Nearly every day, we have at least one conversation with a healthcare organization about generative AI. Some are already using generative AI tools in some fashion. But to be honest, most of them are grappling with it.
Generative AI–meaning a tool that generates language or an image when you feed it prompts—has been around for a while. But major strides in recent years with large language models (LLMs) have made AI faster, more accessible, and more reliable (though not without issues).
So, what should your hospital or health system be thinking about with generative AI? Let’s start with what we know most are thinking about right now.
What Do Companies Think They Should Do With Generative AI?
Gartner recently polled 2,500 executives, asking them what their primary focus was for generative AI initiatives. Not surprisingly, improving customer experience was at the top of the list. LLMs have made AI-fed chat features an increasingly popular tool for engaging customers.
Also at the top was revenue growth, no doubt because lots of businesses are now commercializing generative AI. The other big answer was around cost optimization. In other words, using the technology to increase output while spending less money.
Does this mean hiring less people? Are we right to fear that we’ll all be replaced by machines? It’s a popular trope and a good movie plot, but the reality is that generative AI works best with human interaction and oversight, not instead of it.
The smartest organizations are the ones who don’t just see increased productivity as the ultimate end game for AI; rather, they see its potential for unlocking innovation from their teams. Instead of asking, How can this technology help me reduce my investment in human capital? . . . They ask, How can this technology empower my people to add value to what they’re doing?
For that, we have 3 suggestions.
1. Normalize Using AI Tools in Your Organization
Generative AI tools have exploded in the last year. ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, went live in November 2022. It gives a response to a text-based prompt, like “write a paragraph about avocados,” or “organize these notes” for text you paste. ChatGPT is many people’s first introduction to how powerful generative AI can be for the work they’re doing.
However, there are concerns with both ChatGPT and DALL•E (an AI model designed to generate images from textual descriptions). First, these tools can be inaccurate and biased. And second, schools and universities are having issues related to academic integrity, and industries like publishing are having issues related to copyright. In fact, a group of authors is currently using OpenAI for copyright infringement, claiming their books have been used to train ChatGPT.
These are serious issues. But there are many ways for employees to use these tools for good. So many are already using them, but hiding it. If you lead a team, one of the best things you can do is empower people to explore generative AI. Explain both the benefits and the problems, and foster a culture where you can learn together what works and what doesn’t.
Other tools that may be helpful to organizations include:
Most of these tools have options that range from free to enterprise-wide offerings.
2. Explore Healthcare-Specific Uses of Generative AI
The big digital players–Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—are building healthcare-specific LLMs. Google has an LLM called Med-PaLM, which aims to help providers make more accurate diagnoses. A provider can input patient data and get back probable diagnoses based on a patient’s medical history.
Amazon (HealthScribe) and Microsoft (DAX Express) are tackling different areas with their products, using LLMs to help providers transcribe, extract medical terms and medications, and create summaries from interactions with patients.
If your hospital or health system isn’t exploring these technologies, you absolutely should be. These tools are a perfect example of how generative AI is best when combined with human interaction and discernment.
EPIC has already been using generative AI technology, and has expanded its partnership with Microsoft. If you’re an EPIC organization, there’s now a suite of AI tools that can help with note summarization, documentation, and coding. Ultimately, these tools can help improve patient outcomes.
3. Consider Investing in Proprietary Generative AI
Bain recently surveyed 100 health systems and asked what use cases of generative AI they were most interested in. The top answers concerned billing/collections and analyzing patient data.
To truly do these things, you need an LLM to be fed with your own data. Imagine if you could input your private, custom billing data and ask the model which account is most likely to default in 30 days? Or feed it clinical summaries and ask it to create the medical billing codes for the procedures? Or input unique symptoms from a patient and ask about all the times in the last 5 years you had patients with those unique symptoms, and what the diagnosis was?
OpenAI is offering commercial versions that allow organizations to bring their own data and use it to feed the model, creating their own proprietary application. Healthcare organizations who really want to get out in front should consider creating a proprietary instance of generative AI to serve their organization’s specific objectives.
So What’s Next?
When it comes to digital technology, hospitals and health systems have traditionally been late adopters. After all, it feels safer to wait, to have others mitigate the risks, and then to learn from their mistakes–even if it means playing catch-up.
But in waiting, you’re losing so much potential value. A smarter play right now is to be ahead of the curve—at least exploring the tools and possibilities, if not yet investing heavily in them.
It’s early days for generative AI and there’s still a lot to discern. So go ahead and research. Explore. Learn. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate the effect AI will have on every aspect of your business. It’s not a fad, in the same way that personal computers, mobile phones, and the internet itself aren’t fads.
If you’re part of a digital marketing team and would like to understand more about the potential of generative AI, we’re happy to sit down and talk. We don’t have a sales pitch or a specific product to sell in this space. We just want to keep the industry moving forward, because that’s how we all win.
The state of the U.S. healthcare system and the increased demand placed on employees are contributing to a high number of health workers experiencing burnoutandleaving their jobs. This trend stems from increasing mental wellness challenges as health workers are put in environments that strain their emotional, psychological, and physical health on a daily basis.
What exactly is “burnout” and how does it affect a hospital?
