It’s always good to know where you stand, and very few things help us with this as much as a third party, independent comparative analysis of how our work ranks against the rest of the industry. A peer-reviewed research article published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Management attempts to do this very thing…
The researchers reviewed 636 hospital and health system websites and ranked each on Accessibility, Content, Marketing, and Technology metrics. An overall score was then computed for each site.
The results are simply outstanding.
The latest version of Meaningful Use Stage 2 was recently released (see Ben Dillon’s blog post ), and there are two items related to how patients access health information and providers online that I found fascinating. The proposed rule requires that online access to health information and secure messaging be available to 50 percent of patients and – more importantly – 10 percent of patients must use them.
We Can Do Better!
Meaningful Use Stage 1 rules required hospitals and eligible providers to make information available to patients in an electronic format. What sounded like a promising step forward for patients has turned out to be nothing more than files delivered on CD-ROMs or via a “secret,” un-promoted patient portal. In short, it was only marginally better than the current medical records request process.
We can do better, right? Allowing patients to digitally access health information isn’t easy, but we’re committed to solving this in a way that puts consumers at the center of the experience.
To help health consumers understand the benefits of actually using your patient portal, you’ll have to focus on more than just the clinical and I.T. aspects. You’ll need to focus on the patient experience too. It’s essential that you create a value proposition that convinces patients to adopt your technology. This means implementing software that makes it easy for consumers to interact with your organization and retrieve their health information.
I bought a FitBit last weekend. I’m telling myself it’s for professional research purposes, and entirely unrelated to any delicious overindulgences from December.
If you’re unfamiliar, FitBit is a tiny device that clips to your belt and tracks your movements 24/7, reporting on your activity level and sleep quality. It’s basically a souped-up, Kinect-era pedometer.
The FitBit wirelessly posts data to a website, updating regularly when you’re in range of its base station. From there, your data can be forwarded onto Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, or – more interestingly – Microsoft’s HealthVault.
The effect is something we are striving for with our patient portal – increasing patients’ access to data about their body, health and activities. Lab test results buried in a chart don’t help patients to see the patterns in how their body is responding to their daily choices – medication adherence, lifestyle changes, continuing treatment – that are necessary to improve their health.
As the director of product strategy, part of my job is to keep a watchful eye on industry trends and ensure our VitalSite content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. That doesn’t mean I have a crystal ball, but it does mean I am in a unique position to evaluate what’s a trend – and what’s just a temporary buzz. Here are four areas I think will get a lot of attention this year.
There was enormous buzz about mobile in 2011, and not without good reason. Geonetric clients saw steady growth in mobile visits throughout the year. Headed into 2012, I think we’ll be seeing less hype, and more substantive focus on the value that can be delivered by a variety of devices – not just phones – to create integrated experiences for health consumers.
Continued Smart Phone Growth
While growth in the use of mobile devices for Internet consumption was tremendous in 2011, we won’t see any slow-down in 2012. Expect a big jump in January as consumers take to the new smart phones and tablets they received as gifts, then a return to consistent month-over-month growth throughout the remainder of the year.
Forecasts indicate that overall internet consumption on mobile devices will exceed that on traditional computers by 2015.
If the growing popularity of Cyber Monday has taught us anything, it’s that people like to shop from their homes. So it’s no surprise site visitors expect healthcare organizations to offer eCommerce functionality – especially after interacting with sites like Amazon. With the holiday season upon us, it’s a great time to review some of the eCommerce features our VitalSite content management solution offers.
eCommerce functionality ensures your Web initiatives drive revenue and deliver value. VitalSite offers a number of transactional features such as bill payment and donations. These features are great – but if you can’t provide your management team with real-time reports, how can you prove their value? That’s why VitalSite also includes support for Google Analytics’ eCommerce tracking. This allows you to track transactions, get metrics and identify your best revenue sources.
Let’s look at the example above. Using VitalSite and Google Analytics, this hospital is able to review the eCommerce report for a certain month and glean valuable information, such as:
- One percent of site visits include a transaction
- This resulted in almost $200,000 of revenue collected through the site in the month of November
With a few clicks, you can discover that mobile visitors spent about $4,000 on the site in November, or learn that “[hospital name] birthing classes” is among the top search engine queries that lead to a transaction. Other reports show how revenue is broken out across online bill payments, donations, event registrations, and other purchases. This allows site administrators to connect real dollars to campaigns, calls to action, and various traffic sources that bring visitors to their site.
