Hospital websites may be the next frontier for medical technology.
Healthcare already boasts believe-it-or-not innovations in devices, components and machines from artificial body parts made on a 3-D printer, to nano-robots that can go inside your body to kill germs to human-sized robot orderlies that can walk hospital floors to deliver meals, change linens, and clean patient rooms. Though less sci-fi sounding, pharmaceutical treatments and imaging have also made impressive advances over the last decade.
But when it comes to information technology, it’s well known that healthcare lags behind other industries.
Just take medical record keeping, for example. According to Jeremy Delinsky, chief technology officer at aetnahealth, consumers should care that hospitals and medical practices are using old server-based software instead of new Web-based systems because it wastes time and adds hassle:
It’s incredibly frustrating that every time we arrive at a new doctor’s office it is as if we are introducing ourselves to the healthcare system for the first time. The technology infrastructure is light years behind what it should and could be and consumers should demand a better, more consistent experience.
Not surprisingly, just as healthcare providers are behind in keeping track of patient records online, so they lag other industries when it comes to reaching out to the public through their websites.
The Affordable Care Act is already driving hospitals towards more information technology as a way to cut costs and track outcomes.
And now, in a more competitive environment where they can no longer take patients for granted, it’s clear that the leading hospitals are also getting more serious about online marketing as well.
Hospital websites lag behind
Unfortunately, too many hospital websites today do a poor job of reaching out to the public that they’re going to have to reach under Obamacare changes:
- They’re not mobile-responsive and they don’t look good on phones and other mobile devices, which can provide more than half the traffic to a hospital website today
- They’re not optimized for common healthcare web searches, which means they lose visitor traffic
- Even when a visitor manages to get to a hospital website, the site makes it hard to find what the visitor is looking for, pushing visitors away
To help medical center online marketers bring their hospital websites up to date, here I present examples of the best hospital websites.
Learn from the best
In my research, I skipped the usual “top 10” or “top 20” lists of best hospital websites compiled by various website designers. Perhaps because each website designer has a different opinion of what makes a great hospital website, there’s little overlap from one list to another. Thus, some lists mention famous research hospitals that you would expect to have an advanced website. Other lists feature medical centers in Alaska that you’ve never heard of but, for some reason, are supposed to have model websites. Is this advice you can trust? It’s hard to say.
So, rather than searching the web for hospital websites that appeared to be effective, instead, I started with the list of the top U.S. hospitals for 2015-2016 ranked by U.S. News and World Report.
And to make the analysis manageable, I looked only at the websites from the top three hospitals.
Finally, to give a perspective from a respected authority rather than just my own opinion, I ran each website through HubSpot’s website Marketing Grader. Under each screenshot, I provide a grade from Hubspot and a summary of the reason for the grade.
1. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
HubSpot Marketing Grade: 82 out of 100
Blog: Mass General publishes a blog that’s fresh and up-to-date, coming out with a new post every couple days. And people obviously like it, since each post gets up to a dozen or more retweets and 40 or 50 Facebook shares.
Social Media: The hospital is active on Twitter and has a business Facebook page. But they lose points because they don’t have social media links on their homepage.
SEO: With nearly 60,000 indexed pages, the site offers plenty of content for web searchers. And with nearly 6500 links from other websites, plenty of people obviously think that Mass General’s content is worthwhile, including big names like WebMD, PBS and the USDA. But the site loses points for cluttering up their page titles by repeating their site name for each page or blog post.
Lead Generation: Mass General checks off all of HubSpot’s points here. Their site has landing pages with forms to gather leads, they use marketing automation to track and cultivate those leads, and they have analytics set up to measure their results.
Mobile: Mass General has the largest opportunity to improve in this category. Their main website is not mobile-responsive, so to serve phone visitors, they offer a separate mobile app. This is an older solution which suffers from two problems today. First, it offerss mobile visitors a limited experience without all the content of the full website. Second, it may hurt Mass General’s ranking in Google after the search engine giant rolled out their Mobilegeddon update in April of 2015. Instead of using a separate mobile app, Mass General would be better off making their main site mobile-friendly.
2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
HubSpot Marketing Grade: 62 out of 100
Blog: HubSpot couldn’t find a blog on the site, and this lost the Mayo Clinic a lot of points, since running a regular blog is one of the best ways to attract more visitors and score well in search engines. I couldn’t find a blog on their homepage either. But clicking around I found at least two blogs, one for overall news and another called Advancing the Science Blog, which seemed to target a more technical audience. If a visitor is willing to dig around inside the site, he may find more blogs, perhaps aimed at a general audience. But the Mayo Clinic would get more traffic to their blogs if they made them easier to find, placing them right on the homepage or in the navigation of every page.