According to the 2022 U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce, burnoutis characterized by a high degree of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (feeling “out of body”), as well as a low sense of personal accomplishment at work. Burnout can also be associated with anxiety and depression, and can be caused by organizational, structural, cultural, and societal factors.
In healthcare, specifically, some major contributors to burnout – especially in the last few years, though these have always existed to some degree – include excessive workloads, long shifts, administrative burdens, and a lack of organizational support.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that U.S. healthcare organizations will need to fill more than 203,000 nursing positions every year until 2031. There is also a predicted shortage of physicians and behavioral healthcare providers. The growth in the US population and the aging population are two identifiable causes to the physician and behavioral healthcare provider shortage. A shortage of general surgeons in rural areas is also a problem. Because specialists are often not as geographically close to rural communities, rural residents’ access to care can be compromised.
To help providers address issues, such as physician burnout and staff shortages, healthcare organizations need to consider short- and long-term solutions that will set them up for success. Many of those solutions come in the form of digital tools.
The Power of Digital Tools
As hospitals continue to deal with the realities of physician burnout, more and more patients need better and more equitable access to care. Utilizing the right tools can make the management of care easier for both the patient and provider.
While there is no single solution that will alleviate all of the issues healthcare faces today, we boiled it down to several digital initiatives we feel are most noteworthy to discuss.
1. Interoperability Across Technology Systems
Healthcare systems are adopting new technologies that aim to create significant service enhancements. An EHR system is a great example of a digital tool that aims to alleviate fragmentation of care, but properly introducing it to your organization, or managing a current one, is no small task.As new technologies are added to different departments in health systems, many of these technologies don’t speak to each other, which can cause frustration and even create more work for staff.
A 2021 study found that healthcare workers’ frustration and emotional exhaustion increased due to the lack of interoperability and cross-functionality in using new technologies. Having a strategy to ensure collaboration and synergy between staff and new digital tools is key in improving services, access to care, and staff workload.
Working towards better interoperability can alleviate some of the difficulties surrounding operations. Interoperability allows health data to be exchanged between different systems and, therefore, creates a better and more streamlined health information ecosystem, which can effectively lessen the strain on those using and accessing the data. Digitizing and automating services through third-party vendors or within the existing EHR system is also beneficial as it relieves health workers from completing mundane and repetitive administrative work. (Note: any initiatives dealing with the sharing of patient data will mean heavy involvement from your organization’s IT security and compliance stakeholders.)
Where to start: Modea recommends departments, such as marketing and IT, come together and audit the current technologies as well as the needs of the organization. Have you thought about creating journey maps for your staff? Consider how different members of your staff use various technologies and identify areas in their journeys that are complex and burdensome.
We have worked with clients to create customer journey maps, as well as internal staff journey maps, so reach out to us if you would like to talk more in depth on this topic.
2. Investing in Intranets For Staff and Providers
An intranet is a private network within an organization and is used to securely share information and resources amongst employees. It encourages communication and allows employees to easily access important training, forms, and applications. An often overlooked digital tool in healthcare, an intranet, serves as a valuable tool and a facilitator in communication and employee engagement.
Interestingly, engaged employees are 87percent less likely to leave an organization than those disengaged. Intranets also have social and collaborative features such as comments, direct messaging, and document sharing. These features allow for seamless communication and sharing of information across departments, which can allow staff to work more efficiently and be more engaged.
Where to start: Most healthcare organizations have some sort of intranet in place, but they are often the last digital asset to receive any updates or improvements. We recommend creating a survey for all employees to contribute feedback on how they use the existing intranet and the improvements they would like to see. Users may use intranets for different reasons, so segmenting your audiences can create better tailored experiences. Maintaining anonymity can allow staff to be candid on the daily challenges they face when using the system and then work to gain organizational alignment on the importance of using that data to make changes. With burnout increasing amongst healthcare workers, having the right internal resources is as important as external patient-facing digital tools.
3. Open Scheduling and Online Visits
On average, virtual appointments can save time for patients and providers by 105 fewer minutes than in-person care, as virtual care removes the need to travel to a doctor’s office and wait in a waiting room for periods of time. However, healthcare organizations can be slow to adapt and create the right digital tools to schedule and facilitate online visits. Offering open scheduling, which lets patients make same-day appointments, can reduce the stress healthcare workers face when trying to squeeze a patient in for the earliest available appointment.
Embracing a hybrid care model will have positive impacts upstream as patients will have easier access to the care they need, regardless of their location and circumstances. If your organization takes a “consumer first” approach to digital and provides the ability for a patient to search and find the right doctor for their condition, it will help lift the staff burden from fielding unnecessary calls and inquiries while allowing them to focus on other important tasks.
Patients expect to receive care that is best for them, whether virtual or in-person. A hybrid care model offers flexibility for patients and providers.
Where to start: Modea recommends beginning with organizational alignment on the approach to online scheduling and a hybrid care model. The most common barrier is open scheduling and provider reluctance to implement this due to less control over their schedules.
4. Enable a Self-Service Patient Experience
The information provided on a healthcare website may help patients determine whether they need care based on their symptoms, as the right online information may save patients from making unnecessary appointments or seeing the wrong provider. Empowering patient self-service lessens health workers’ time and work spent on scheduling and attending to low-value appointments. Open scheduling is another form of patient self-service. Valuing your healthcare staff’s time by offering patient-focused, less burdensome solutions empowers both healthcare workers and patients in their care.
