Is Your Website Content Making Patients Run to Competitors?

With all of the different companies we’ve worked with, it has always been a struggle to convince shareholders that it’s worth the effort (and money) to ensure that site content made sense… not to them, but to their audience.  Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, that’s not always the truth though.

Bad Hospital Content

Think of the last hospital website you visited, how easy was it to understand what you were reading?  Sure, if you were looking at a page on X-rays or blood work, it may have been easier to comprehend the content, but what if what you were researching was a bit more complicated – say, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)?

What would you expect to find?

What you expect to find and what you actually find are much different, because the majority of content written for conditions such as HLHS are written by a doctor who doesn’t necessarily understand his/her audience.

No offense Doc, but sometimes it’s best to leave the writing to the writers.

Personal Experiences

People struggle to understand jargon filled text, but when it comes to something that’s personal, like researching a condition for a child, a family member, a friend, or even yourself, that content has to be clear as day or the audience will get lost.   Take for a moment, these two great examples.

My son has a very rare condition called Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria (BPP).  When he was diagnosed with this condition, we were told that the likely hood of us ever meeting anyone with this condition was slim to none.  Of course, the first thing I did once I got home was hit the Internet to begin researching the condition, but information was very, very limited.  The research I did find was so jargon filled that I had to dissect it bit by bit.

Because of this experience, I later started my own blog on BPP so that I could help other parents that may be researching the condition. And guess what, the doctors were wrong – I’ve met over 50 families whose lives have been touched by BPP, and I met all of them through my blog.

As mentioned before, I’ve worked with many clients, a lot of which were hospitals.  I’ve done my fair share of user/patient interviews and have heard straight from the people who the one thing they wanted was to understand what was going on.  They wanted to do their research online, print off the information so they could read it later, send it to their family, and be able to quickly grasp what was being read.  But unfortunately, the majority of patients that I interviewed didn’t get the information they wanted.  They had to do the same thing I did and pull information together bit by bit.

What About This Hospital Case Study

For so many hospital websites, the content sucks.  Seriously, there’s no sugar-coating needed here, it’s horrible…

“Denver Health is one of Colorado’s premier healthcare institutions. While we are the Region’s Level 1 Trauma Center, we are also experienced with all aspects of health care, from primary care and preventive medicine to disease management and injury recovery.” – Denver Health

Sorry Denver Health, for most of your readers, they’re left wondering what the heck Level 1 Trauma Center means.  Also, you’re experienced in ALL aspects of health care?  Geez, what does it mean if you only do some health care?  Who only does some health care?

Oh, now I see, it’s primary care, preventive medicine, disease management and injury recovery.  I think I understand. I think.

Let’s Do Some Research

Not that people who come to any website have time to do research like I’ve done below, but humor me for a minute as I walk you through this. 

First, let’s take a look at what Level 1 Trauma means.  According to Wikipedia (I know that it’s a wiki, but there are great sources if you click-through):

“A Level I Trauma Center provides the highest level of surgical care to trauma patients. Being treated at a Level I Trauma Center increases a seriously injured patient’s chances of survival by an estimated 20 to 25 percent. It has a full range of specialists and equipment available 24 hours a day and admits a minimum required annual volume of severely injured patients. A Level I trauma center is required to have a certain number of surgeons, emergency physicians and anesthesiologist on duty 24 hours a day at the hospital, an education program, and preventive and outreach programs.” – Wikipedia, Trauma Center

Well, that’s pretty impressive.  Now that I know that tidbit of info, it makes me wonder how prestigious being a Level 1 Trauma Center in Colorado really is: looks like in Colorado there are only 4 Level 1 Trauma Centers, and one is a Children’s Hospital.

Very nice Denver Health, very nice indeed. 

What about that other odd part, “All aspects of health care, from primary care and preventive medicine to disease management and injury recovery”?  If you can’t weed through the jargon, basically it means that no matter what your issue is, odds are Denver Health has your back and your front covered from head to toe.

Would Readers, And Potential Patients Do This Research?

Perhaps.

There are typically two types of people who are interested in visiting a hospital website:

1. They need a simple procedure.  Meaning, they don’t need a lot of information to make a choice on where they’re going to go; in fact, when it comes to these simple types of procedures, they’re not going to drive very far anyways.  For example, a searcher starts with researching where they can get x-rays in the local area.  There are likely a lot of options, and they probably don’t care so much about advance treatments (although, that’s still important for branding), but they do probably care that you can do their particular x-ray and that you are close enough that they can get to you fast.  I’d imagine that when they land on a website page about x-rays, they want to see location info, a phone number and a few other short snippets on x-ray info that may help them.

2. They need a more advanced procedure.  If I was getting open heart surgery, it’s likely that I’ll listen to my regular doctor’s opinion, but bless his heart, it’s my heart on the line, so you better believe I’ll be doing my research.  Yes, I may want to find the top surgeons in the country, but there are many, many other things I’ve heard from patients that they also look for:

  1. What is this specific heart condition?
  2. What does it mean to me?
  3. How does your hospital rank as far as saving people with my condition?
  4. Do you take my insurance?
  5. Where can my family stay when I’m in surgery?
  6. What other things are there to do around the hospital?
  7. What other amenities does your hospital offer?
  8. How is your customer service?
  9. Am I going to be treated like just another patient, or are you going to treat me like a human?

I promise you, I didn’t make these questions up.  I heard each and every one of them from real patients.  They no longer are just hoping for a glimpse into their condition – and they want that information easy to digest – but they want to know just about everything else that your hospital offers.

It’s Only Money

And guess what else, they know it’s only money to you.  They are shopping around too, which is why a lot of the questions above shouldn’t surprise you.  They know that they will be paying you upwards of $100k+, so they want to know that they and their family are going to be taken care of.

I’m hoping I didn’t open a can of worms here.  If you are the least bit surprised by any of this information, it looks like you need to do your own research to learn a bit about your patients.

About Kasy Allen

Kasy brings years of experience in search engine optimization (SEO), content strategy, Internet marketing, and overall web-geekery to the table. She enjoys writing on the web and improving user experience across the Annapurna site, as well as with our clients. When Kasy is out of the office, she can often be found volunteering her time to help non-profit organizations build a better online presence and exploring the great outdoors with her family.

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