VitalSite 6.7.6 – Secure Content Enhancements for Hospital Websites, Intranets and Extranets

Image of a lock symbol on the key of a keyboard
As 2013 finally draws to a close, we have one more release to announce: VitalSite 6.7.6. This release contains a few new features related to secure content (CMS pages and secure files), and a number of fixes and updates requested by clients (full details are provided to clients in GeoCentral). The new features will be of interest to clients using VitalSite to host content for authenticated users on hospital intranets, board extranets and secure sections of their public websites.
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Worlds of Fun – Launching North Kansas City Hospital’s New Web Presence

When I think of Kansas City, my mind always conjures up images of a family trip to Worlds of Fun. I was lucky enough to provide support to North Kansas City Hospital (NKCH) as they worked with Geonetric to build a new Web presence, and let’s just say throughout the project I was as excited as a kid waiting in line for a rollercoaster.

Together NKCH and Geonetric created a consumer site, patient portal and mobile website. The new site offers intuitive navigation and compelling design while providing a multitude of self service options including a comprehensive provider directory, service directory, bill payment, wellness tools, and calendar and events.

And what’s not to love about increasing usability and task completion?!

Plus, Geonetric’s long-term strategic guidance is able to help NKCH’s goal of building a stronger community focus become a reality. You might say we are there at every turn to make sure that rollercoaster stays on its tracks!

Implementing a patient portal was a central goal when creating this new Web presence. NKCH’s patient portal allows users to submit forms that pre-fill with known patient information. This feature allows users to complete health forms for their entire family while managing them in one central, secure place.

NKCH also introduced a mobile site that allows patients easier access to health information while on the go and provides critical way finding navigation to patients and visitors. When a visitor steps into the hospital or the Health Services Pavilion facility they can view maps and directories on their mobile device, allowing them to easily navigate the hospital.

To say that partnering with NKCH has been a world of fun is an understatement! The NKCH marketing team consistently demonstrated their commitment to patient quality and satisfaction throughout the project. And we are just as committed to helping them further their mission – while having some fun along the way!   

Improving Health One Step at a Time

I bought a FitBit last weekend. I’m telling myself it’s for professional research purposes, and entirely unrelated to any delicious overindulgences from December.

If you’re unfamiliar, FitBit is a tiny device that clips to your belt and tracks your movements 24/7, reporting on your activity level and sleep quality. It’s basically a souped-up, Kinect-era pedometer.

The FitBit wirelessly posts data to a website, updating regularly when you’re in range of its base station. From there, your data can be forwarded onto Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, or – more interestingly – Microsoft’s HealthVault.

The effect is something we are striving for with our patient portal – increasing patients’ access to data about their body, health and activities. Lab test results buried in a chart don’t help patients to see the patterns in how their body is responding to their daily choices – medication adherence, lifestyle changes, continuing treatment – that are necessary to improve their health.

Simultaneously, we’re investigating ways to present detailed patient data to the next generation of connected health devices, to help caregivers see the day-to-day reality of their patients’ lives.

At the end of a day spent running from meeting to meeting and chasing after a three-year-old, I was chagrined to see that my activity level still registered as pretty low. However, I’ve now got a baseline and tomorrow I can make better choices.

The Last Mile – Connecting Patients into the Healthcare System

Healthcare is entering into a time of incredible change. This change comes from the need to modernize the practice of medicine, to align the interests of all of the entities involved, to create an actual coordinated system of care and, of course, to change the disastrous financial course healthcare is on.

But you knew all of that.

What you might not have realized is all the implications of these changes.

There’s lots of talk about EHR implementation spurred by meaningful use and the great potential of ACOs to change the way healthcare operates.  Much attention is paid to hospital-physician relations, physician employment, hospital mergers and clinical integration.

But where is the patient in all of this?

Patients are not just an input and output of the healthcare system — at least, not if we hope to make the changes underway meaningful.  Care organizations will need to communicate differently with patients. They’ll need to understand our current set of interactions between patient and care provider – the intermittent phone calls, office visits and the occasional mailing – aren’t the result of the way we provide care, they’re the reason the healthcare system functions (or fails to function) as it does today.  Changing care delivery requires us to change our communications.  New methods of communication are enabling the process behind new care models.