Four years ago, Geonetric made a big change. We knew the software development process we had in place could be improved. Enter Scrum, an Agile software development methodology. On our “scrumiversary” we like to reflect on how far we’ve come, and to renew our dedication to continuous improvement.
One of the key principles of Agile is ‘inspect and adapt’ – that is, to constantly evaluate what you’re doing and analyze the value those activities are producing. If you’re familiar with Lean strategies for process improvement, than you’re probably familiar with the concept of a feedback loop. One such loop is the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process.
In many ways, Scrum is little more than a structured feedback loop. We plan work for a fixed period of time, do some work, check the results, and discuss what action to take next. Scrum has loops inside of loops, with multi-week, daily, and even real-time activities that examine and improve the software we’re building, and the process we use to build it.
As part of our focus on continuous improvement, we invited a software process expert into Geonetric this past month to help take us to the next level. As you would expect from a world-renowned expert, the advice he gave seemed pretty straight-forward – on the surface. He reminded us to make those inspection loops as small as possible. As he said, if you’re taking a road trip you should be checking the map more than once a day.
Websites often focus on building relationships and broadcasting messages to a large, public audience. However, they can also become a very powerful tool for communicating with small, focused groups, like a board of directors, physicians, or business partners. Creating an extranet – a secure area of your site or separate site – allows you to share protected information and collaborate with your most important external audiences.
Extranets are similar to intranets but instead of targeting internal audiences, such as employees, they focus on audiences that operate outside the walls of your organization. Extranets require users to enter a username and password to access information – keeping the information secure. You can use an extranet to share items like important documents, agendas and meeting notes, educational materials and contact information. Information on the extranet is easier to keep updated and ensures everyone has the most current information. Users are able to easily access the information whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them, and they may also communicate with other members securely through the site.
Our VP and eHealth Evangelist Ben Dillon spent the last year speaking with hospital leaders across the country to learn about their online strategies. As I was reading the white paper on these conversations, I couldn’t help but notice many of the issues eHealth professionals are facing can be helped by VitalSite, our content management solution. Here’s a look at how VitalSite addresses the top themes from Ben’s discussions:
- Choosing a content management system (CMS). Ben mentions the trick to selecting a CMS is balancing sophistication and capabilities with ease of use and vendor support. We recently launched VitalSite 6, but surprisingly it isn’t the third or even fourth update to our platform since VitalSite 5. We’ve deployed more than 20 value-packed, incremental releases in the last three years! We’re continually adding new capabilities, making the solution more powerful and ensuring it remains easy to use. And we aren’t stopping there. The next set of enhancements rolls out in only a couple of months.
- Implementing the right functionality. Functionality is one of the best ways to build relationships with Web visitors and turn them into patients. That’s exactly why our platform offers the most valuable healthcare website functionality. From provider directories to bill payment capabilities to a very sophisticated calendar and events registration system, VitalSite has the tools needed to engage site visitors.
“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” – Albert Einstein
This past weekend my two-year-old daughter uttered, for the first time, a terrifying new word: “Why?” I’m now preparing for cross-examination of my every action.
This new phase (it is “just a phase” … right?) is a great reminder to consistently stop to examine why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s easy to actively create solutions. The key is to first make sure those solutions are designed to solve a problem.
This becomes especially true as you work with your website. From the first step of selecting a content management solution all the way through to design and continual management, it’s important to stay focused on the problem you’re solving. That’s the best way to ensure a successful result.
But sometimes that’s easier said than done. So here are a few thoughts to help you stay focused.
Match solutions to needs
When was the last time your CMS software was updated?
If you’re a Geonetric client, the answer is always within the last 90 days. In just the past year, we enhanced our patient portal; improved our calendar and events, provider, location and services modules; and added even more configurable features into the product.
But our clients ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
That’s because this March we’re introducing VitalSite 6 – an exciting, new version of our VitalSite platform!