Studies have shown that the U.S. healthcare system provides a high number of low-value care, which is defined as medical services that have the potential for harm or high cost, and generally outweigh the benefits. Low-value care can be wasteful and often lead to overtesting, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment. It has a staggering estimated cost of more than $300 billion annually.
Wasted resources, time, and the administrative work that come with unnecessary or low-value care appointments can be mitigated by providing educational resources about conditions and health management on your clinic or hospital’s website. Not only is it beneficial for a health organization’s site to provide valuable resources and the right information to online users because it is educational and helps improve their care journey, but it alsobuilds trust and authority in the organization. Websites can play a critical role in addressing and solving unmet healthcare needs.
Where to start: We recommend working internally to align on how to think of your website not as “just a website” but as a digital asset and tool that is critical to how you provide care to your patients. Consumers and patients today can access care from almost anywhere in the world and while self-service is not a traditional means of health management, more and more hospitals are introducing it. Customer research can help illustrate to stakeholders and leadership what your patients really want and how they prefer to access their care, which will further solidify the importance of making these digital investments.
5. Embrace Mobile For All Audiences
Consider your mobile strategy. Having a well-thought-out mobile app that delivers a seamless experience provides another way for patients to trust your organization and access their care on a device most Americans already own.
Developing a mobile app that innovates how consumers access their care and enhances a healthcare organization’s digital footprint offers a personalized and customized experience unique to that organization and patient, which builds a stronger relationship with your brand. Mobile health appsaredesigned to complement in-person and online patient experiences and are another tool that improve the patient journey. Even with complex EHR systems, such as EPIC and Cerner, there are still ways to personalize the experience and build a proprietary app that your organization owns. It is key to maintain interoperability and unified data so the systems talk to each other. Doing so reduces additional work for healthcare staff.
Building an internal mobile app for your healthcare staff is also a way to facilitate and streamline communication to health system employees – many of whom spend their days moving throughout a hospital. An internal mobile app can be the hub of all your employees’ needs. It can offer visibility into benefits and payroll information, the ability to submit and review IT help desk tickets, quick access to company messages and news, targeted employee communications, and can even house nurse schedule management.
To fully reap the benefits of your digital investment, educating patients and staff on how to use the apps will support self-service and increase engagement.
Where to start:Research your competitors to see what they are offering and the digital experience they deliver to their patients. Modea can help with the planning around building a native mobile app, or modifying what you have, and the reasons to support various approaches. We have extensive experience in mobile apps for healthcare and can help guide your organization to the perfect mobile asset. Whether building tools for internal or patient-facing purposes, don’t forget about the importance and convenience of mobile.
Healthcare systems are becoming increasingly complex and, with the introduction of emerging technologies, are feeling constant pressure from customers – both patients and internal – to elevate their digital tools and experience. To help mitigate healthcare burnout and unify communication between patients and providers, healthcare systems should collaborate and partner with specialized technology consultants to facilitate a smooth digital transformation journey.
Thinking about how your company needs to digitally transform? Modea can help you strategize and utilize the right tools for you.
By nearly every objective measure of health, people who live in rural areas are doing worse than those who live in urban and suburban areas.
This health gap between rural and non-rural has persisted for many years. It’s an area of focus for many hospitals and health systems, who are leveraging every digital and analog tool at their disposal to close the gap.
Your digital customer-facing platform can be one of those tools.
In fact, digital investments can help healthcare providers advance health equity by improving access to care for many underserved populations, including rural communities.
But first, you have to understand who your customers are. With hospital consolidation, patient populations are rapidly changing and expanding, and service areas are becoming larger.
In this report, we’ll share some surprising findings about healthcare customers who live in rural communities. And then we’ll help you interpret what these data points might mean for your hospital or health system.
What We Know About Health in Rural Communities
When compared to those who live in less geographically isolated areas, the 61 million Americans who live in Tribal or rural communities are less likely to get the care they need and more likely to have worse health outcomes. They have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and lung disease, and have a higher risk of dying by suicide or having substance use disorder.
Too often, rural residents don’t get the care they need, when they need it. In fact, that lack of access to quality healthcare is one of the biggest contributors to the increased risks and poor health outcomes for rural Americans.
Shortages of doctors and hospitals in rural areas only widen the gap, with two-thirds of hospital closures in the last decade happening in rural areas. Not only that, just 12% of physicians practice in rural communities, where there are also shortages of nurse practitioners, dentists, and social workers.
Hospitals and health systems want to solve this problem. From sponsoring public health initiatives to applying for Critical Access Hospital status, these organizations are leveraging various tools to help address health inequities in rural areas.
However, as a health system or hospital, you have another very powerful tool: Your website and mobile experience.
The Data in This Report
Our clients—which include local, regional, and multi-state health systems—often cite improving access to care as one of the reasons they are investing in digital. But what does digital access look like for people who live in rural areas?
To answer that question, among others, we recently conducted independent research, surveying more than 1,200 individuals across the U.S. We wanted to learn more about how they access care, and what keeps them from accessing care. We also combed through other research on healthcare access for rural Americans.