This is what patient portals are truly about.  The net goal isn’t to let patients request appointments (they can do that today) or get their lab results (which they’ll get two days later in the mail).  Organizations that are excited about this technology have that enthusiasm because they see the low-cost secure communications between the patient and the care providers are at the heart of where healthcare is going.

Look at the internet as a model.  Deploying the technology backbone, the high bandwidth connections crisscrossing the country which connected telecom providers to one another, was relatively cheap and easy.  The hard part, known as the last mile, was getting connectivity from those telecom providers to every house, office and factory.

What we have now is the last mile problem in healthcare.  Sure we have a plan to get the hospitals, doctors and insurers connected, but none of that matters until we connect every patient into the system.  That’s the role of patient portals.

That’s why it’s my pleasure to share Geonetric’s new white paper, The Future Of Healthcare Delivery, that provides a roadmap for the patient-facing technologies your hospital will need to succeed in the new world of healthcare.

Creating Online Value for Health Consumers

As the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. This has never been as true as it is for websites. The minute visitors encounter your site they’re making judgments: How credible is this site? How easy it is to complete my task?

You have the power to ensure your hospital’s online presence makes a good first impression. So how do you want visitors to feel? What experiences do you want to create for them? What reasons are you giving them to

The first interaction consumers have with your organization could occur online – perhaps they’re using the Web to learn about your services or to find a provider. Consumers could be familiar with your organization and just visiting the site for the first time – perhaps to look up a diagnosis. Regardless, every visitor has certain expectations that need to be met.

Here are some aspects to keep in mind as you work on delivering value to site visitors:

  • Compelling Design: Before visitors have a chance to make an appointment or even read your content, they see your visual design. How does your design communicate your organization’s brand? Is it antiseptic or caring? Does it look like it was designed specifically for your hospital or does it look like a free template? Visual design offers more than just aesthetics, it establishes credibility.
  • Targeted Content: Visitors often visit hospital websites when they’re newly-diagnosed and are looking for information about their condition or services you have available. Think through the content consumers seek and create information architecture and navigation that directs them to that information.
  • Optimized Pages: Traffic on many hospital sites originate from search engines, so most visitors never see the home page. That’s why each page on your site should be optimized as if it were a landing page for the topic. Consumers won’t dig through your site to find information. Pages should have relevant information and links that direct them to more information. For example, health library information should link directly to related service line information, hospital news and physicians.
  • Calls to Action: Health consumers are action-oriented. They may start a search looking for service information, but their real goal is to sign up for a treatment or get more information. Therefore, you should place calls to action throughout the site. Service line information should lead to signups for related newsletters, relevant classes or screenings, and the ability to make appointments with specialists. Making these actions easy to perform leads consumers to return to the site, especially “frequent flyers” such as parents with children and those with chronic conditions that require regular treatments.
  • Personalization: Personalizing the online experience is key. Patient portal accounts improve the experience by pre-filling forms, maintaining lists of care team members, providing a unified calendar of upcoming appointments and classes, and allowing patients to access their healthcare record and send secure messages to physicians.

The end goal for your online strategy isn’t to increase traffic; it’s to connect consumers to the services they need from your organization. And you can easily do this by making some basic changes to your website.

Addressing the Online Strategy Concerns of Healthcare Leaders

Our VP and eHealth Evangelist Ben Dillon spent the last year speaking with hospital leaders across the country to learn about their online strategies. As I was reading the white paper on these conversations, I couldn’t help but notice many of the issues eHealth professionals are facing can be helped by VitalSite, our content management solution. Here’s a look at how VitalSite addresses the top themes from Ben’s discussions:

