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Financial Tools, Responsive Features Lift Hospitals' Digital Experience

Analysis  |  By  
   March 09, 2016

Three hospital website redesigns are each upping the ante for other healthcare websites.

Improving digital marketing and online user experience is a key priority for hospitals and health systems in the coming year. More people than ever are using the Internet as a primary resource, positioning healthcare organizations to engage current patients and reach out to potential patients through their site.

In recent months, three hospital website redesigns caught my eye for different reasons—from responsive features, to financial tools, to a patient experience gateway. They are each upping the ante for other healthcare websites.

Responsive Redesign
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, NH, redesigned its website to create a responsive resource for patients, staff, and the community. The revamped site, created with the help of Saltwater Creative Agency, launched in February.

The relaunched site "allows for visitors to have a very informative experience, while providing insight into what Wentworth-Douglass Hospital is about. The new website inspires confidence, trust, and comfort—what patients want in healthcare—and what they can expect at Wentworth-Douglass." Gregory Walker, president and CEO of Wentworth-Douglass Health System, told local media.

The site's responsive features provide a consistent user experience across devices; from PCs, to tablets, to mobile phones. It also features interactive tools, such as an online sign-in system for its Express Care and Prompt Care centers, and a new blog, dubbed Living Well Seacoast, that is regularly updated with fresh content on timely topics, such as "Ten Snow Shoveling Tips to Keep your Spine Healthy" and "Reach Your New Year's Goals."

"We are excited about the new website launch and the platform that has been created to constantly keep information fresh and relevant," said Dawn Fernald, director of marketing and public relations. "The addition of the Living Well Seacoast blog, with posts by physicians, clinicians, and other subject-matter experts provides great information—whether it be health promotion, prevention, or treatment options."

Wentworth-Douglass' responsive features will go a long way in improving user experience, and the prominence and timeliness of the blog is both a useful resource and content marketing tool.

Financial Compare Tool
St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, has added a cost transparency tool to its website. The feature is the latest addition to the sites financial tools, which include a list of participating insurance plans, a bill payment portal, and financial assistance.

To use the tool, a patient enters her insurance information and then chooses from a list of 105 available treatments and procedures that are broken down into 15 categories, such as lab, MRI, X-rays, nuclear medicine, diagnostic cardiac services, and surgery. The tool then determines the exact out-of-pocket cost of the service based on the information submitted.

"St. Clair is committed to being a leader in high-value healthcare," Richard C. Chesnos, CFO and senior vice president, told a local paper. "In addition to our award-winning patient safety and clinical outcomes, and national-leading patient satisfaction, St. Clair provides very cost-effective services, and we want our patients to feel secure knowing, upfront, how much their care will cost them."

Currently, the transparency tool doesn't include physician costs, but hospital administrators say that capability will be available down the road.

Not only is this tool beneficial for patients, but it positions St. Claire as a forward-looking organization—especially as an increasing number of state healthcare cost transparency tools are cropping up.

Patient Experience Gateway
When McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, redesigned two years ago, hospital leaders wanted the website to clearly portray the organization's values and key messages.

"The website is the front door to the hospital for visitors around the world," Nancy L. Hoines, MPH, senior director of Business Development and chairman of the website redesign committee, said in an article on the hospital website. "It brings together, in one place, the commitment to compassion, respect, and teamwork that underlies our mission: to provide the highest-quality clinical care, academic training, and research innovations in the mental health field."

The site's content and redesign was geared toward its primary audience of prospective and current patients, their families, and referring clinicians. It achieved hospital leadership's goal to create a virtual gateway—a critical element to the hospital's seven-year strategic plan.

Web developers created a user-friendly experience by choosing a sleek interface with intuitive search functionality and ease of navigation.

"Our chief concern was that all visitors be able to easily and quickly find the information they need," Hoines said. "We wanted McLean to be represented as the multifaceted resource it is."

A year after the redesign launched, marketers found the average amount of time visitors spent on the site rose by 40% and the average number of pageviews per visit has increased by 25%. And perhaps even better than the increased site usage is the fact that the revamped website sets the stage for the patient experience people will experience when they first walk through the hospital's doors.

Marianne Aiello is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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