After restructuring your hospital’s site design to capture patients’ attention and meet their needs, it’s time to focus on the content. Keeping content simple and straightforward will enable patients to take action and engage with your site.
Four Content “To-Dos” for Better Community Hospital Websites
- Remember “Who,” “Why” and “What.”
- Who are you?
- Key service lines
- Hours of operation
- Role in the community
- Long-term goals for your community hospital
- Why are you different? Highlight what sets your hospital apart.
- Specialties and accreditation
- Procedures and surgeries
- Courses and resources
- Award-winning staff
- What do you want site visitors to do?
- Engage with your hospital
- Sign up for a community seminar or lecture
- Find a doctor or specialist
- Each content page should have a clear “call to action”
- Who are you?
- Make sure your content is relevant and actionable.
- Give visitors information they want and need, and eliminate superfluous information. Though the hospital’s history or a page of staff headshots may be interesting internally, such content does not benefit a potential patient. Give less prominence to irrelevant information.
- Give visitors something to do. Use the web as an opportunity for visitors to engage with your hospital — to sign up for a newsletter, contact a nurse or download a PDF resource.
- Provide real value.
- Determine how your community hospital can be a health resource for the community. What are your community’s needs? For example, are there a lot of new mothers and parents? Provide parenting tips and children’s health resources on your website. Is diabetes rampant in your community? Offer health tips and prevention tips on your site.
- Determine what service lines are important to the organization and capitalize on them — promote them on your website.
- Create interactive tools that allow patients to take quizzes and health screenings online. Become a reputable and trusted online health resource for your patients.
- Generate patient-friendly content.
- Writing effective website copy can be challenging, especially when the subject matter is as complex as explaining medical conditions and the latest procedures. America’s health literacy rates are alarmingly low. Don’t alienate your site visitors by using complex words and descriptions they can’t understand.
- Avoid acronyms, jargon and other industry-specific language as much as possible. Scan every page to make sure the copy isn’t too technical.
General Tips for Writing Online Content
The attention span of online readers is significantly less than that of book or magazine readers. Keep your content concise.
Format your content for easy skimming:
- Use headings and subheadings
- Provide summary text
- Use bullet points and lists
- Keep paragraphs short
- Use callout boxes and links
The biggest advantage to online writing is the ability to get readers to take action. Describe your services, classes and procedures, and then allow patients to call about your services, sign up for a class or watch a video on a new procedure. Make your community hospital website an engaging experience.
Websites can easily become cluttered, cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Is your site providing information or confusion? Thoughtful design and intentional structure will organize your hospital’s content to meet your patients’ needs.
Research from Chao Liu and colleagues from Microsoft Research shows that the first 10 seconds of a page visit are critical for users’ decisions to stay or leave. If you can convince the user to stay for half a minute, he will likely stay much longer.
Likewise, a hospital’s first impression can either win over a skeptical patient or turn him away. Your community hospital website may provide that first impression, so in discussing the website redesign, continually ask:
- What information is important/relevant to the patient?
- What will ensure a good user experience for the patient? Is the layout intuitive?
- What do I want my patient to do? (Sign up for a newsletter? Download a PDF? Make a phone call?)
With only 10 seconds to create a positive user experience, make the following elements easily accessible from the home page to encourage your patients to stay on the site:
- Contact information: The hospital address and phone number should be easy to find — keep the phone number prominent at the top and bottom of the site in case of emergency.
- Search area: Help patients find the site’s resourceful information by providing a search bar or search area.
- Physician finder: Offer a database of your physicians and their qualifications. This will give patients the opportunity to familiarize themselves with your staff and their specialties.
- Quick links: Provide quick links to frequently-requested sections such as women’s health, pediatrics or healthy living.
- Testimonials area: Calm potential patients’ nerves through patient testimonials. Try incorporating multimedia — pictures, audio or video — to make the testimonials more personable and relatable.
- Community engagement: Include a forum, blog or feedback section. Encourage community members to post comments or offer input regarding healthcare topics or hospital issues. Devote time each day to respond to feedback — create a dialog with potential patients.
- Call to action: This is the most essential of all the elements! Each section or page should have a clear call to action to engage the patient. Use a button or a different text style to highlight a phone number, address, video gallery or appointment scheduler.
- Call the heart center!
- Schedule a mammogram.
- Check out our virtual hospital tour.
Many websites include all of the above elements, but cumbersome site navigation prevents visitors from finding anything.
- Multilevel menu: Use a multilevel menu with top menu items and submenu items.