What we gleaned can help hospitals who are seeking to better serve those who live in geographically isolated areas.
The Big Idea
Investing in and improving customer-facing digital tools can increase access to care for many underserved populations, including rural communities.
Key Finding #1: Rural Users More Likely to Rely on Smartphone, Less Likely to Have Computer
In our survey, about 90% of respondents living in rural areas reported having a smartphone.
Surprisingly, smartphones weremore common among rural individuals (90.1% ownership) than urban (80.7%) or suburban (about 85.4%).
Individuals living in rural communities were the least likely to have either a desktop computer or a laptop computer (while 79.8% reported owning one or the other, only 45.8% of rural Americans reported owning a desktop computer). A 2021 Pew Research Center survey confirmed this, finding that while smartphone ownership had increased significantly over the last 3 years, ownership of desktop or laptop computers stayed flat.
These two points together mean that rural users are most likely to use their smartphone when searching for care, and least likely to use a computer.
For this reason, the healthcare websites most accessible to rural users are those built to be mobile first. This means that the design and function of the website is built thinking of mobile first, and desktop second.
Key Finding #2: People Living in Rural Areas Are Less Likely to Have Broadband Access
Compared to those living in urban or suburban areas, rural individuals are nearly two times more likely to lack broadband access.
Not only does this finding underscore the point that mobile-first matters for rural users, it also is a reminder that not all users with a smartphone have internet access. This is another reason why they tend to be smartphone-dependent.
Furthermore, if they are leveraging a cellular network to connect, their page load times will be longer. The longer the page load time, the higher the bounce rate tends to be.
This is why it’s important to work with UX designs and web engineers who know how to design and build for optimal page load time.
It’s also an important consideration for telehealth, in that you have to understand how your users will connect and what types of technology are most accessible over cellular networks.
Key Finding #3: Rural Users Are Willing to Drive
When we asked about barriers to care, rural respondents were slightly more likely to cite issues with work and childcare than urban and suburban ones. But surprisingly, they were less likely to flag transportation or distance as barriers, compared to urban individuals.
One explanation is that people living in urban areas may be less likely to have a car, and if the subway or bus line isn’t near where they go for care, it limits them.
We do have to acknowledge that much research has focused on the travel burden for people living in rural areas, with one study finding that rural residents traveled more than twice the distance (nearly 18 miles) as urban residents (about 8 miles) for healthcare. In that same study, more than 55% of rural residents identified the cost of gas and the financial expense of travel as barriers, compared to 45% of urban residents.
But what our data suggests is that a hospital’s service area may be larger than they think. This is especially true with hospital acquisition and consolidation. People living in rural areas may be willing to drive further—even to the next hospital over—if they think the care is better or if booking an appointment from their phone is easier.
Hospitals must be aware that their competitive set is becoming broader, which has strong marketing implications. Are you really reaching your full demographic?
Key Finding #4: Rural Users Most Likely to Use Family for Finding Care, But Also More Likely Than Other Cohorts to Use App
We asked respondents a series of questions about how they prefer to research a condition and how they prefer to find care.
Rural residents are the most likely to want to talk directly to their doctor, both to find care and to research care. They are also the most likely to turn to family for both things. This suggests they put their faith in people over technology, which makes sense if we think about rural individuals living in small, tightly knit communities. They value personal connection when making healthcare decisions.
However, they are almost as willing as other cohorts to use Google or a hospital website for researching care. And most interesting, rural users were more likely than either urban or suburban users to use an app to find care. That said, they are less likely to use an app to research care, preferring to turn to people for help making decisions. In essence, they are the happiest of all the cohorts to use an app to make an appointment – or to leverage technology to get in front of a provider as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Building a proprietary hospital app is a significant digital investment, but it gives hospitals complete control over the digital experience, allowing them to customize for their customers.
We know from previous research on customer preferences regarding hospital apps that convenience and ease of use are the top factors. And the way to ensure your customers can do the key tasks they care most about is for your hospital to own the app, just like any other digital property.
Key Finding #5: Telehealth Has Vast Potential for Rural Communities
The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically increased the number of people using telemedicine. For people living in rural areas, telehealth can be a more accessible way to talk to a provider. A 2022 study showed that people in rural areas have strong interest in telemedicine and mostly positive experiences.
Building a sustainable telehealth platform can involve regulatory and operational challenges for health systems, and it brings up many questions. Do you have providers who will offer video visits? Do you have the security you need to keep visits compliant? And for rural users, a big watchout is making sure the platform is set up in a way that allows them to access from mobile only.
For hospitals and health systems reaching rural America, telehealth should always be part of the digital discussion. In other words, if you’re investing in your digital platform and you’re not even talking about how to integrate telehealth, you’ll find yourself behind the curve.
Where Do We Go From Here?
At Modea, we believe in the power of a terrific digital customer experience. We work toward creating these experiences for our hospital and health system clients because we believe digital can improve the consumer experience and make healthcare more human and personal.
But we also believe Americans need better access to healthcare. And building great digital tools that improve access is the difference we can make.
This is why we want to make sure that hospitals and health systems know the opportunity they have to reach people in rural areas.