  1. Choosing a content management system (CMS). Ben mentions the trick to selecting a CMS is balancing sophistication and capabilities with ease of use and vendor support. We recently launched VitalSite 6, but surprisingly it isn’t the third or even fourth update to our platform since VitalSite 5. We’ve deployed more than 20 value-packed, incremental releases in the last three years! We’re continually adding new capabilities, making the solution more powerful and ensuring it remains easy to use. And we aren’t stopping there. The next set of enhancements rolls out in only a couple of months.
  2. Implementing the right functionality. Functionality is one of the best ways to build relationships with Web visitors and turn them into patients. That’s exactly why our platform offers the most valuable healthcare website functionality. From provider directories to bill payment capabilities to a very sophisticated calendar and events registration system, VitalSite has the tools needed to engage site visitors.
  3. Rethinking Web strategy. For many eHealth professionals, developing a Web strategy is difficult because of the time it takes to figure out how to align website efforts with broader organizational goals. We built VitalSite to make it easier for you to manage your website, patient portal and intranet, so you can remain focused on developing strategy instead of building functionality.
  4. Dealing with resource issues. According to Ben, no single issue was raised as often as the need for more aggressive investments in staff and budget. VitalSite’s workflow intrinsically allows website administrators to share the workload. In VitalSite 6, we’ve made it even easier to share website administration responsibilities, while maintaining consistency.
  5. Improving search engine optimization. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your site is if it can’t be found. Finding new ways to improve search engine optimization is a focus of every VitalSite release. In VitalSite 6, we put important SEO controls at your fingertips, bringing key metadata to the forefront and making already friendly URLs even more search engine friendly.
  6. Developing intuitive information architecture. No matter how flashy the design, users need to find what they want quickly or they’ll leave the site. VitalSite’s robust taxonomy system, sophisticated FlexFilter, and dynamic SmartPanels are an information architect’s dream. VitalSite 6 includes even deeper taxonomy integration, and new SmartPanels provide even more flexibility for breaking down content silos.
  7. Understanding social media. Incorporating social media should be part of your overall marketing strategy. Using VitalSite, we can easily drive traffic to your social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and even blogs.
  8. Tackling patient portals. With goals to meet meaningful use and an interest in creating personalized patient experiences, many organizations are beginning to implement patient portals. One of the greatest things about VitalSite 6 is that all of our clients – from the smallest community hospital, to the most complicated integrated delivery network – have the ability to launch a patient portal that is fully-integrated with their website without the pain of migrating their existing content and functionality to a new platform. When they’re ready, we’re ready.

My daily focus at Geonetric is to ensure we offer solutions aimed squarely at the current concerns of eHealth professionals. As we launch the most advanced version of our software to date, I’m thrilled to see the close alignment we’ve achieved with the current and future needs of the industry.

Download Ben’s Candid Conversations white paper to learn more about his conversations with healthcare leaders, or visit to learn more about VitalSite.

Putting Success in a Successful Site Launch

In March, we launched four successful new client sites. And although four launches in one month is impressive, we’re much more focused on the successful part of that sentence. Why? Because we believe a website, intranet or patient portal is only as good as the results it delivers.

We help our clients see the results of their efforts immediately. Not only do they hear the rave reviews and compliments from their own site visitors, we also provide them with a post-launch report detailing statistics on their key success measurements.

Here’s a look at our recent launches and some of the stats we’ve seen:

  • MidMichigan Health started the month with the launch of its new website and “MyMidMichigan” patient portal. Within two weeks of launching, MidMichigan noticed an improvement in key site traffic measurements: visitors are spending more time on the site and the pages are relevant to visitors measured by a low bounce rate.
  • Mid-month, Overlake Hospital Medical Center unveiled its new website and “My Overlake” portal, and also became the first hospital to launch a mobile site in the greater Seattle area! The new site generated 478 total portal users in a month and the first portal users signed up within an hour of launch. And after just four weeks, Overlake’s visits were up by 28%, a total of $93,201.41 was collected in online bill payments (a new feature for Overlake), and again, pages are relevant to visitors measured by a low bounce rate of 27%.
  • In the last week of March, Pella Regional Health Center launched its new website to strengthen its regional brand. The site offers many enhanced features, including new online bill payment functionality. According to the first month stats, visitors are spending 72% more time on the site and bounce rate decreased to 25%.
  • And finally, Lubbock Heart Hospital debuted its website the day after Pella, following an impressively fast three-month implementation. After site launch, Lubbock’s site visits increased 67%, visitors are spending 67% more time on the site and search traffic from Google improved by 181%.

Of course, numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. We dig into the numbers to help interpret the data, benchmark the results against industry norms, and make suggestions for next steps. So our clients understand when an increase in time spent on the site or pageviews is good, what an acceptable bounce rate is given the goal of the page, and when it’s time to build a mobile site or launch a search engine marketing campaign.

And the reporting doesn’t stop after the first month. We continue to track key success measurements and deliver quarterly reports to our clients’ stakeholders – so everyone on the team can see how the Web is impacting organizational goals.

