For a number of years, Geonetric conducted an annual online survey to track the pulse of the eHealth industry. But this year we decided to change our approach. Instead, I sat down with more than 50 healthcare organizations to learn about their online strategy and offer advice. We called the project “Ask Ben” and it taught us more about the eHealth industry than we anticipated.
Through the project, we learned about how hospitals and health systems are using the Web to connect with their audiences. We discussed the tools they use, the online functionality that works and doesn’t work, their information architecture and navigation structures, the social media they’ve adopted, and their plans to incorporate a patient portal into their online presence.
The fundamental challenge healthcare organizations are struggling with is developing an online strategy. Few organizations have an effective, actionable online strategy in place. What we’ve seen falls roughly into three groups:
- They have no strategy in place
- They have a three-to-five year plan but struggle with putting that plan into action
- They have an ineffective strategy that’s focused primarily on tactics rather than providing value to the hospital
Most often, the challenge is in simply getting started with strategy development. The great thing about developing an online strategy is that you don’t start with a blank sheet of paper. While the Web certainly requires its own strategy, it’s still a tool to help accomplish the strategic objectives of the organization and should emerge from those overarching priorities.
Many organizations seem to adapt to the inability to develop a strategy by skipping it and jumping directly to a tactical game plan, although the result is often labeled a strategy. If your strategy focuses on adding online appointment requests and baby photos to your site, you’re likely in this category.
In my experience, actionable strategies nearly always do three things: 1) tie directly to established health system strategic priorities, 2) include goals and metrics that are meaningful to senior leadership, which rarely if ever includes high-level traffic measures, and 3) includes a process for governance, oversight and feedback.
Strategy underlies the success or challenges that organizations are experiencing online, but there are lots of other insights that we’ll be presenting from the research.