When asking hospitals what makes a good Web site, we often hear terms like “interactive capabilities,” “easy to use” and “has lots of content, especially educational content.” While these aren’t necessarily wrong, it’s what’s not on this list that’s disappointing.
Imagine asking Michael Dell about what it is that makes Dell.com “good.” Or Jeff Bezos about what makes Amazon.com a “good” Web site. Of course it has to be easy to use. But strategically, the thing that makes dell.com or amazon.com “good” is that the Web sites are intricately tied to executing business strategy. Both of those companies used the Web site as core, critical parts of how they delivered on their missions.
Dell couldn’t have grown as it did without allowing customers to configure the computers on the fly, with real-time inventory information. Amazon couldn’t have taken on the bricks-and-mortar booksellers without an incredible logistics capability enabled by Web technology, or a Web strategy that brought buyers and sellers together in new ways. The list goes on: travel agencies vs Expedia or Kayak.com, telephone-based account inquiries vs Vanguard.com, etc.
This is where healthcare falls today. We wonder why marketing in healthcare isn’t valued as much it is in other industries, and I think this hints at why. If the big idea for a good Web site in healthcare is simply to make it easy to use, is it any wonder that healthcare seems so technologically backward, and healthcare marketing so far removed from our real mission? Virtually every other industry has been fundamentally changed by the Internet, while healthcare still uses phone calls for most transactions. The goals and sights of those in our industry need to be higher; they need to change the discussion to transformative business processes … to actually using the Web as a strategic weapon.
Yes it has to be interactive. Yes it has to be easy to use. But those are simply the entry point. We do our industry a disservice by not seeking a broader role for the Internet in business strategy.