Notes from the Field: 3 Digital Trends for Healthcare Organizations

Combatting digital sprawl, investing in SEO, and improving patient experience are three ways healthcare organizations can be successful

3 Digital Trends for Healthcare Organizations

This is the first post in our series, Notes from the Field, where we’ll share first-hand insights and explore digital trends within different industries. 

Customers experience is more than just a trend; it’s the key to success. One of the industries where customer experience is absolutely paramount is healthcare. Today’s healthcare customers want it all: the advantages of a large hospital system plus the personal touch of a neighborhood doctor’s office. How do healthcare providers meet these expectations across a massive customer base at a time when personalized customer service is more important than ever?

Like most industries grappling with the impact of digital on customer experience, the healthcare industry has seen fundamental shifts in how it does business. But digital is a double-edged sword in many respects. Many of these changes, while they benefit the customer and the organization in the long run, also present challenges in the short term, particularly to smaller organizations.

However, there are several areas where improved digital experience, investing in SEO and emerging technologies and hyperfocusing on customer can alleviate some of the top challenges healthcare organizations are facing. 

Digital Sprawl

If you’re a large health system, you face many logistical challenges when it comes to digital. Often, you have many different websites with lots of varying content. This causes challenges with everything from governance to brand consistency. We call this “digital sprawl”. It’s understandable; you want to hone in on all the service lines your providers can offer but at the same time, it can lead to a disjointed experience for the end user, the patient. 

One example of an organization that has successfully combated digital sprawl is Steward Health Care. Steward Health Care is a community-based organization with 10 hospital campuses, 24 affiliated urgent care providers, 17,000 employees and over 4M patient encounters a year. Steward needed a digital strategy that put their patient at the center. 

To make their website patient-centric, Steward sought out to answer two questions:

Where do patients get their information?
How does a patient transact business?

Steward went straight to the source and surveyed 2,000 patients to understand how users engage online. Steward learned that 30 percent of patients preferred to use mobile devices when connecting with health care providers. Patients also explained that they prioritized the ability to make an appointment, get directions, and find a physician online. The team eliminated all unnecessary content pages to streamline the experience and enhance the value of the remaining content and restructured it to be patient-centric. They increased video content and all of their websites were redesigned to be mobile-friendly. Understanding that patient behaviors and preferences vary greatly they embraced content personalization strategies powered by Acquia Lift.

SEO and Emerging Technologies

Search engine optimization is critical for hospitals and/or providers. Think about it; how do you find a doctor? Most people turn to Google. Type in “Dermatologist in Long Beach” and you get a list. Any doctor or hospital is shooting to be on that first page of results, closest to the top. This creates a bottleneck by its very nature. SEO isn’t just the right keywords but also how your content is structured. The trick is a content strategy that is both relevant to visitors and crawlers alike. One of the best mechanisms to make this content easily consumable for crawlers is through presenting your content logically - not just in how it’s read, but also in how it’s structured in code. Enterprise content management systems (such as Drupal) provide a framework for structuring content right out of the box, meaning you already have a solid foundation for SEO on day one. 

Voice search is another emerging field for hospitals and providers. If you think Google rankings are competitive, where you’re trying to make it onto the first couple pages of results, voice is much more of a challenge. If you do voice search, you get one result at a time, making rankings even more important. The key with voice search is understanding how, and by who, your content is indexed. Content accuracy on platforms such as Yelp and Google Places begin to take precedence over standard search engines (more on this later). It’s an important wrinkle to add to your overall SEO practices. 

One health care organization who tackled the SEO challenge was University of Missouri Health Care. MU Health Care is an international healthcare destination because of their groundbreaking research and provides leading-edge care. 

When MU Health Care was looking to overhaul their patient experience with a new website, Their agency partner recommended Drupal as the new content management system (CMS) and chose Acquia as the foundation to build upon and support this mission-critical website.

The result of the project, along with a brand new, secure, scalable Drupal 8 website  featuring SEO friendly structured content that makes use of flexible landing page templates. In addition, the combination of consumer-focused content and use of Solr allows for an improved onsite search experience with faceted, predictive and phonetic search capabilities. These improvements, along with the project as a whole resulted in:

23 percent increase in organic search traffic to doctor profile pages
19 percent increase in organic search traffic to locations pages (hospitals and clinics)
32 percent increase in organic search traffic to quick care pages
4 percent increase in overall organic search traffic

Improving the Patient Experience Online

The prestige of a health system or medical group is directly tied to the reputation of it’s doctors. Simply put, good doctors mean good business. Word of mouth is omnipresent online making reputation even more important. To help manage this and to provide your prospective patients with the right doctor or health information, providers need to do more than just merchandise their doctors on the website or in search. They also need to integrate into platforms such as Yelp and Google Places so data is presented correctly across all touchpoints with patients. 

The second way to build a good reputation as a provider is by building upon your directory. Directories are more than just lists but centers of real-time data exchange. 

Let’s look at Centura Health as an example of how you can build a multi-purpose directory. As they stated in their 2017 Acquia Engage presentation, Centura Health is a 20-year-old legacy organization with more than 100 hospitals, clinics and other digital properties, which didn’t lend itself well to a shared experience platform. It was crucial for the digital team to unite stakeholders around the vision of one site and one experience system under the Centura Health brand.

One way to create a more unified experience was to marry two important functions in a single feature; the physician directory and scheduling.

Generally when a customer is looking for a provider, they’ll search by things like the provider’s specialty, language, and location. Once those filters are applied, you get a list of results, but from there, you’d have to go to a separate system to book an appointment. At Centura, real-time scheduling is baked right into the search results themselves. Within the results, it gives the next available appointment for a given doctor. This saves the patient  time (and clicks), which leads to higher conversion rates for appointments. 

When it comes to healthcare, customer experience is the top priority; maybe even more so than in other industries. Patients need to not only find the information they are looking for but feel like healthcare organizations really care about them. Improved digital customer experience is a way to start a positive patient relationship off right before they even walk through the door. Then continue to foster loyalty with existing patients. The healthcare companies that do this right will continue to see success not just now but in the future as well. 

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