Do Healthcare Websites Age Like Milk Or Wine?
Whether you’re just beginning to build your healthcare website or are interested in a redesign, it is a huge part of your healthcare organization’s identity. Your website communicates your services and — just as importantly — your values.
You can look at it from a marketing, business, financial, or accessibility perspective, and the conclusion will be the same — your website is a key factor in your organization’s success.
The Healthcare Market Is Competitive
In the next few years, 42% of Millennials are expected to switch practices and physicians. With plenty of options — and plenty of healthcare websites to compare — your website has the power to speak to many potential new patients.
What features on your healthcare website have the longest shelf life — and which ones need to be updated more frequently?
Like A Fine Wine, They Stand The Test Of Time
At CareContent, we spend a lot of time building healthcare websites. Through research and analytics, we identify best practices to create dynamic and long-lasting content. We want your healthcare website to not just survive the test of time, but to thrive through it.
If you’re looking for features that last, here are some of the ones we’ve seen in our work that have the best potential for a long life.
Your patients will always need to be able to easily access the medical professionals working within your healthcare organization. Even if the method changes — think telehealth and patient portals — being able to easily locate names, faces, phone numbers, and clinic locations will continue to be important.
For this reason, one feature on your website that will always be a good investment is your provider directory.
Provider directories connect patients with their current providers, but they can also be instrumental for new patients choosing a provider. If your provider directory is unusable, hard to locate, out of date, or nonexistent, patients may not be able to find the information they need. This is frustrating for your patients, and it can also mean a loss for your organization.
While specific blog posts might be time sensitive, having a blog as a feature on your healthcare website gives you a place for that relevant and ever-changing information.
Your blog can share important healthcare news, health and safety information, or more personal insights into your organization’s providers — just to name a few.
Having a blog on your healthcare website creates a space for your healthcare organization to be a part of the conversation and to generate a recurring interest in your website. A blog can grow with your organization and with the changing trends, so while it’s a good, stable place to share content, it should never be stagnant.
Contact And Scheduling Information
While a good portion of a patient’s scheduling journey happens on your website, 88% of appointments are still scheduled by phone.
So, while your website may be impacting a potential patient’s desire to schedule an appointment, there’s a good chance that they pick up their phone to seal the deal.
Whether it’s a phone number, address, or an online scheduling form, be sure to make that clinic contact information accessible. And accurate. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re calling one location only to have someone in a totally different department answer the phone.
Preventing Your Healthcare Website From Going Sour
In addition to maintaining website features that will remain evergreen, you don’t want to forget to keep up with the times. Ignoring these shifts in culture and technology can leave your website to age like milk — and quickly go sour.
Whether it’s new trends in content or the generational needs of your community, here are some things to consider when identifying the features that require more routine maintenance.
If this past year has shown us anything, it’s that the digital assets of healthcare organizations are only becoming more valuable — when done well.
If you want to diversify the kinds of content on your website, consider:
These forms of media require different talents, resources, commitments, and investments, so you’ll want to think through your organization’s goals — and capabilities — before choosing the best fit for you.
Generation Z prefers to access their test results and communicate with their provider online. And you only have about 8 seconds to capture their attention — that’s not a lot. This means your content not only needs to be easy to find and easy to navigate, but it also needs to be aesthetically pleasing and visually compelling.
But this doesn’t only go one way. While you are making considerations for your younger audiences, you will also want to think about the way that older users are interacting with your digital content as well.
Almost 60% of adults aged 65 and older are now regular internet users, and that number will only continue to go up. It is short-sighted to assume that only younger audiences are using — and benefiting from — your digital content. Consider the value of user experience testing with audiences of all ages.
One thing you will want to continually be reassessing is your website’s accessibility. Your content should be usable for people with disabilities and be ADA compliant.
Because website accessibility takes into consideration the different needs of your healthcare website users and the different accessibility tools they may be using, this isn’t something that is “one and done.”
While accessibility standards will continue to evolve, here are some consistent accessibility considerations that won’t go stale:
- Images with alt text
- Videos with text captions
- High contrast color schemes
Your healthcare website is a critical asset to your organization’s success. Dedicating time and resources to its development — or even redesign — can help you attract and retain patients regardless of changing digital trends.
These are just a few of the different moving parts in your website. Developing a site that works and grows with your users can be tricky — but not impossible. If you start by setting clear goals and prioritizing specific website features, your patients will thank you.
Contact CareContent if you’re interested in building a website that works. We’d love to work with you.
Inclusion, Equity, And Diversity In Healthcare: Turning Intention Into Action
Diversity has been a buzzword for a while now. In every field, every mission statement, and every strategic plan, common goals of “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” are often found.