Not sure where to start? We recommend that hospitals work to gain clarity on these 3 things.
Know your customers. Has your service area expanded in the last few years? We see this with our health system clients who are buying hospitals or consolidating. If it’s been a while since you’ve done Voice of the Customer research or mapped your customer journey, now is the time. (Learn more about what digital roadmapping looks like.)
Know what your data is telling you. Do you understand how customers in different zip codes are interacting with your digital properties? Do you know what devices they are using to access your website? Do you know where they are getting lost in the process and where they are converting? Your data tells a powerful story, if you know where to look. (Learn more about the analytics and BI work we do.)
Know where the gaps are in your digital tools. If you haven’t audited your digital tools with an eye toward access to care, particularly for historically underserved populations, you likely don’t know what you don’t know. Talk to us today about a Digital Equity Audit.
Recently the Modea team had the opportunity to attend ViVE, a digital health conference, in Nashville. In addition to connecting with clients and colleagues, we got to hear from some of the most innovative and influential minds and brands in healthcare.
ViVE aligned closely to our Modea vision of making healthcare more human and personal. We learned how players ranging in size from new startups through technology giants are investing in the digital healthcare space, with collective missions to improve the patient and provider experiences.
Here are the major themes we heard for how innovators are looking to disrupt and improve healthcare.
Theme 1: Interoperability
Interoperability refers to how disparate systems, technologies, applications, and other tools speak to one another to provide a better, more seamless experience for the patient, provider, or health system. As the industry is witnessing a deluge of new technology solutions, the movement towards interoperability will remain critical to ensure different devices and applications can communicate and exchange data.
Interoperability means that patient health information (PHI) can be effectively shared between the electronic health record (EHR) and other tools. And because PHI is involved, maintaining patient privacy is paramount. However, to achieve the required privacy, some patient data must be deidentified, which may remove key data diversity or information about individuals’ Social Determinants of Health, or SDOH (see Theme 2). How can we achieve interoperability of patient data while still obtaining a holistic view of the patient population? It’s a complex challenge that many are tackling.
Finally, while retail health options are good for the consumer – lowering costs and bringing more of a consumer mindset to health – they also lead to more fragmentation. When a consumer’s health data is disjointed or fragmented across systems, it can lead to more care redundancy, inefficiency, and frustration. With the consumerization of healthcare, therefore, interoperability remains imperative for patient engagement in their care.
Modea’s takeaway: Invest in digital solutions that fit into your existing workflows and systems to promote, rather than hinder, interoperability.
Theme 2: Health Equity/Social Determinants of Health
There was a lot of discussion around making healthcare delivery more equitable. Social Determinants of Health are the social, environmental, and economic factors that people are born into that affect their health outcomes. An individual’s zip code, for instance, is one of the most important determinants of health outcomes. So, when zip code data is de-identified/removed from patient data, we’re missing critical aspects of health data.
Reimbursements, and particularly Medicaid reimbursements, are a critical part of the health equity conversation. If certain healthcare services are not reimbursed, these services or treatment options will not be accessible by lower-income or underserved individuals. For instance, if healthcare services rendered at a community clinic are not reimbursable by Medicaid, and if that community clinic serves a low-income patient population, that patient population will be less able to access the care they need.
There are a ton of startups using predictive analytics to create more equitable care experiences, and we’re interested to see how hospitals and health systems leverage these tools in the future.
Two of these startups we heard from:
Modea’s takeaway: There are countless angles from which to address health equity and healthcare disparities. Understanding your patient population is a great place to start.
Theme 3: Physician Burnout
If you’re a physician and you’re reading this, we’re not about to tell you anything new. Physicians are burnt out, which was only exacerbated by the extra burdens placed on them throughout the pandemic.
Part of the cause of physician burnout is administrative burden. Unfortunately, the introduction of new digital solutions doesn’t always reduce administrative burden; sometimes, it increases it. This is why it’s so critical that new innovations fit into or drive efficiencies in existing physician workflows.
As physicians burnout and retire early, health systems are having to hire contract workers to fill these gaps – at a much higher cost. These contract labor costs are one of the largest factors driving down health system margins. Reducing physician burnout not only improves physician retention and the bottom line, it helps ensure that physicians and clinical staff can provide the best care to patients.
The most promising category of solutions to combat physician burnout? Generative AI, as Theme 4 below details. However, generally speaking, tools that promote physician productivity without introducing additional complexities will improve both the provider and patient experiences.
Modea’s takeaway: Treat your physicians and other staff as you would any customer segment. Their loyalty, engagement, and happiness are key to your health system’s success.
Theme 4: AI
Not surprisingly, AI was the most common theme of the conference. Apart from the word “leverage” (what’s a business conference without it?), “ChatGPT” was the phrase we heard most.
Physicians are excited about the possibilities for generative AI in the realms of: personalized treatment planning, diagnostics/clinical decision-making, clinical productivity, combing through the extent of EHR data to reduce error/inform decisions, and more.
Our client, the American Medical Association, hosted an event spotlighting physician innovators and startups who can connect online (or IRL, as was the case at ViVE) via the Physician Innovation Network. During that spotlight we heard several physicians express excitement about the potential of generative AI, so long as the right guardrails are in place.
