Just Because Your Organization is Complex Doesn’t Mean Your Website Should Be

Healthcare organizations are messy and complicated.  And with so many health systems merging, acquiring, extending their reach and employing physicians, it’s only getting worse.

So, why is the complexity an issue? Services are still being delivered, patients are still being treated and quality of care is generally good.  The bottom line is the complexity makes it difficult for health consumers to manage their healthcare.  When patients can’t figure out what services your organization offers or how to go about receiving those services, they begin to avoid the system as much as possible.

That’s where the Web benefits complex organizations. The Web allows you to present a cohesive picture of your health system that can be easily understood by consumers and patients.

As you start developing your strategy, you must first decide how you’re going to present the multiple brands of your complex organization online. If you have a number of hospitals and clinics, should you present all of them within one website or several sites?  The right answer is that it depends.

Taking a look at your marketing strategies, specifically how you promote your organization using other vehicles, might help you decide how to promote your organization online. These strategies should speak to the autonomy of different facilities or components of the organization.  Do they maintain strong, independent, and differentiable brands? Or is the system brand more dominant?  Such insights will suggest a certain approach.

You can use a single online presence or a set of entirely autonomous websites. But these represent two ends of a sliding scale – there are many options in between. For example, individual facilities can maintain individual homepages – each with their own vanity URLs – yet still present a unified presence. In this case, service information could appear jointly on the sites that offer the service, highlighting what makes each facility’s offering unique. The same service information can also appear under a services umbrella which tells the overall story for how that service is approached by the system.  There are many techniques to presenting information that result in a hybrid approach which may strike a better organizational balance for your system.

As you evaluate your online approach, here are a few tips to help you be more successful:

  • Align staffing with the strategy: Organizations that are unable to devote staff or other resources for each facility or key component should be cautious when segmenting sites.
  • Factor in geographic proximity: There’s little benefit to the consumer when you present a unified face for a set of facilities that are too far apart for most patients to consider.
  • Find strategies that leverage investments: Share your health library.  Use the same descriptions for birth preparation classes at all of your facilities.  Reducing redundant work creates the opportunity to invest time in more valuable activities.
  • Find ways to cross-promote offerings: If one facility doesn’t have a service, make sure you lead site visitors to your other facilities that do.  The goal, first and foremost, is to keep the business “in the family.”
  • Create a single vision for your Web strategy and make sure everyone’s on board:  Unless each site is operating independently without consideration for the others, a single vision is needed to keep individual facilities from veering off and undermining the efforts of the others.

One final thought, and perhaps the single most important, is that hospital websites are created for patients and other health consumers.  It’s easy for internal conflicts to get in the way of making sure that the final result makes sense from the consumer’s perspective.  When organizations get stuck in these difficult questions, often the best way to find the right answer is to ask:  What makes the most sense for patients? After all, they’re your most important audience.

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This entry was posted in Consumer Expectations, Design, eHealth, Industry Trends, User Experience by Ben Dillon. Bookmark the permalink.
Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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