When you’re selecting an online solutions provider, it’s important to consider both the sophistication of the product as well as the level of service provided. At Geonetric, we focus on building the most powerful software solution on the market and backing that up with a support team dedicated to ensuring you launch a site that meets your goals not just on the day you launch, but every day after.

Defining the Problem

Online tools“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”  – Albert Einstein

This past weekend my two-year-old daughter uttered, for the first time, a terrifying new word: “Why?” I’m now preparing for cross-examination of my every action.

This new phase (it is “just a phase” … right?) is a great reminder to consistently stop to examine why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s easy to actively create solutions. The key is to first make sure those solutions are designed to solve a problem.

This becomes especially true as you work with your website. From the first step of selecting a content management solution all the way through to design and continual management, it’s important to stay focused on the problem you’re solving. That’s the best way to ensure a successful result.

But sometimes that’s easier said than done. So here are a few thoughts to help you stay focused.

Match solutions to needs

Only you are in a position to truly understand the needs of your organization and customers. That’s important to remember when you’re trying to select a content management system. There are thousands of solutions available. Where do you begin? What makes one system better than another? How do you determine if a solution will accomplish what you need?

Too often organizations select a generic content management solution and spend precious time reinventing the wheel. A better approach is to define the problems you’re trying to solve and select the solution that fits those needs. This will help you stay focused on developing strategies to meet your broader organizational goals without worrying about the technology.

Our VitalSite content management solution is built for the needs of healthcare organizations. It helps you easily manage your website, patient portal and intranet and includes dozens of healthcare-specific functionality to help you promote your providers, locations, events and services.

Technology built specifically for your needs helps you stay focused on solving the problems most prevalent in your organization.

Focus on your real goals

Many organizations seem to focus on the surface of their website: the visual design, content on the home page, the number of ‘hits’ the site gets. Take a page from my two-year-old and ask yourself why. Why do you want this content on the home page? Why do you want visitors on this page? Chances are you’ll quickly uncover the real place your attention should be focused: presenting a unified experience or converting visitors to patients.

With functionality like SmartPanels, FlexFilter  and Taxonomy, VitalSite helps you interrelate content and cross-promote key actions across your site. And VitalSite’s Patient Portal maintains a consistent experience as consumers become increasingly engaged with your site.

And since VitalSite was designed specifically for hospitals and health systems, it inherently can handle the most complicated scenarios – helping you present a unified brand to your site visitors regardless of the number of facilities or services you’re trying to promote.

Never rest

In this industry, every day brings something new … new technologies, new solutions, new standards, new players … it’s never dull.

If you’re trying to focus on defining your problems, you can’t waste time ensuring your technology stays up-to-date. That’s why we upgrade VitalSite every 90 days. Our next version includes enhancements to nearly every module, enabling our clients to work more effectively than ever. Upgrades also routinely address new best practices in search engine optimization and social media trends.

Technology that is continually updated helps you spend more time focusing on your strategies as well.

Ask “Why?”

Even though this stage my two-year-old is going through is a bit trying, it reminds me of the importance of curiosity and investigation. Don’t just assume the solution you are using is solving anything. Get to the root of your goals and find a solution that will help you achieve them. If you’re in the market for a new content management system, ask a lot of questions.

And if you’re looking for a place to start, ask us about VitalSite. Why is VitalSite the best content management on the market? Because we built it with you and your patients in mind.

And the Number of Portal Logins Shall Be One

Recently I came across Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail on TV – a movie that I watched repeatedly as a teenager but haven’t seen for years.  I started watching  as it was getting to my favorite scene, in which the holy book of armaments is consulted on the proper usage of the holy hand grenade.  The book advises, “…shalt thou count to three, no more, no less.  Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.  Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three.  Five is right out!”

This got me to thinking about conversations that I’ve been having recently with organizations about portal strategies.  Yes, it’s a leap.  Stick with me here for a moment.

I think  within healthcare,  a similar proclamation is needed.  “Thou shalt have one portal login on thy website.  One shall be the number of portal logins and the number of portal logins shall be one.  Two thou shalt not have.  Three is right out!”

While attending the HIMSS Annual Meeting last month, there were 254 exhibiting vendors who claim some sort of portal solution.  254!  And they did all have…something.  And this is where we find that slippery slope.