Modea’s takeaway: AI isn’t going anywhere, and is getting more advanced all the time. While its implications remain to be seen, it’s important to educate yourself on its applications and potential.
Theme 5: Consumerization of Healthcare
This theme is nothing new for us at Modea, and it’s clear it’s not going away anytime soon. The consumerization experience, and the critical understanding of patients as consumers, continue to be a big topic across startups, providers, and big tech companies.
The shift to retail health (think traditional retailers getting into the healthcare game, such as Dollar General and Amazon) is changing consumer expectations of healthcare. Consumers are seeking convenience, transparency, and lower costs, and they’re finding it more easily with these nontraditional “providers.”
One big item we hear a lot about when it comes to consumerism in healthcare is the personalization of the patient experience. Patients are seeking out personalized care on their own terms, taking advantage of tools such as at-home diagnostic kits and wearables. As part of that, patients are becoming more comfortable sharing their health data, especially when it promises quicker access to knowledge about a condition or even a treatment. When healthcare systems offer personalized digital experiences, patient engagement increases thanks to streamlined access to care and information.
Modea’s takeaway: Care and health are increasingly happening outside the walls of the hospital. We need to meet consumers where they are, through a combination of digital and analog care solutions.
The future of healthcare is constantly evolving, as many organizations scramble to tackle top priority initiatives while addressing shrinking margins. However, we believe there is a bright future ahead when it comes to the technology, innovation, and tools that will deliver better and more timely care to patients. As part of that evolution, we expect staff shortages and burnout to level out and patient journeys to become more personalized and concise.
We look forward to being a part of this future and working to help organizations establish and nurture better relationships with their consumers and patients.
When your kid is sick, you need a quick and easy way to get information about what to do. Should you go to the ER? Or is a virtual visit appropriate? Is urgent care the best option, or an office visit with your pediatrician?
Children’s Wisconsin recognized the need for an accessible solution that provides information and guidance to families during these moments of uncertainty. The goal was not just to meet these informational needs, but to also seamlessly integrate with Epic MyChart, a technology already familiar to and frequently used by families.
Collaborating with Modea, Children’s Wisconsin embarked on the journey to create a mobile app that would serve as a go-to resource for parents seeking advice on their child’s health. The resulting app not only retains the user-friendly features of Epic MyChart that families are accustomed to but also introduces an array of additional functionalities to enhance the overall user experience.
Now, parents can navigate through a wealth of information effortlessly, gaining insights into whether a trip to the emergency room, a virtual visit, an urgent care facility, or a traditional office visit with their pediatrician is the most suitable option for their child’s specific situation. This innovative app not only provides peace of mind but also empowers families with the knowledge and tools to make informed healthcare decisions for their little ones.
Modea and Children’s Wisconsin created the app not just as a tool for urgent health-related decisions, but as a holistic companion throughout the parenting journey. By combining practical features with a user-friendly interface, the app becomes an invaluable resource, reinforcing the health system’s commitment to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to the families it serves.
Modea and Children’s Wisconsin are proud to offer a solution that goes beyond the ordinary, catering to the unique needs of families during challenging times.
Our team put together a quick list of 10 digital stats we think your organization should know in order to drive the right digital choices for your consumers.
#1. Mobile usage is continually on the rise
Mobile usage by consumers continues to increase. Their expectations to use healthcare apps and tools in the same ways they are accustomed to (think Facebook, Marriot, or banking apps) also continues to grow and is putting much-needed pressure on the healthcare industry. A study by IDC predicted that by 2023, 65% of patients will have accessed care through a healthcare digital front door entry point.
Over the past five years, the number of smartphone users has increased by nearly 74%. And it’s not just the younger population who is using digital, older segments (50-64 and 65+) are quickly catching upand have shortened that gap over the past decade.
Modea’s advice: Hospitals must understand that more people than ever are using mobile apps and there is no longer the age separation there once was. This also means that these age demographics are using digital tools in different ways, with their own unique needs. Organizations should be designing and building tools, like mobile apps, that take these needs into account and deliver a fantastic experience, regardless of age, gender, or demographic.
#2. 90% of the US population is located within 10 miles of your next biggest competitor
This is alarming and just a few years ago would not have even sparked concern. But if you haven’t guessed it yet, Walmart is making huge leaps in the healthcare space and their geographic locations make them a competitor to almost any existing system. It’s not just Walmart making healthcare headlines either. CVS, Dollar General, and even Best Buy are making waves by entering into healthcare and driving change.
MedCity News shares that “CVS has nearly 10,000 stores nationwide, with about 4.5 million consumers visiting those stores each day. Most Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart and 65% of Dollar General stores are in health deserts, areas where access to local health care is limited for many consumers.”
If your team isn’t already preparing a strategic plan on how to engage and retain consumers then there is no better time to start.
Modea’s advice: Start making forward progress today by strategically improving every touchpoint along your customer experience. Work to optimize their experience with your organization and build loyalty by making their lives easier. If you don’t, you could lose business to another hospital system, or even worse, one of the many non-traditional competitors out there who are now providing healthcare services.
Interested in learning what your organization should be thinking about and planning for? We’re here to help. Contact us and we’ll set up a time to chat. We’re happy to share how our clients are connecting their patient experiences at large.
