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.