This month we’re focusing our webinar on how you can use your website to promote complex organizations. Many of our clients work in complex organizations, with multiple hospitals and clinics. Creating a site that aligns the user experience, business strategy and content for organizations in different markets with different branding guidelines and many internal politics can be challenging.
VitalSite, our software platform, is designed to help you manage complex organizations online. In fact, it includes two features that specifically help manage multiple sites, brands and strategies online:
Over the past year, we’ve made some major enhancements to VitalSite, our content management solution. Using our iterative development process we release a host of new features every 90 days – and over the course of a year that adds up to a lot of new developments! Whether you’re interested in boosting patient volumes, increasing satisfaction and loyalty, promoting your services and physicians, or gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace, all of our upgrades are aimed at helping hospitals improve their websites and reach their organizational goals.
Software that engages visitors – not just patients
Turning a casual site visitor into a satisfied and loyal patient is a top priority for most healthcare marketers – and it’s one of ours too. Over the past year we’ve spent significant development time designing upgrades that help our clients engage their site visitors.
Following our design principle of gradual engagement, we’ve built a Patient Portal that allows anyone – not just patients – to begin developing an online relationship with a hospital. It requires minimal effort upfront and rewards visitors as they move further through the process, increasing adoption.
Visit any healthcare organization’s website and you’ll find much of the same functionality: information about care providers and services, addresses and directions to various facilities, and perhaps some upcoming events or news items. Geonetric’s eHealth Benchmark Survey confirms this – more than 80 percent of respondents have the top ten site features on their sites.
Of course the devil is in the details.
The difference between a great site and a mediocre one isn’t found in number of site features. Great sites balance the value they provide to users with the value they provide to the organization. The contours of this intersection are slightly different for each organization and its unique set of users.
As we continually upgrade our VitalSite software, we focus on enhancing the features that are central to the success of a healthcare website. We’ve enhanced our patient portal, calendar, provider directory, and clinical trials features. Most importantly, however, all of our upgrades focus on making our produce more flexible and configurable so that our clients are able to maximize the value our product provides to users and the organization.
This focus continues with our upcoming December release.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com in Business Week.
Here is something that’s hard to do well: Create a unified online experience for every visitor to your website, whether the visitor is a current patient or exploring options; whether the visitor has been seen routinely at a clinic, visited urgent care, had a surgical procedure in the hospital, or never passed through your doors; whether the visitor is viewing lab results, emailing a care provider, paying a bill, or registering for a CPR class. Consumers don’t realize (or care!) that this range of experiences may involve multiple entities, dozens of information systems, and a multitude of departments and staff members.
VitalSite is designed to solve this exact problem: It’s a Web platform that delivers a unified, brand-enhancing online experience for all site visitors at every point in their care process – from casual browsing to becoming a fully-connected ePatient.
In addition to sophisticated Web content management and key features like Provider Directory and Calendar and Event Registration, VitalSite allows visitors to create a portal account in seconds. This portal account allows any visitor (not just current patients!) enhanced access. It cuts the time it takes to make bill payments, pre-register, request appointments, renew prescriptions, and register for events. It also provides for two-way secure messaging with administrators, saving everyone time and hassle.
In our recent eHealth Benchmark Survey, nearly 60 percent of respondents indicated they currently have clinical trial features on their website…or plan to add them in the next six months. Clinical trial information is detailed and often includes extremely technical content, so why are so many organizations adding trials to their consumer-oriented sites?
Here are three great reasons:
- They help improve your relationship with research physicians. It’s important to maintain good relationships with your physicians. When they’re conducting healthcare research, you can help them promote their studies, identify subjects, and provide interested individuals with important information. The Web is a perfect vehicle for this information.
- They help you promote your quality service lines and expand your brand awareness. Performing healthcare research demonstrates your dedication to improving medical treatments. Placing the clinical trial information on your website helps you differentiate your service lines and promotes the quality care you provide. (This becomes even more effective when you place relevant and timely clinical trial information in a SmartPanel on service line pages.)
- They help improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. The detailed, technical terminology often used in describing clinical trials is a great magnet for search engine optimization. While each trial may only attract a few hits, individuals visiting those pages are high-value visitors. Taken in aggregate, the content and visits can boost your SEO efforts.