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290,000 patients agree—your website matters!

NRC Health’s National Healthcare Consumer Study is designed to find out what consumers want from their healthcare providers. The 2017 study gathered opinions from more than 290,000 households—the largest database of its kind in America.

On its surface, this year’s results aren’t too surprising. But a closer look at the data reveals some important take-aways. Here’s what patients want to see as it relates to consumer demands for hospital websites.

Hospital Website Traffic Continues to Grow

First, an important observation: reports of third-party website dominance have been greatly exaggerated. Even in the presence of well-funded, sophisticated external competitors, health-system websites are still flourishing.

32.81% of consumers visited a hospital website in 2017. That’s up 1.79% from 2016, and almost 20% from 2013. The growth is also consistent across every demographic. More of every group, from ages 18 to 65+, turned to hospital websites for information.

But the largest segment of visitors was also the youngest—39.06% of 18- to 34-year-olds said they visited a hospital website last year. These young consumers are worth watching. They’re in the very beginning of their engagements with healthcare systems. Many may be searching for a provider for the first time. If hospitals take the right steps to engage them, they have the opportunity to  build a relationship that could last for the rest of their lives.

The Right Content to Win Patients

The results above clearly suggest that hospitals are doing something right. But health systems shouldn’t rest on their laurels.

Hospital websites will only be effective if they continue to deliver what patients want. Here are the top four features that patients say are important:

4) Payment and Billing Information—27%
Most patients report feeling confused or frustrated about their hospital bills. Sometimes the aggravation causes them to hesitate before seeking care—or even to forgo care altogether. That’s not good for their health, or for healthcare organizations.

A well-designed billing website is an opportunity to give patients clarity. The more thoughtful and thorough a hospital’s billing section, the better.

3) Provider Biographies—29.20%
Patients want care to feel personal. This is one of the enduring advantages that traditional providers have over retail clinics, and hospitals should lean into it.

Biographies on a website can help patients get to know their providers better. That will make them feel more comfortable seeking care, and build a foundation for a long-term relationship.

2) Specialty/Service-line Information—32.25%
This is critical for patient access. Patients need to understand what services they can acquire from a given organization. Without that knowledge, pursuing care is next to impossible.

Service-line information, organized intuitively, will greatly reduce the friction patients feel as they try to secure the services they need.

1) Patient Reviews—34.23%
No surprise here. Unchanged from last year, the most-desired feature on hospital websites is still reviews from other patients. The digital age has trained consumers to expect transparency from their healthcare providers. It’s the first means they use to decide if they’ll trust a new provider.

The Digital Front Door

Ultimately, that’s what all of these web features are about: building initial trust. A healthcare organization’s website is often its first impression with consumers. Results from this year’s National Healthcare Consumer study show that hospitals are getting better at making those impressions count. But there’s still room to grow.

The stakes for online engagement are high. Hospitals can secure an enormous advantage from drawing customers to their owned digital properties, instead of losing them to third-party sites like Yelp and Facebook. And organizations that understand what their customers want will be well-positioned to win them over.