospital website to provide better patient care online, but it's not the only one. The possibilities are nearly endless.
“If a hospital’s website does not conform to or exceed a customer’s expectations based on previous experiences [with consumer sites like Amazon and eBay], customers may make inferences about facility quality that may negatively influence their decision-making process.” (MedCity News)
As you consider what processes could be streamlined on the website, keep in mind that the convenience factor can weigh heavily in prospects' minds. For example, if a mom finds a few minutes at 5:45 a.m. to schedule her child's next appointment, she'll want the ability to schedule it right then and there, even though it's outside of normal business hours. If your website doesn't offer online scheduling but another hospital in her area does, you are likely to lose her to the competition.
Action item: Identify patient services that have online possibilities
Consider your internal processes for appointment scheduling and collecting patient information. What are the opportunities to streamline those processes on your website? 

Your website doesn't need an app

It may surprise you to hear that the golden age of custom smartphone apps is coming to a close. At the 2017 AEA conference, we learned that many companies are ditching smartphone apps in favor of optimizing the mobile website experience instead. Apps are often no longer needed if a website is properly optimized for mobile users.
According to the 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report by comScore, the majority of US consumers currently download ZERO new apps per month.
For budgeting purposes, this is actually really great news. In recent years, hospitals and healthcare practices have spent a lot of marketing dollars on application development and updates to keep their apps functional. With fewer people downloading apps, it no longer makes sense to invest in application development to share information that is easily accessible on your website. Instead users are visiting websites on their phones and tablets, so getting it right on the website has two-fold benefit and potential for ROI.

If your website isn't optimized for mobile, your patients are missing out—and they know it. While you may be able to eek by for another year with an outdated website, the competition has likely already started to engage with marketers and web designers to update designs and provide an exceptional mobile experience for their patients without the apps.
Action item: Ditch the app and make sure that your website is mobile-friendly 
Assume your audience is not planning to download a hospital app and test your website on different screens, including tablets and smartphones. Pay particular attention to how easy it is to use menus and buttons and if there are any issues when filling out forms.
In coming years, screen time is only going to increase. As more people make the switch to companies and providers who offer convenient online services, hospitals have a great opportunity to improve their patient experience on the website. Get ahead of the curve by prioritizing a strategic, user-friendly website for your hospital sooner rather than later.
Need help bringing your hospital website up to speed? We can help
Sarah

About the author | Sarah Matlock

Sarah is the marketing manager at TBH Creative, specializing in social media management and data analysis. She likes to blog about social media strategy, the latest trends in the industry, and how to engage the online community more effectively.

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