Call center solution?  You can buy a portal for consumers.  Scheduling?  It has a portal.  Billing?  Yep, a portal there too.  Clinic EMR? Portal.  Hospital EMR?  Portal.  Wayfinding?  Portal.

So in an effort to create great online user experiences and build patient loyalty through great self-service tools, we instead end up with an ocean of islands.  Sure, some of those little islands are quite nice, but getting from island to island is tough and sometimes finding the island that you’re looking for is nearly impossible.  Just rolling out all of those little islands of personalization is clearly the easy road, but ultimately counterproductive.

Personalized experiences are inherently patient-centric.  We need to let patients step through a single virtual door and allow the resources that they need come to them, not the other way around.  The expectation is set by the best sites out there – do you need a new login to if you want to buy furniture?  No.  The same login that you used to buy books gets you what you need.  What do furniture and books have in common? is what they have in common and they take responsibility for the consumer experience.

Regardless of how you’re going to get there, start with a rule – “Thou shalt have one portal login on thy website.”

And good luck with the rabbits*.

* If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can watch the classic scene on YouTube or read the transcript.  If you’ve never seen it before – go with the video.

Portals Are Not Only an I.T. Initiative – And Here’s Why

Too often healthcare organizations approach patient portals as “an I.T. initiative.” Clearly I.T. needs to be involved – they are responsible for technology purchases and for meeting Meaningful Use criteria. But if the marketing department isn’t involved in the portal selection and implementation, the hospital will miss out on huge opportunities.

This is the topic of an article I recently wrote for Healthcare Marketing Report. As the article isn’t available without a subscription, I wanted to share some key points here (HMR is a great publication though, and I encourage you to subscribe).

Patient portals offer healthcare marketers a rare opportunity; the chance to get back to real marketing. Think back to the classic definition of what marketing is – the four P’s – Product, Price, Promotion and Place.  Healthcare marketers are deeply involved in Promotion, but how often do you get to direct where your services are delivered or set what they cost?  Marketers in healthcare rarely even have the opportunity to determine what services will be delivered.

But these are exactly the opportunities provided by patient portals.

Portals provide a platform through which new services can be delivered.  Heck, the portal is a service your organization will be providing to patients.  It changes the way you work with patients and can meaningfully change the long-term relationship you have with them.

In other words, patient portals offer you a great opportunity to differentiate your organization.  How often do you get to drive that sort of initiative?

This is your chance to be more strategic. To do this, however, your organization can’t just approach patient portals simply to check off a box on a Meaningful Use list. If done properly, patient portals can create exceptional experiences for your patients – they improve patient acquisitions, drive patient loyalty, improve patient communications and improve care delivery.

And those are all topics marketing owns.

I’d love to hear more on this topic – feel free to post feedback and discuss who owns portal initiatives in your organization and why. And if you do subscribe to Healthcare Marketing Report, be sure to read the January issue for more on my thoughts.

Best of the Best 2010

Every month, Geonetric hosts free webinars and distributes free eNewsletters full of articles covering the latest trends in eHealth. Curious to see what topics warranted the most interest in 2010? We were – we love to look back and see what topics really resonated with you, especially as we plan for 2011.

Without further ado, here they are: our top five most-attended webinars and most-viewed articles from 2010.

Geonetric’s top five webinars of 2010

  1. Use the Web to Build Community Support
  2. Use Your Site to Support Your Doctors
  3. Connect with Patients on the Go
  4. Healthcare Reform: The Biggest New Mover Campaign of All Time
  5. Keeping it Fresh: A Redesign Roundtable

Geonetric’s top five articles of 2010

  1. Site Redesign: Sometimes You Need to Start from Scratch
  2. Incremental Web Site Improvement: Learning from Agile Development and Lean Six Sigma Methodologies
  3. How Do You Use the Web to Support Your Key Service Lines?
  4. It’s All About the Experience
  5. Building (Digital) Bridges from Hospital to Physician

You can view our articles, white papers, webinars and more in our eHealth resource center.

Looking forward to 2011, we can’t wait to share more resources on timely topics in eHealth with you. To get started you can view our upcoming webinars on how to manage diverse audiences and multiple web presences effectively.

Happy New Year from Geonetric!

