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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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%.
“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
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our 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.