#3. Hospitals are not prioritizing what consumers want
From our in-house research, we found that more than half of the respondents in our survey said they frequentlywant to use a mobile device to manage healthcare needs.
Yet, the percentage of healthcare systems offering a mobile app for consumers has remained the same, at just 49% compared to the previous year. If this doesn’t shine a glaring light on the growing disconnect between what consumers want and what healthcare organizations are prioritizing, then what would?
Modea’s advice: Don’t just build a mobile app to have something in the marketplace. Take the time to understand what your consumers want and their unique needs. When was the last time your organization carried out a customer journey mapping exercise to better align and understand your evolving patient needs? We recommend re-visiting customer journey mapping every 2-3 years.
#4. Only 18% of hospitals have recently completed a customer journey map exercise
That’s right. Our team recently surveyed nationally ranked children’s hospitals and 2 out of the 11 indicated that they had completed a full, cross-functional journey map. All participants, however, understood the importance of this and are working towards capturing consumer data and needs, whether in-house or by partnering with an external resource.
Modea’s advice: Do you know the very basics of how your patients engage with you on the web?This guide is full of questions, exercises, free tools, and more. Download the guide to help make the most out of your web analytics platform and learn how your website stacks up against your competition.
#5. Appointment scheduling is crucial
Our team ran a survey to better understand the mobile usage of today’s healthcare consumers and asked the open-ended question “If I could change one thing about my doctor’s patient portal it would be …”
The number one answer is? Scheduling appointments.
We’ve heard this request time and time again. Most organizations do not have full open scheduling capabilities implemented, although they have the technology and systems to allow for it. Revamping your scheduling process so a patient can easily authenticate one time and find their specialty, choose their doctor, see available time slots, and book that appointment quickly is key to optimizing patient flow.
Modea’s advice: Think back to the new entrants in the healthcare space who will be providing a benchmark level of digital experience and personalization. If hospitals don’t start offering more of what consumers need, there’s a greater chance that consumers will go elsewhere for care. Healthcare organizations, both large and small, can save time and increase revenue by prioritizing the right digital experiences and appointment scheduling should be at the top.
#6. A poor digital tool ruins the entire patient’s experience
It’s true and should light a fire under the organization to begin if not already investing in the proper data-based tools to launch intuitive digital patient experiences.
Accenture reports that more than a quarter of respondents are willing to switch to a different provider for high-quality digital services. In addition, half agreed that a poor digital patient experience with a healthcare provider “ruins the entire experience with that provider”.
Modea’s advice: Work to align internal departments and stakeholders on the need and importance of creating the right digital tools. This means looking at your patient demographics and understanding what they need and how best to deliver on that. Start with a plan and work to develop your “Digital North Star” which is what we refer to as a 3-5 year plan for how you’ll embark on digital transformation. Establish clear and measurable goals to present to leadership and don’t forget to research your competitors.
#7. Consumers want personalized, convenient, and connected healthcare
CVS recently published a report that illustrates how important personalization and connected healthcare experiences are for patients. A personalized experience could look like a public website that allows a consumer to have a logged-in experience that:
suggests physicians and locations based on a consumer’s prior searches
offers an intuitive telemedicine platform and experience
curated content based on consumer patient portal activity
85% surveyed said that personalized care is essential. The data also shows that consumers expect integrated care experiences that feature easy-to-use technology and 59% of respondents want access to virtual and telehealth services.
In this study, more than 90% say convenience is a necessary factor when choosing a primary care provider, with more than one-third having scheduled a virtual visit to save money or time.
Modea’s advice: Explore your CMS and web platform to see what is possible out-of-the-box with personalization. Many hosting platforms come with great features you can implement and explore phases of personalizing the customer experience. Look into how many times a user has to authenticate throughout their journey to pay a bill or schedule an appointment. We can help you decide what to prioritize and how to get it built and working so that your patients feel like they matter and are not just a number in your system.
#8. Consumers will increasingly choose medical providers who offer digital capabilities
In stat #6 above we touch on the importance of a good digital experience. Now we begin to look at the results of a poor one. Fierce Healthcare shares that “41% of patients said they would stop going to their healthcare provider over a poor digital experience”. Not surprisingly, 1 in 5 patients has already switched providers due to a poor digital experience.
In addition, the survey found that poor digital experiences are a big reason why consumers write negative reviews online and those reviews are highly influential.
About 1 in 5 patients have given a negative review of a provider because of a poor digital experience.
Modea’s advice: Start with competitor research on organizations that your target market could also visit. See what they are offering and make a comparison document showing where you stack up. If you’re unsure about how to best accomplish this, Modea offers a free digital impact analysis that you should take a look at.
#9. Online ratings and reviews influence provider selection
25% of consumers said online ratings and reviews influence their choice of provider.
The interconnection between the consumers’ want for physicians with digital capabilities and how poor digital tools completely impact the patient’s experience is crucial to note. Consumers are more inclined to write a negative review compared to a positive one. So if you’re digital tools are not chalking up to your competitors, it’s likely that you’ll receive less-than-ideal reviews which in turn could very well begin to impact your physician appointment scheduling.