The Best Never Rest: A Year of Software Upgrades in Review

Over the past year, we’ve made some major enhancements to VitalSite, our content management solution. Using our iterative development process we release a host of new features every 90 days – and over the course of a year that adds up to a lot of new developments! Whether you’re interested in boosting patient volumes, increasing satisfaction and loyalty, promoting your services and physicians, or gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace, all of our upgrades are aimed at helping hospitals improve their websites and reach their organizational goals.

Software that engages visitors – not just patients
Turning a casual site visitor into a satisfied and loyal patient is a top priority for most healthcare marketers – and it’s one of ours too. Over the past year we’ve spent significant development time designing upgrades that help our clients engage their site visitors.

Following our design principle of gradual engagement, we’ve built a Patient Portal that allows anyone – not just patients – to begin developing an online relationship with a hospital. It requires minimal effort upfront and rewards visitors as they move further through the process, increasing adoption.

Gradual engagement is just one of the features we’ve added to our Patient Portal in 2010. We’ve also integrated the portal with our Calendar and Event Registration module, expanded the secure messaging features, and added flexible identity proofing capabilities and key health record information. Best of all, all of these features truly integrate with the website, creating one, seamless experience for the user.

Software that differentiates your organization in the marketplace
All hospitals are unique. They have different organizational structures, business environments, locations, and strategic goals. When it comes to the website, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. What may seem like a straightforward task – such as finding information about a physician – has a myriad of subtle variations from one site to the next. To meet these varying needs, we’ve upgraded many VitalSite modules that can easily be configured.

Over the past year, we’ve evolved our Calendar and Event Registration module into a full-fledged registration management system. It can now help manage the registrations for health classes, continuing education, foundation events, and all of the charity walks, runs and other special events healthcare marketers promote. In addition, we’ve improved the registration process for visitors and made some impressive enhancements to the visual design.

We’ve also enhanced our Clinical Trials directory. The directory now has more configuration options, allowing administrators to modify it based on specific needs. The integrated taxonomy and FlexFilter allows easy editing and organization into categories and manages trials across different regions, facilities and service lines. There is also a new, engaging design in the directory as well.

The next release continues on this theme. We’ll be featuring a brand new Services Directory module that integrates with our Provider Directory and Locations Directory modules. The new module takes full advantage of VitalSite’s taxonomy to help site visitors find services using alternative terms, explore related services, and browse services by configurable categories. The result is a robust browsing experience providing access to all of a hospital’s services.

Software that makes sure users will find you
Brilliant content and engaging features are useless if consumers and patients can’t find the hospital’s website. That’s why every VitalSite release in 2010 included multiple enhancements designed to enrich search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, improve the findability of content, and support detailed results analyses.

This year, we’ve introduced configurable SmartPanels allowing content to be dynamically cross-promoted. We’ve stayed ahead of the social search trend by adding features like the Facebook Like buttons to pages. We’ve improved our page load stats, which can also impact SEO efforts. We’ve added canonical URLs to every piece of content, so Google doesn’t penalize for content that may appear on multiple pages. And we’ve enhanced our sitemap.xml files to provide better detail for search spiders.

Commitment to keeping your site moving forward
As you can see, Geonetric is committed to ongoing product development. Our iterative development methodology allows us to develop software that keeps up with the rapid changes affecting our industry.

2010 was an impressive year for Geonetric, with the most upgrades in our product history. And 2011 will be no different – we’ve got some pretty amazing things planned for our Patient Portal product. We look forward to another exciting year.

The Best Path to a Valuable Patient Portal

As meaningful use creates increasing focus on patient portals, we’re hearing rumors and questions about the lessening importance of the traditional website. Or worse yet, that I.T. – working with a software vendor – owns responsibility for the hospital’s patient portal, and marketing – working with an agency – manages the organization’s website.

Here at Geonetric, we look at it differently. We believe a strong website, built on a robust content management platform, creates the foundation that’s needed for an effective patient portal. And we believe I.T. and marketing need to work together to make this a reality. Here’s why.

First, your website and patient portal need to share a common user experience . Marketers have already learned that website visitors don’t want to wade through navigation that mimics your organizational chart to find information or have to enter technical terms – like clinical cardiac electrophysiology – into your site search to find a heart specialist. And I.T. knows that asking patients to remember separate logins for distinct platforms with differing levels of usability creates a logistical nightmare. Both are correct – and the two teams working together will create an integrated user experience that ensures adoption.