- Try to limit your top menu to five to 10 items, and then provide access to as many sections as possible in the submenus.
- For tips on different types of menu navigation and their advantages and disadvantages, click here.
- Keep your site clean and uncluttered. Utilize white space and don’t overwhelm visitors with unnecessary pictures or overly-stylized text.
- Choose a consistent text and color scheme so that the design doesn’t detract from visitors’ ability to obtain information. Select fonts and colors that are easy to read. Remember — the priority is the patient experience!
Keep it Editable
- Consider using a content management system — which allows a site administrator to easily add and edit content without affecting the site’s design — to facilitate frequent content updates.
- Update regularly. Patients should be able to rely on your site to have the most current information about hospital hours, classes and programs, specialties, staff and more.
- Updating your content regularly will also help with search engine optimization, or how “visible” your site is to the top search engines.
Resources and Successful Sites
Below are a few examples of successful hospital websites. They offer a good virtual patient experience by providing useful information in an easily accessible way:
- Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
- Lexington Medical Center
- Read about St. Helena (CA) Hospital’s site redesign as it learned to put patients’ needs first.
- Read more about medical website design trends.
October 21, 2011
Despite poet John Donne’s insistence that no man is an island, the healthcare marketing world can seem pretty isolated.
Reconnect, recharge and get inspired with fellow healthcare marketers at the Carolinas Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society (CHPRMS) Fall 2011 Conference.
Working off the theme “Changes in Altitude,” this year’s fall CHPRMS conference offers a galvanizing gathering of industry leaders and newcomers alike, set amid the inspiring heights of the mountains surrounding Asheville’s historic Grove Park Inn.
Scheduled for Dec. 7-9, the conference agenda is sure to offer something for everyone with topics that range from the reality of political correctness and planning innovation to how to deftly navigate CEO issues or capitalize on marketing with micro campaigns. Click here for the full conference agenda.
The fall CHPRMS conference is a joint meeting with the Carolinas Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development. So, in a word, it offers more bang for your buck with an even larger knowledge base and expanded networking opportunities within the industry.
Next week we’ll post an exclusive podcast with CHPRMS President Margaret Gregory, senior director of marketing and public relations at Piedmont Medical Center. She’ll address the inspiration behind this year’s fall conference, what attendees can look forward to and why such a gathering is so critical to the industry today.
October 14, 2011
Branding a campaign means more than just creating a logo. “Branding” encompasses the overall personality, look and attributes associated with your campaign. Learn about one community hospital’s branding successes that increased its neighbors’ awareness for quality healthcare right in their own “backyard.”
In today’s ever-developing, busy and media-rich world, it’s easy to get lost to consumers, especially when you’re up against a large neighboring hospital. But with a little extra effort, you can create a brand for your community hospital’s campaign to bring it more legitimacy and recognition.
Rowan Regional Medical Center (RRMC) of Salisbury, NC, recently launched two campaigns with distinctive and effective branding efforts. I was proud of my firm for helping RRMC establish recognizable faces for its campaigns.
To market its modern facilities and maternity center, RRMC launched a maternity campaign, complete with a branded style that was implemented on both the web and in print:
- ABZ Design developed a microsite for the Family Maternity Center. The site features videos of physicians, nurses and patients raving about the Center’s personable care.
- The site also acts as a resource for potential mothers and patients, providing information about maternity classes and pregnancy.
- The maternity branding was also utilized in print brochures and ads.
- Check out the videos and the campaign images!
To celebrate its 75th anniversary, RRMC sought to involve the community in a big celebration. The ongoing theme of “CommYOUnity” was reiterated through a variety of advertising and merchandise.
- ABZ Design developed an iconic “75th balloon” which was coupled with “CommYOUnity” for the campaign’s branding efforts.
- From web ads and billboards to elevator wraps, light pole banners, T-shirts and stickers, this campaign’s widespread marketing efforts made it recognizable in the community.
- Check out the campaign with its variety of marketing products!
What Can You Do? Some Tips for Branding Your Campaign:
- Focus on three or four identifiable traits. Identify three or four traits that stand out about your brand, or in this case, your campaign, and then build your campaign’s platform around these traits for a more cohesive representation. What differentiates your services or programs from those of competitors? Read more tips about identifying your community hospital’s strengths and weaknesses in this article from Becker’s Hospital Review.
- Appeal to your audience. Tailor the look and feel of your campaign to your audience. Is it a somber cancer campaign? Is it an energetic pediatrics campaign? Is it an elderly services campaign? Every aspect — from the look and feel to your marketing strategies — should align with your intended audience.
