Within the past month I have had a couple of occasions to seek healthcare services. First, while travelling with two colleagues to a client site, I was involved in a head-on collision at highway speeds with another vehicle. I wish I could say that we all walked away fine, but as is so often the case in motor vehicle accidents, that’s not what happened.
I have also been spending time with my father in the ICU as he is battling the effects of chemo-therapy for cancer treatment that has left him susceptible to infection.
So, I’ve witnessed firsthand how important quality healthcare is to patients and their families.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned is the importance of keeping the patient and their families involved in their care. There were times in the past when “patient centered” was just a buzz phrase and providers made the healthcare decisions for their patients. Often they wanted little or no input from anyone. I had an administrator once tell me that providers are the engine of the hospital, but “MD” doesn’t stand for Medical Deity. He was an early adapter of this theory and thought patients should be encouraged to participate in their care.
Your hospital’s website is a great tool for helping patients and families become involved in their care. But the information provided on most hospital sites could be much more engaging and helpful.
Hospitals have historically used their websites as marketing tools to promote services, technology and compassionate care in order to drive patient visits to their facilities. Using the Web for these purposes is important, but it may be time to challenge the status quo and take the next steps.
And we can begin by asking some provocative questions:
- What if you used your website for loftier purposes – as a gathering place for patients who have been through or are going through similar situations? You could create an area on your website that enables patients to communicate and share what they’ve learned from their experiences at your facility. You could ask your medical providers to join in and provide treatment information on certain conditions.
- What if your website provided information for patient families on how to cope with end-of-life decisions?
- What if the site acted like a team of specialists sharing information and ideas on what a diagnosis means. People could gather and talk about their care and treatment for that type of diagnosis.
- What if you started by removing content that boasts of your technological achievements or “what we can do for you” and replaced it with content that describes “what we can do together?”
- What if you restructured your site so that patients and families don’t visit it to read marketing information about your facility, but instead to get assistance and educate themselves? Then they wouldn’t want to go elsewhere to get that information.
While these questions are designed to get us thinking beyond brand promotion, I’m not suggesting you abandon promoting your services and technology online. I am, however, recommending that you think about using your website in a very different way than you may be doing today.
“Patient centered” doesn’t mean providing overwhelming blocks of information just to prove you’re the best healthcare organization. Patient centered means offering tools that help people gather information and make informed decisions about their own care, and about that of their families.
Just like we can’t or shouldn’t try to describe every possible piece of equipment at a hospital, we can’t try to be everything to everybody either. But what if? What if we tried something different and provided an opportunity through our websites for a dialogue that includes the voices of our patients so that a total healthcare community can be built?