And your website needs impressive functionality that can be shared with your portal. Marketing understands the value of cross promotion and putting information at the user’s fingertips. This translates into interactive capabilities that engage your site visitors. If a visitor is researching a newly diagnosed condition, does your site show the related locations for treatment and detailed information about related providers? Does it filter appropriately to avoid wading through a list of doctors that are outside the preferred traveling distance or don’t accept the necessary health insurance? Does it automatically offer related classes or events that introduce the visitor to your hospital and begin to drive a deeper relationship? As we move to the patient portal, that level of interactivity becomes even more personalized – reinforcing a medication regimen or helping a patient interpret a lab result. And I.T. is typically the gatekeeper, managing how that personalized information moves securely from one system to another. So when you add a patient portal to your website, both teams need to work together to ensure functionality that is seamless and provides increasing value to the user.

As you move down the path to implementing your patient portal, look for ways to leverage the skill sets and knowledge from both marketing and I.T. This is the only sure path to aligning your portal with your site and getting the real value you’re looking for. The result of this integrated approach will be a unified online experience – connecting with potential patients and building ongoing relationships.

Focus on the Patient: Patient-Centric is More than Buzz

The term “patient-centric” is getting a lot of use these days. But it’s always been more than just a buzzword at Geonetric. Over the last 10 years, we’ve spent a lot of time helping hospitals build websites that focus on making the online experience as valuable as possible for their site visitors.

We first began speaking on the value of building “patient-centric” websites five years ago – and even since then, the words “patient-centric” have taken on new meaning. And they won’t mean the same thing five years from now.

Why this focus on patient-centricity? First of all, health information seekers have increasingly high expectations of the Web. As a result, healthcare websites are evolving. No longer are patients satisfied with pages of static content. Now they expect the ability to interact with providers and with other patients in personalized and meaningful ways. Second of all, health seekers are searching not only for information to manage their own health; the likelihood is that the site visitor is searching for information for aging parents, young children, or a spouse. So the site needs to be robust, easy to use, logically organized, relevant, and interactive. That’s a lot to ask!

There are a number of tools we employ in these efforts. Each year, we conduct primary research that helps us understand the direction and goals of hospitals’ online efforts. We also perform research to find out how patients use the Web and what their expectations are for connecting with their health providers online. Plus, we study how the online world is evolving and what it means for healthcare. For instance, social media – not even on the radar for most marketers five years ago – is an increasingly important way to connect with patients today.

If you’re interested in learning more, we offer a couple of options. Ben Dillon, our vice president & eHealth evangelist, has published an article on the topic in the July/August issue of Spectrum, the newsletter from SHSMD. Ben will also be presenting “The Patient-Centric Web: Then and Now” at the SHSMD Annual Conference next week. His co-presenter is Ken Croken, vice president of corporate communications and marketing at Genesis Health System , a long-time client of Geonetric. Their look at the evolution of health websites promises to be informative and engaging.

Both the article and the SHSMD presentation will present our views on patient-centricity – what it meant yesterday, what it means today, and what it will mean tomorrow. As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Whether it’s social media’s influence or adding new access points to comply with healthcare reform – the goal is always to keep the patient in focus.

Cover Story Features the Patient Portal – Where It’s Been and Where it’s Going

spectrum_article_2Our own Ben Dillon and long-time client and patient portal advocate, Ken Croken, of Genesis Health System, teamed up recently to discuss patient-centric websites, and landed the cover of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development’s (SHSMD) member newsletter, Spectrum.

Ben and Ken are no strangers to discussing patient portals together, having co-presented last year at H.S.I.’s Healthcare Internet Conference and slated to appear at SHSMD’s 2010 annual conference this fall. The reason their knowledge is so sought-after? While others are just embarking on patient portals, Genesis and Geonetric have been fine-tuning the health system’s portal for years.

The article not only showcases the evolution and success of Genesis’s portal, it discusses healthcare websites in general and how they’ve grown from being brochureware into a tool for connecting with patients in personalized ways. Ben and Ken also discuss their views on the portal of the future, and what healthcare marketers should start doing today to appeal to health consumers of tomorrow.

If you haven’t seen the July/August 2010 issue of Spectrum, check it out on our website. And if you’re heading to SHSMD’s annual conference in September, be sure to attend Ben and Ken’s session.