Is Dynamic Content Right for Your Hospital’s Website?

SmartPanel Personalization

The Web is a great channel for engaging health consumers, making connections and converting them into patients. It’s natural, therefore, that we’d want to tailor the digital experience based on their individual interests – an approach that’s becoming more and more popular on retail websites.

But what works well for retail isn’t necessarily useful for healthcare. People use our sites differently. Failing to recognize this can lead to a site that’s awkward, creepy or even risks HIPAA violations. So how do you know if using dynamic content is right for your hospital’s website? Let’s explore.

What makes a site dynamic?

Dynamic websites are based on content management tools where the content lives in a database rather than static files. Pages are assembled as users access them, pulling the most relevant and up-to-date information together at that moment.

For example, when someone looks at a page about birth center services, you want current information about obstetricians, birth center tours and birth preparedness classes on the page. If a class is full or was held yesterday, you don’t want it to appear in that list. A monumental task to manage manually, but trivial for a dynamic website.

There are other factors that may cause different content to be delivered. For example, if the user is inside the hospital when they visit the site then you might offer different information for them compared to someone outside such as interior facility maps rather than campus maps.

You may also present things differently depending on the device used to visit the site. Mobile phones and tablets should have a user experience tailored to the needs of those platforms using responsive design.

Implicit vs. Explicit Personalization

Taking dynamic content a step further brings us to personalized content.

Personalization can work several ways. The first scenario is context personalization, tailoring content and calls to action to the context of the page that the user is currently visiting. This is a sort of implicit personalization in which consumers aren’t required to provide their permission in order for the customization to occur. For example, when looking at a health library page on cancer, the user should be presented with links to oncologists, screenings, support groups, services and the like (for more information, have a look at our SmartPanel technology).

The second scenario is explicit personalization – when you serve up content that is specific to that person. This scenario requires you to be very careful and only use explicit personalization when you’re absolutely sure who the person is that you’re interacting with. That only happens after the user has logged into your portal. In this scenario the user most commonly requests the type of information she would like to see and that’s used to help populate the portal home page.

Tips for Personalization Success

I’m sure you’re thinking of something you’ve seen on Amazon.com and wondering if it can be done for your health system’s website. At Amazon, items that you looked at follow you around the site, follow you to other sites that you visit in the form of ads, appear again on your next visit to the site and they even show up in your email inbox.

The reality is that these types of techniques don’t translate well to healthcare, so let’s think through how healthcare is different and how health consumers will access your site.

  • Healthcare relationships are built on trust and confidentiality. People don’t care a great deal when a consumer product company is tracking and targeting them to upsell the latest and greatest gadget, but get very upset when the NSA does the same thing. The rules just aren’t the same for all players. And most consumers don’t like the idea that they are being targeted using sensitive information such as health data.
  • Context matters. Hospital website users are dealing with different issues at different times… and often for different family members. With the exception of a few chronic conditions, they only care about an issue when they’re actively looking for it. So it’s important to optimize the experience around what they’re looking at today, not what they looked at last week.
  • Beware the shared computer. By visiting your site, consumers are giving you information about themselves. Be careful when trying to tailor the experience that you’re not inadvertently exposing any of that sensitive information to what might be a different person using the same computer!

With these few tips in mind, you can create a fantastic experience for your site visitors and one that moves them towards becoming a patient.

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This entry was posted in Best Practices, Consumer Expectations, Content, Content Management (CMS), Industry Trends, Marketing, ROI, 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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