And they absolutely should be.
Efforts toward creating more inclusive spaces, more equitable opportunities, and more diverse representation are needed. In healthcare especially, these efforts are not only important, but critical — they can mean the difference between someone receiving life-saving and affirming care, or not. But what happens when these buzzwords are just that — words?
Making Equity, Inclusion & Diversity In Healthcare Actionable
In a study, 85% of physicians agreed that social needs impact health, but only 20% said they were confident in their ability to address the social needs of their patients.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
Saying your organization is committed to diversity or accessibility isn’t the same as actually working towards it, and equity efforts require more than just putting some new words in your mission statement.
If you want to be intentional about making your healthcare organization a more inclusive space for patients and providers, there are many ways you can start. Here are three places to review that can help you assess — and if needed redefine — your commitments.
1. On Your Website
Even before the pandemic, between 75 to 80% of patients were using Google search before booking health appointments.
This means that the first place new patients may be getting to know you is not through their experience in your clinic, but through your website. And for returning patients, they may be returning to your website in between clinic visits for information or scheduling.
The landscape of healthcare websites is competitive, and yours has the opportunity to communicate your commitments and values. Patients want to know whether your clinic will be welcoming, accepting, and knowledgeable about their particular needs and life experiences.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- What values are communicated by our website, either explicitly or implicitly?
- Do the people — patients and staff — pictured on our website look like the patients we serve?
- Does our website offer information in multiple languages or in the local English used by our community?
- How easy is it to find information about things like pricing, affordable financing options, or other accessibility programs?
- Is our website ADA compliant, meaning it is accessible to people with disabilities?
Learn how CareContent is helping healthcare organizations overhaul their websites to create more inclusive and dynamic content.
2. In Your Programs
Part of your diversity and equity efforts may already include assistance programs that help your patients overcome obstacles to healthcare. While often including considerations for other determinants of health — like race, economics, and various social factors — it isn’t always simple to determine how successful these programs actually are.
In the same way that you want to be sure you’re getting honest feedback from your team, you also want to seek out honest feedback from your patients.
Knowing if existing programs are or aren’t working can help pave a path — not only for more successful programs — but for more diversity and equity in your organization.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- What are the obstacles to care that our patients are facing?
- How do we know that?
- What assumptions might we be making about what our patients need or want?
- What effort has our organization made recently to hear from patients directly regarding what is working or what could be more effective?
3. On Your Team
Every day, your team brings to life your vision and mission, all while bringing care and comfort to the communities you serve. You want to be sure you have a great group of people, and you want to provide them the tools to be the most successful they can be.
But sometimes our biases — whether they are personal or structural — can impact who gets a seat at the table. This, in turn, can impact the level of care provided by your organization.
Ensuring that your team of healthcare professionals is diverse isn’t just about creating a “look” of diversity. It also isn’t just about organizational success — though recent studies have found that more diverse businesses consistently outperform their less diverse competitors.
With a wider range of experiences, your healthcare team can provide more personal, informed, inclusive, and — simply put — better care to your patients.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- Who is on our board? Do they reflect the community we serve?
- Do the medical practitioners at our clinic speak the languages spoken by our patients?
- How are we soliciting honest feedback from our team?
- Does our team feel comfortable and safe discussing the challenges they may be facing in the workplace, like microaggressions or sexual harassment?
- What hiring practices or internal biases might be impacting who is hired at our organization?
You probably don’t have the answers to all of these questions. That’s okay.
Diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts must constantly be changing and improving — the work will always be ongoing. Asking yourself or your team some of these questions means you have an opportunity to look critically at the way your organization is operating and how that work can improve.
Don’t just assume you know all the answers, and don’t assume that your answers are reflective of the other people on your team or in your community. Diversity work isn’t something that can be done alone — it is stronger when we do it together.
If you’re interested in how we can help you meet your organization’s content needs, we’d love to work with you. Contact CareContent.
Is Your Website Accessible for People With Disabilities?
Whether it’s scheduling a dentist appointment, buying tickets to a concert, or reading the news, we use the internet on a daily — if not an hourly — basis. And if you don’t have a disability, it’s easy to take being able to do these things online for granted.
But for the 61 million American adults who have some form of disability, what many people consider “simple” online tasks can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes even downright impossible.
That’s where website accessibility regulations come in.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires any US business that falls under ADA Titles I and III to have websites that offer “reasonable accessibility” to people with disabilities:
- Title I: Businesses that employ 15 or more full-time employees each working day, for at least 20 calendar weeks in the year
- Title III: Businesses considered “public accommodations,” such as healthcare providers, hotels, banks, and accountant offices
While the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) did produce guidelines that have been accepted as standards for website accessibility, there technically aren’t any regulations that clearly spell out what makes a website accessible. But in general, an accessible website is one that takes into account the needs of those with hearing, visual, physical, and cognitive impairments.
