Because health care is becoming more consumer-driven, many hospitals are updating the services and features they offer to patients so they can stay competitive. One area where hospitals may be lacking compared to other healthcare entities: websites.
It’s important for hospitals to have a prominent online presence. Patients are paying more money out of pocket for many healthcare services, so they’re constantly reviewing the Web for information about facilities before deciding to undergo surgeries or other procedures.
And if patients can’t find what they’re looking for on a hospital’s website, they won’t give the facility their business.
New website essentials
What do hospitals need to include on their website to attract cost-conscious patients?
In an article from the Wall Street Journal, Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, discusses six key features hospital websites may soon need to attract and retain patients:
- Patient perspectives and reviews. Prospective patients are already looking at reviews for hospitals and providers on third-party sites (e.g., Yelp). Hospitals may need to get involved with the review process themselves, creating sections on their websites where patients can rank their experience and share their thoughts with others. Reviews may even branch off onto their own separate hospital-sponsored websites for certain aspects of hospital services – such as dining offerings.
- Quality ratings. There’s currently a big push for transparency in the healthcare industry – and that includes being upfront with patients about quality rankings, whether they’re impressive or not. In the future, hospitals may end up prominently displaying their performance under certain rating systems – such as the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) new five-star rating system – on their websites.
- Medical records. If your hospital already allows patients to access data in your electronic health records (EHR) system via a secure patient portal, you’re ahead of the game. Over time, this will likely become the norm on all hospital websites. Medical records may also become more interactive, with patients being able to make additions to the record based on their perceptions of their symptoms. They may even be capable of uploading information from wearable devices designed to track their vital signs outside hospital walls.
- Pricing information. Since many patients treat hospital stays like any other major purchase, they’ll want to see how much certain services will cost, particularly because they’re responsible for much of their healthcare cost. Hospitals that want to get their business will have to be honest about the financials, providing patients with pricing information comparable to what colleges provide prospective students about tuition and other fees.
- Video consults. Whether a patient’s confused about a medication or wants to speak with a clinician about a new symptom, hospital websites of the future may wish to take advantage of telehealth tools to follow up with patients. Having clinicians and pharmacists available on demand can help improve patients’ post-discharge recovery – and decrease the chance they’ll be readmitted.
- Promotions and deals. For extremely price-conscious healthcare consumers, forward-thinking hospitals may want to try out “limited time specials” for certain services, exclusive to users of their websites. Many other businesses, from car repair shops to restaurants, make similar offers available to customers.
While some of these features may seem strange now, in an increasingly competitive healthcare landscape, they may become standard in the not-too-distant future.
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