Health Providers, Platforms

Five Lessons Learned In Building a Healthcare Website

With decades of experience working with healthcare organizations, MERGE offers up important lessons for those looking to build a robust healthcare website

BY: Keir Bradshaw | EVP, Solutions

PUBLISHED: 7/11/2023

Since its inception, MERGE has been privileged to work with a broad range of healthcare organizations. With experts on hand in fields of academic medical research, not to mention decades of combined experience working in IT and marketing departments of healthcare systems, we’ve immersed ourselves in the challenges and opportunities that working in healthcare presents and have made it our mission to help transform and modernize healthcare marketing technology practices for our clients. 

While each organization is different and technology has changed dramatically over time, certain themes have persisted, offering a roadmap to success for web and digital endeavors in healthcare. The following “lessons” are from our experience working with multitudes of healthcare provider organizations.  

Lesson 1: Understanding the nuances of healthcare organizations and the metrics that drive success in healthcare are foundational in planning your digital ecosystem.

Healthcare systems are big! Not just in employee headcount and service areas, but in complexity and variety of needs. Like most large organizations, healthcare systems are challenged with servicing a diverse population of consumers while also balancing the need to recruit and retain quality employees, often relying on marketing as the central driver of the overall brand and digital strategy to meet these challenges. However, the complexity grows in healthcare once we start to look at the variety of service offerings within.  

For example, it is typical for most health systems to have:

  • A primary care and/or urgent care focus to serve the immediate wellness needs of the community and also act as the “top of funnel” for complex specialty care
  • Maternity services to help educate new parents and deliver children through traditional and surgical means
  • Oncology services that require a focused multidisciplinary approach to serve patients through the various stages of diagnosis and treatment
  • Sports medicine/orthopedic services that focus on healing, alongside improving performance and increasing athletic longevity

Developing an approach that leverages enterprise tools can ensure your organization is presenting the brand as a unified voice, while still allowing for the flexibility to cater to each unique patient subset.

Lesson 2: Meeting the consumer where they are at and not challenging them to “think like us” is critical in creating valuable user experiences.

Consumer expectations vs. satisfaction. This is both the driving force behind good UX and one of the hardest metrics to measure. Understanding the gap between our current consumer UX and the expectations of our users is key to true improvement. Modern healthcare consumers live in a digital world where you can schedule a haircut online, order your groceries for pickup, and even rent a truck without ever interacting with a live person.

These experiences carry through to consumers’ expectations of features and functionality of our healthcare website, yet the delivery often lacks. A robust Digital Experience Platform (DXP) can act as the central hub of your evolving digital transformation. With built-in A/B testing and AI driven analysis, DXPs have the ability to help us quantify the value of interactions and determine if changes to the site are truly improving experiences. 

Lesson 3: In healthcare, nothing is more important than security and privacy.

This “lesson” practically stands alone. Security and privacy is of utmost importance in healthcare for a few reasons:

  • Consumers are extremely sensitive about their personal health information and understandably so. If they perceive that their data may be at risk, they are unlikely to lean into a digital experience regardless of how good that experience might be.
  • Healthcare data is incredibly valuable. In fact, it has been estimated that healthcare data is 50 times more valuable than credit card information on the internet’s black market. This makes healthcare websites very attractive to individuals or groups with malicious intent. 
  • The damage of healthcare information breaches comes with a higher price tag and potential liability. Given the combination of personal damage to the individual consumers and the additional fines and costs associated with HIPAA regulation, protection of healthcare user information is critical. 

Working with a healthcare expert provides the right combination of technical infrastructure and healthcare security/privacy expertise to allow your organization to safely move towards these advanced tactics and strategies.

Lesson 4: For our clients’ marketing teams, automation and a well orchestrated technology stack is the difference between a “small, but mighty” team and an “overtaxed and exhausted” team.

Healthcare marketing teams are typically smaller in headcount and tasked with a broader scope of responsibilities than other industries. This fact makes it extremely important to leverage automation and a modern technical stack as a way of improving efficiency and reducing human error.

An enterprise DXP is fundamental to producing an administrative workflow that helps to meet this lofty goal. However, like any DXP, it can be configured to be the stuff that dreams are made of, or pure nightmare fuel. Ultimately, it depends on the way the platform is planned, configured and executed.

Lesson 5: A strategy and approach based on quantifiable outcomes is the only way to measure success in a world where online transactions are not “sales” and direct revenue is difficult to attribute.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Similarly, if you don’t plan, you can’t measure. The development of a measurement strategy in the early phases of any initiative is key and the implementation of the website on a DXP that allows for robust and secure reporting is essential as well.  Ensuring both the strategy and the platform are aligned can mean the difference between a measurable success and a mysterious outcome.

Digital marketing in healthcare presents a specific challenge compared to other industries, but by leveraging DXPs, we can empower our lean and nimble marketing teams to not only contribute to the growth and success of the organization, but allow them to play a role in the overall health of our communities and the positive outcome of our patients.