Crystal is CareContent’s resident website accessibility whiz, and she’s here to share her insight.
What are the risks of having an inaccessible website?
Crystal: An inaccessible website can alienate your audience and make your organization appear tone-deaf, especially if you serve patients with disabilities.
It also means missing opportunities to engage with your audience. You could lose patients and consumers, and decrease conversion (such as patients not making appointments after visiting your site).
This ultimately goes against your goal of improving health and wellness. And from a business standpoint, it can mean revenue loss.
There are also legal repercussions, correct?
Crystal: Yes, there can be. A user can file a lawsuit for discrimination or other claims against the organization if they are a Title I or Title III business and fail to provide adequate accommodations on their website for people with disabilities.
For example, Tenet Healthcare, which operates several healthcare facilities, was sued on behalf of Americans with visual impairments because Tenet organizations’ websites were not accessible via screen-readers.
Lawsuits are more on the extreme end, but they are increasing. ADA-related digital lawsuits in 2020 increased 23% over 2019. In December 2020, there was a nearly 100% rise over January 2020.
Has COVID-19 been a factor in that increase?
Crystal: Definitely. Quarantine has caused a significant increase in computer and internet usage, and with people spending more time online, they’re finding more accessibility issues.
On the subject of COVID-19 — accessibility issues on vaccine registration sites have impacted the ability of people with disabilities to get vaccinated.
The organization WebAIM found that in February 2021, only 13 of 94 state and DC vaccine websites had no accessibility issues.
Inaccessibility has resulted in instances where the visually impaired haven’t been able to register for vaccines without help from others. But with such few appointments available, and with them filling up the second they’re posted, relying on others can slow down the process. Many blind people use the schedule-by-phone option instead, but that comes with its own set of problems, like extremely long hold times.
Crystal’s Recipe for Redesigning an Accessible Website
Combine equal parts:
- Dedicated project resources for reviewing the website for ADA compliance
- Competent web developer to address issues found in ADA compliance review
- Consideration in the project timeline for the ADA review
What factors often get overlooked in terms of navigation and functionality?
Crystal: A lot of sites overlook people whose physical disabilities affect their fine motor skills, and can’t use a mouse.
Everything should be easy to navigate with just the keyboard. This includes menus that are easy to navigate with the tab key and a clear keyboard focus (a box around the section being tabbed through). When there are audio, visual, or carousel components, users need to be able to play, pause, replay, and advance with just their keyboard.
Every form field should have a descriptive label that doesn’t disappear as a user types, and error messages need to specify the exact error.
Also, use proper header hierarchy. Put the headers — the H1, H2, H3 tags — in logical order, which means that an H3 tag shouldn’t be used if there’s no H2 tag before it, etc. And always use these tags instead of separating sections with bold text. Devices like screen readers often scan text for the header tag elements in order to navigate through the page.
And what about in terms of the content itself?
Crystal: Pay attention to the needs of people with cognitive disabilities. Don’t use technical jargon, spell out acronyms, and define complex words. This is actually really helpful for all readers, regardless of whether or not they have a cognitive disability.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that any online health materials be written at a 6th to 7th grade reading level. But even the top consumer health websites, like Mayo Clinic and NIH itself, tend to be grade 10+.
There are a few ways to check your content’s grade reading level, like the “Readability Analyzer” from data·yze.
Just remember — the tool might see a jargon-y word and automatically calculate that as a higher reading level, without taking into account that you explain what that word means. In medical content, you’re almost always going to have some of these technical words. So you do have to take the scores with a grain of salt, but they are a great starting point.
If you’re struggling, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a really helpful guide for creating easily understandable materials.
What are some overlooked media elements that designers need to keep in mind?
Crystal: Remember to always add alt text tags for images so that screen readers for visually impaired users can read the image. Also, add captioning for any video or audio media for people with hearing or visual impairments. Additionally, use color contrasting for text overlays on background or images so that they’re easier to see.
You may also want to avoid videos or interactive graphics that have flickering lights, since these can trigger seizures or migraines in people with certain neurological conditions. TikTok actually just created a feature where the user can skip any of this content.
Any last thoughts?
Crystal: At the end of the day, there isn’t a 100% guaranteed formula for an accessible website. There’s plenty of guidance available. You just have to put yourself in the shoes of users with disabilities and design and develop your website to include their needs. You know your audience best. You’re equipped to make your site the best that it can be for them.