Social Media: The Mayo Clinic scores perfectly in social media. They’re active on Twitter with more than 1.2 million followers and 100 mentions in the last 24 hours on Twitter. And their business Facebook page has more than 750,000 likes and features new posts daily each hour or two.
SEO: As you’d expect from such a research powerhouse, the Mayo Clinic website has plenty of content — at 113,000 indexed pages, nearly double the pages on Mass General’s site. And though they have fewer inbound links than the hospital in Boston — just over 44,000 — they still have plenty of authoritative websites linking to their content, from big media outlets like the BBC, CNN and Bloomberg to U.S. government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Library of Congress.
Lead Generation: They also check off all of HubSpot’s points here, with landing pages, marketing automation and analytics.
Mobile: Their site is mobile friendly and is able to serve both big and little screens with a single website, so they get all the points here.
3. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore
HubSpot Marketing Grade: 69 out of 100
Blog: HubSpot couldn’t find a blog on this site either, which lost Hopkins Medicine a lot of points. Their homepage does link to a page of news releases, but that’s no substitute for a blog meant for the general reader. Like the Mayo Clinic, however, the site does have at least one blog which you can find inside the site, Biomedical Odyssey, about hospital trainees. But the problem is, you have to look for this blog. And what about blogs for other audiences? I’m guessing that they’re out there, but Hopkins Medicine’s website doesn’t make it easy to find them.
Social Media: With more than 280,000 followers on Twitter and 100 mentions in the last 24 hours on Twitter, Hopkins Medicine uses Twitter effectively. And their business Facebook page has more than 313,000 likes and features new posts throughout the day on topics aimed at a general audience such as cancer prevention, dealing with diabetes and the benefits of yoga. They’d be smart to publish a regular blog on such topics for this general audience that’s already connected with them on Facebook.
SEO: Hopkins Medicine takes the award of the top three hospitals for quantity of online content, with a whopping 869,000 indexed pages, nearly 800% more than the Mayo Clinic. However, they have many fewer links coming into their content from other sites, just over 14,000 vs. the Mayo Clinic’s 44,000. Much more content but fewer inbound links — What gives? While the quality of inbound links is high, including the National Institutes of Health and the United Nations Population Information Network, given how much content the site offers, they should have a higher quantity of inbound links. Perhaps they’re not sharing their content enough, or in the right places, on social media? Or perhaps their content could be optimized better for search engines?
Lead Generation: They do well for landing pages, marketing automation and analytics, though HubSpot couldn’t find any calls-to-action on blog posts — probably because HubSpot couldn’t find a blog. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t able to find any calls-to-action in their news releases either.
Mobile: Their site appears to be mobile responsive to me and Google’s mobile friendly test agreed. However, HubSpot didn’t credit them for this, which certainly reduced the site’s overall grade and may indicate a lack of proper @media queries or a viewport tag.
Lessons for your hospital website
For ideas to improve your own hospital website, you don’t need to look at 10 or 20 different hospitals online. Looking at the online presence of the top three hospitals alone shows that an effective hospital website does a few different things:
- Serves both general and technical audiences well, with content for each that’s easy for visitors from each group to find
- Publishes regular content in a blog and elsewhere
- Shares fresh content on social media
- Attracts visitors to their website and then converts visitors to leads using forms
- Tracks the results of their work to keep making it more effective
If you are an online marketer for a hospital, you can play a key role in helping your medical center remain competitive in today’s more dynamic and uncertain healthcare environment by making sure that your hospital homepage is doing its job well.
How to get started? Here’s a simple plan:
- Run your website URL through the website Marketing Grader.
- Address the easy stuff that comes up in the Marketing Grader’s analysis. For example, if you have a blog but the Grader can’t find it, then make your blog easier to find by putting it on the homepage, in the site footer and sidebar, and the site’s main navigation.
- Check out this infographic on optimizing website homepages and make a plan to add some of the recommended features to your hospital website homepage.
- Download the Curren Group’s free quick start guide on 25 Website Must Haves and try to implement 1-3 recommendations in the next couple weeks.
For even more help and ideas on your marketing, check out the Curren Group’s Healthcare and Hospital Marketing Resources.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group