By Jason Rosenbaum, COO of Crowd Favorite
Like most industries, the healthcare business has embraced digital transformation in a big way over the past few years, adopting everything from online patient portals to telemedicine visits. But that’s where the similarity ends. Healthcare companies must use radically different strategies to succeed.
Most e-Commerce consumer and B2B websites are designed to make visitors linger for as long as possible. That makes sense for them, as conventional wisdom says the more time users spend interacting with a site, the better. They’re more likely to transact business, place an order, spend money or develop an ongoing relationship with the company.
The exact opposite is true when it comes to healthcare.
Businesses in the healthcare space should focus on getting users off the site as soon as possible. That may sound counter-intuitive but think about why users are visiting a health-related page. They’re most likely dealing with something worrisome — reviewing test results, making a doctor’s appointment, finding a specialist, checking in to a hospital — or tedious, such as deciphering a bill or filing an insurance claim. In many cases, they are not on the site for browsing, they are in search of help or information. They need to be directed to the correct doctor, department, or patient portal.
Given that reality, the goal for healthcare sites should be creating an optimal user experience, helping users find what they need quickly and easily. The best design gives visitors what they came for while eliminating any friction that forces them to stay on the site for longer than they’d like. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Make It Personal
In healthcare, more so than almost any other industry, the human element needs to be at the center of the digital experience. Tailoring a site to serve all visitors can be a real challenge because the demographics can vary wildly in every respect — age, gender, socioeconomic status and more. Users may also have very different comfort levels with digital technology. Though many are totally immersed in the online experience, others may be new or occasional users who are unfamiliar with the web and hesitant about using it.
As you optimize the user experience, visitors should be spending less time on each page. You can use data collection to validate that you’re achieving your goals. You can also track mouse hot spots and other information to show how users interact with your content, which can suggest further improvements and an overall better experience.
Like other regulated industries, healthcare businesses have to pay special attention to another issue – privacy. When patients are sharing sensitive data, you have to walk a tightrope between personalizing the content and ensuring confidentiality so patients can trust that you’re protecting their privacy.
Behind-the-scenes functionality is very important. Many healthcare websites are built using legacy systems. To retain as much of the existing infrastructure as possible without a rebuild, you can use Open Source platforms to integrate custom content plugins. These tools are likely to be vendor agnostic, minimizing the need for a complete overhaul of the site. The main goals should be increasing flexibility and reducing the demand on servers and load times.
Keep It Simple
Ease of use is just as important as personalization. When visitors enter your site, make sure they don’t feel overwhelmed. Keeping text to a minimum can help in that regard. Consider letting users create a user profile or reason for their visit (scheduling an appointment or refilling a prescription, for example) so you can populate the page with content that’s likely to be relevant and of interest to them.
Don’t overload the site with everything that anyone could possibly want, which makes it hard to navigate. Instead, offer up basics with an easy way to request additional information as needed. Make it simple to request help or more information on demand. A prominent button that opens a chat window or a phone number for connecting to a representative can be a big help when visitors have a question or issue. Offer numerous calls to action that enable patients to see a webinar, listen to a podcast or subscribe to a newsletter.
An uncluttered layout can help users navigate your site and quickly locate the information they are looking for. A logical hierarchy and straightforward path are critical. These days, a mobile-friendly design is essential as many users access information using phones. Optimize content for mobile phones to minimize the need to zoom in and out or scroll repeatedly.
Forms are a fact of life with medical practices, so make it easy to fill them out by automating as much as possible. Information that is already on file can easily be provided with your current structure using Open Source plug-ins. Alternatively, you can break up forms into smaller sections so visitors can quickly see what information is needed on each page. Solutions like Progressive Profiling allow save the information provided by users and only request unknown information. This saves the user time on the site without having to complete redundant information.
It’s clear that the online experience is here to stay, so healthcare companies must do everything they can to make it work for their patients. By emphasizing simplicity, functionality and personalization, they can best serve their patients and find success in a challenging market.
Jason Rosenbaum is COO of Crowd Favorite. The company provides world-class, enterprise-grade digital strategy, elite Open Source web development and comprehensive support services, empowering organizations to reach their full digital potential. For more information, please visit http://crowdfavorite.com
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