- Stay up with the times. In order to maintain a competitive edge, your community hospital needs to be up-to-date with marketing technologies. The rise of Smartphones is rapidly making it essential to promote your campaign in a Smartphone-friendly fashion on the web, while QR codes are adding an interactive element and depth to traditional print design. Read more about hospital branding and technology in this article.
October 11, 2011
Content management system (CMS) websites offer your physicians the ideal solution for a branded website with the added ability to manage the site’s content.
What is a CMS? A content management system uses software and a database to manage and organize website content. Sites may be developed from scratch or built from a variety of available templates and then customized. The greatest benefit is the software’s user-friendly interface, which allows content to be easily added and edited without learning HTML or other coding languages.
Why should you use a CMS?
- No technical expertise is required. Individuals with average knowledge of word processing can add content, videos, photos, pages and links directly into the professionally designed CMS template.
- It is ideal for a collaborative environment. Users may simultaneously add or edit content simply by logging in to the “backend” of the website, where the content is stored. A CMS is optimal for a hospital or large practice where multiple people will be assisting in the upload of content.
- Better ranking on SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of improving your site’s visibility on the web by optimizing it for search engines. Most CMS have plugins or features to assist with SEO. Updating your site frequently with relevant content will also make it more visible to search engines.
- You can make changes immediately. You can effortlessly update your site with no delay. The moment you publish content to your CMS, it appears on your live website. Keep the community up-to-date on your practice’s awards, press releases, classes, announcements and media content.
- It will save lots of money. A well-designed CMS practice website template can help hospital marketers maintain branding by making it easy to share the template design with affiliated practices, creating a cohesive look. This lowers costs, as modifications can be made without the need of outside vendors or web experts.
- Security. The site administrator can manage what content is editable by other users or approved “authors.” This provides your content more protection from many standard website attacks.
- Social media integration. Your website can be easily linked to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, which allows practices to reach a broader audience of patients.
When you use an agency to set up and design your CMS template, you benefit by producing and establishing a branded look for your web presence, which can then be applied to affiliated practices. You will save time and money with the ability to easily add and edit your own content.
Examples of sites created using a CMS:
- Ovarian Cancer National Alliance – This organized and content-rich site was built using WordPress as a CMS. Check out this article on using WordPress to build your hospital website.
- Let’s Get Healthy For You! – This fun and clean design was also done using WordPress as a CMS.
- Baron Therapy – This creative and informative therapy services site was built using Joomla! as a CMS.
- Spine Health – Another content-heavy site, this one was built using Drupal as a CMS.
February 17, 2011
The Internet has become a primary source for healthcare information. With medical knowledge in such high demand on the Web, community hospitals must promote their brands by being a resource to online consumers.
Recent Findings From The Pew Internet Project
Click here to download the full 2011 report from The Pew Internet & American Life Project.
- 59 percent of the overall U.S. population seeks heath information online.
- Nearly two-thirds of these health seekers were looking for information about a specific disease or medical problem.
- 17 percent of cell phone users have specifically used their phones to look up health or medical information.
- Nearly half of internet users who go online for health information are searching on behalf of someone else.
What This Means for Community Hospital Marketers
- The online public is in need of a credible source for medical information.
- By establishing your hospital as an informed source on the Web, you will gain patient trust.
- The Web will direct a whole new audience of information seekers to your community hospital.
- This online community will only grow, so getting ready now is a must.
Get to Know Your Online Audience
According to The Pew Internet Project, the following demographic groups are more likely to search for healthcare information online:
- Non-hispanic whites
- Young adults
- Those with higher levels of education
Online Marketing Essentials
- Make sure your hospital’s website is easy to find on search engines, especially Google:
See 5 basic search engine optimization techniques
- Send frequent e-mail newsletters of health data and information to your patient lists; include links to more information on the Web.
- If you have lots of health information available in digital form, consider establishing a searchable database for online patients seeking information about medical problems.
Hospitals With a Presence on the Web
- University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinic offers a complete online Health Information Library for online medical seekers. The site features a full index on topics such as symptoms and diseases, surgeries and procedures, nutrition and self care. You can also request an appointment online or browse the hospital staff to find a doctor.
- Presbyterian Healthcare of Charlotte, N.C., also offers an online Health Library with categorized searches for medical animations, interactive health tools and an assortment of health topics in both English and Spanish. Presbyterian also sends out regular e-newsletters on a variety of health topics, which are also available online.