Patient Access: Should You Delete Your Website?

The time to thin the herd was overdue and so was my train. The man who sat next to me on the train to Washington wore an outfit, that had he been a domestic pet, he would have been put down purely on aesthetic grounds. His jacket looked like it had been knitted from atomic waste. Apparently, the ability to decide what to wear has very little in common with the ability to perform multi-dimensional calculus.

He was interested in telling me his life story; I wasn’t interested in hearing it, but it would have been rude to climb over him and run down the aisle like I was being chased by a mastodon. He explained that he was into several different kinds of therapies, as well as fortune telling and tarot. On the functioning side of his brain he had a degree in accounting.

Which brings me to today’s missive.

A reader of yesterday’s blog wrote to let me know that her hospital could benefit from a little Patient Access 101 strategy for its call center.

Not being someone to let sleeping dogs go unturned, or something like that, I thought there might be some merit in visiting the health system’s website. Unfortunately, I was not surprised by what I saw.

If you become aware that someone in your health system is about to update the system’s website, for the benefit of the entire health system and for the benefit of all the people who may be tempted to visit the website, someone should tell the website’s designer to step away from the keyboard. It may be necessary to use force to ensure compliance.

The website I visited had the following links on its homepage.

  • Employees
  • Medical staff
  • Media
  • Volunteers
  • eCards
  • Thanking an employee
  • Donations
  • Hospital news
  • Hospital events
  • Podcasting
  • Free newsletters
  • Chaplain
  • Amenities

There was even a link for patients—who’da thunk it?

Maybe my brain is not wired like the rest of the population, but when I visit certain companies/vendors online, I go to their website with a certain objective in mind.

If I visit the website of my bank I do so with the intent to bank, not to read about their amenities. If I visit the website of my favorite restaurant I do so with the intent to dine, not to view a podcast. If I go to the website of my favorite clothier I do so with the intent to shop, not to read about upcoming clothing events.

My sense is that well over ninety-percent of the people who visit a health system’s website do so because they are either a patient or are considering becoming a patient. Yet the design of well over ninety-percent of health system websites do not reflect the fact that most of their website visitors have no pressing interest in more than ninety-percent of the information presented on the site.

The business purpose of a health system’s website should not be about the health system. It should offer information that is both compelling and relevant to the people who go to the site—patients and potential patients (customers). it should serve as a business tool, not a rendition of what the hospital wants you to know about it.

If the health system wants to have an online tool for medical staff and employees it should create an employee portal that resides on the health system’s intranet.

Healthcare is competitive enough whereby health systems should use their website to gain a competitive advantage. No competitive advantage will be gained by having a more rigorous eCard link than the other hospitals in the area, or by having a snazzier newsletter.

If your website presents itself like a Chinese menu of offerings, you probably want to rethink it. The site’s visitors will still be hungry thirty minutes later.

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