The content-driven website is painfully rare in the world of hospitals.
Since going into kidney failure, my father has become a voracious consumer of health care content. It’s one of his great pastimes now, and none of it had anything to do with the three hospitals that helped him make a full recovery.
I’m not going to name names, but despite being award-winning facilities with great reputations in their communities, they’re admittedly weak when it comes to using their website content to provide value for their patients. It’s something that baffles me to this day because when you take a step back, it’s clear that health care is one of the most content-driven industries in existence.
From information needed to recognize symptoms, to explanations of procedures, to post-discharge instructions, content (something most people regard simply as “information”) comes only behind actual clinical procedures as a pillar of modern-day care. With the Internet changing the way patients process and consume content, hospitals have an unprecedented opportunity to make a valuable impact on their patients’ outcomes and experiences through the strategic use of content.
Unfortunately, few are moving on this opportunity.
A Google Think survey revealed that a full 76 percent of patients begin their health care research on hospital websites. This means that hospitals aren’t just missing out on a chance to connect with their patients—they’re actually failing a curious and already engaged population that’s actively looking to them for guidance in navigating challenging situations and complex decision-making processes.
Hospitals have an opportunity to be more. They can use a content-driven website as a tool to leverage existing trust, better align with the Quadruple Aim, and engage their patients and care communities in ways that have been proven to get results.
I stress results here, because—as most of us in health care are entirely too aware—creating value for patients is now a central focus of government initiatives (in the form of value-based care) and is quickly becoming a cultural norm across our vertical.
Image attribution: Sasin Tipchai
Getting past conventional ideas of what a website should be can trip up many hospitals. Thankfully, value-based care programs have already provided some guidance in that area.
We’ve discussed it before, but connecting hospital content to value-based care principles isn’t difficult if you follow a few core guidelines:
For most facilities, making the step to center content is a true marketing transformation. Most hospital websites, while they do provide useful information for their patients, haven’t incorporated their web-presence as a living, breathing part of patients’ care and content experience.
There are many ways that hospitals can implement content-based initiatives, so let’s review some examples from different perspectives.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS) is regarded as a world leader in research and clinical care related to multiple myeloma and related disorders.
Proper treatment of the disease requires a specialist’s approach, and visitors to the UAMS Myeloma Institute website are immediately presented with a wealth of in-depth content on the basics of the disease, treatment options, research, and other educational materials.
After years of a content-heavy marketing transformation, the Mayo Clinic stands as one of the most widely recognized and well-respected health care brands in the world. They use their website to take advantage of their authority and direct patient energy and curiosity like few other organizations do.
The content highlight of the site is the Patient Care and Health Information area, but the entire site features a strong use of content in the form of articles, case studies, white papers, and even moving stories that illustrate the impact that donors to the clinic have on real-life patients and families.
There’s a reason so many brands outside of health care use blogs. They’re one of the most familiar and easily accessible types of content that exists. Some hospitals have caught on to this and maintain compelling blogs of their own.
This blog is a fun and colorful mix of facts, followup, and questions that their target demographic (parents) struggles with.
Hosted by “Healthy Helen,” Pella Regional Health Center has one of the most unique blogs you’ll find in the hospital space. “Helen” is actually the voice of a PR team that covers a wide range of health care topics, spotlights staff, and even tells a cautionary tale or two.
This blog is a great example of demographic-focused content. The blogs cover critical health topics and smartly connects with clinical resources that the hospital offers. This post on weight loss that links to their Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery is a great example.
The goal of most websites is, of course, to convert—but in health care, that tends to look different. Hospitals need to deliver on trust and open doors to long-term connection, and that’s something that has to be built into the DNA of your content strategy.
The path to a website driven by content is a critical component of any effective marketing transformation, and it’s completely navigable.
It will require not only the help of your internal marketing team but also the input of subject matter experts within your facility or system, and potentially outside vendors as well. Here are some general tips you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re considering your own marketing transformation.
This is just as true for content as it is for clinical. The demographics, conditions, and goals of your care community will influence every content decision you make for your site.
As much as it might be tempting to simply emulate what other facilities are doing in their content world, the topics, media types, and overall strategy one facility uses might not fit with your patients’ needs or your goals. Take the time to outline who your potential readers are and what kinds of content will best keep them engaged and enhance their clinical outcomes.
A hospital’s website content should stand out. Your facility has specializations that range from the clinical, to location, to your brand’s tone. Your content should be a vehicle for all those things and a constant reinforcement to your readers of why they should choose you over other care options.
Keep in mind that your readers aren’t all hunched over desks, contemplating their health care decisions. Health is a 24/7 concern, and in a world where even seniors are using technology at higher rates, the importance of content that matches the lives of your patients can’t be underestimated.
This means providing content that is easily consumable in a mobile format and that also aligns with the needs of users who aren’t tied to one location.
The topics and issues you discuss should be proactive and address your community’s care needs before they realize them. Content can be a powerful tool to draw patients in to take cost-saving action on their health that they may not have been considering.
Most importantly, keep talking to your patients.
As with the case of medication adherence, patients need multiple points of contact before they take action on even pressing health needs. This means that, while a strong content foundation matters, a truly content-driven website has to actually move forward and give its visitors a reason to return and entrust you with even more of their health care decisions.
Featured image attribution: Jesse Orrico