Online Health: Is Your Practice Website in Need of a Checkup? (Part I of a Series)

The diagnosis doesn’t look promising: According to a new study, almost three quarters (72%) of consumers don’t find the websites currently offered by healthcare providers particularly helpful. And, make no mistake, when potential patients are displeased, their subsequent actions (i.e., clicking elsewhere) are unlikely to make doctors feel particularly well, either.

The study, Patient Attitudes Toward Healthcare on the Web, from Kentico Software, asked survey respondents to grade healthcare providers on how well they’ve embraced the web. Roughly half gave them a B (good) or C (fair) rating. (When it came to mobile, survey participants drifted more toward issuing a C rating.)

Among their biggest complaints:

  • Difficulty finding the information they’re looking for
  • Inability to make contact via the user’s preferred method of contact
  • Inability to chat with a healthcare representative via the website in real time

Furthermore, considering that 65% of survey respondents said they decide which healthcare providers to use based on their websites at least part of the time, annoying them is unlikely to generate the response you want.

So what are potential patients looking for when they click on healthcare providers’ websites? According to the survey (in order of importance):

  1. Ease of finding information and responses to questions
  2. Ease of contact via various preferred methods
  3. Healthcare professional biographies
  4. Information about healthy-living topics
  5. Pleasant looking and easy to navigate site
  6. Photos of healthcare facilities and the professionals working there

For aesthetic practices, all of the above amount to table stakes. After all, elective surgery is all about options and most aesthetic consumers are looking for more than easy navigation and health tips. They want to see real results on real people (a good gallery of before and after photos); they want to understand what their aesthetic decisions entail (videos are great for this), and they want to hear what other patients have to say about their experiences through testimonials and online reviews.

And it all has to be delivered in a way that quickly lets users know they’re in the right place, functions well on both desktop computers and mobile devices and provides appropriate calls-to-action and contact information for those who want to know more. Put it all together and it’s a tall order — one that warrants a serious talk with your web designer — but it’s also a necessity if you want potential patients to give your practice website a passing grade.

As Petr Palas, Kentico’s CEO and founder, puts it:

Using the web to communicate in regulated industries such as healthcare is challenging. Patients are reacting positively to what they have seen so far, but clearly they want much more.

We’ll look at additional ways to give them what they want in subsequent posts.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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