Modea’s advice: While 25% say it influences their choice, a higher percentage of people will book appointments with a doctor who has honest and up-to-date reviews. Starting with your provider profile pages and working out other online listings for the doctors, having reviews is a critical piece of trust and bringing patients in.
#10. Telehealth is here to stay
Healthcare Innovation reports that within the first two months of 2022 75% of respondents said that they conduct primary care visits via telehealth. And a McKinsey survey found that about 40% of consumers said they plan to continue using telehealth moving forward, up from 11% prior to COVID-19.
Although not growing at COVID-fueled rates, the continued use of telehealth is consistent across the board.
Modea’s advice: Offering telehealth is somewhat of a standard now in healthcare and it won’t be going away any time soon. If a patient books a telehealth appointment, make sure to send them instructions for setup ahead of time so they have the right software downloaded (or updated) and know how to use it. And don’t forget to educate the providers on how to use the software and tools available as well. It’s very common for them to also be having trouble conducting virtual visits mainly due to the technology.
We hope you learned something here and can share these stats with other members of your team and organization. If you have questions about how to plan for or implement, any of what you’ve read above, contact Modea today for a chat.
On a daily basis, we complete a variety of digital tasks in a matter of seconds or minutes without thinking twice about the complexity. Thoughtful design makes these experiences easy to navigate for the majority of the population. But, what about the 61 million Americans with disabilities? Do they have the same easy-to-use experiences for navigating digital? In this article, we’ll share why your hospital needs an accessible website as well as offer a complimentary, custom impact analysisof where your healthcare organization stands today.
What is accessibility for healthcare?
Digital accessibility is an inclusive act of removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from engaging with healthcare digital tools and technologies.
An accessible hospital website could include customer experience functions such as:
The ability for a website to offer the same functionality when on a mobile device and in a landscapemode.
A well-designed customer experience that allows users to navigate through features by using only a keyboard.
Thoughtful colors and contrasts for all design elements and copy.
The goal of launching an accessible tool is to create thoughtful digital products for ALL. Ultimately, these digital experiences should allow users to navigate essential features and functions without obstacles.
A couple of questions for your team to think about:
Did your team properly implement ARIA labels in your site’s HTML?
Do you use color throughout any part of your website or mobile app to convey any visual messaging?
Do all forms have clear visual label tags so that screen readers can process them?
Why should my hospital have an accessible website?
Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.
1 in every 4 adults in the U.S. has some type of functional disability.
“Disability” is an umbrella term that describes four main groups of impairments which can be broken down into:
It’s important to remember that some disabilities develop throughout a lifespan while others are present at birth. There is no discrimination against age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Therefore, when designing a website we have to be prepared to tackle all.
In addition, there is a slew of other benefits that are worthwhile to note.
Corporate social responsibility is a critical factor that ties into the brand perspective. If you treat your customers right and fair they will continue to support you, but the relationship has to start on mutual grounds.
Mitigate legal action
You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about how hospitals have been sued for compliance issues. In addition, there was a big out-of-industry case where Domino’s Pizza was sued for its inaccessible website that did not allow for online ordering for those with vision impairments.
In 2020 alone, approximately 11,000 ADATitle III lawsuits were filed in federal courts. While ADA Title III lawsuits have traditionally focused on physical accessibility elements (handicap parking, restroom accessibility, etc.), website and mobile applications are now a prime target for accessibility claims.
Search engine optimization
This is a win-win! Not only does implementing superb search engine optimization practices help your customers with disabilities, but it also indirectly improves your quality score which will impact your ranking against competitors.
In short, by making your web pages more accessible you’re increasing your chances of being found on search engines.
Why is accessibility overlooked in healthcare?
For the majority of organizations, cost is the highest factor.
Surely, involving a separate quality assurance team to test all implementations takes time and possibly various iterations, but in the end, your team will save money by taking the necessary steps to ensure accessibility standards are met.
If your hospital is not preventative and checks accessibility prior to a new launch it could end up costing your team 2 to 3 times the original cost to fix the issues present.
In short, the time is now. Fix your issues before launching.
How does a hospital tackle website accessibility?
Thankfully there are standards that can help guide your hospital’s website or mobile app design and functionality. For example, our quality assurance team uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide criteria for content creators to help ensure all experiences are accessible.
*Tip: WCAG is updating to 2.2 guidelines which are launching in June of 2022!*
Is my hospital’s website accessible?
Is your team able to effectively describe in which ways your website offers a comparable experience to those with visual, auditory, or physical limitations?
Are you able to answer any of the below?
Does my hospital’s mobile app allow for landscape orientation?
Can a user navigate through features by using only the keyboard?
Does our team follow WCAG’s color contrast guidelines?
If you’re unable to answer one or any of these questions, it’s time your hospital revisits website accessibility.
Certainly, your team can run all the free accessibility “checkers” to get a pretty okay understanding of major red flags. But having a dedicated team to ensure that you’re covering all bases is much more reliable.
Have Modea complete a custom digital impact analysis to understand where your healthcare organization stands today and how to propel your customer experience for the future.
We live in a world of instant gratification that drives innovation and the adoption of new technology across healthcare. Consumers expect ease of use and zero lag time while accomplishing a goal in a few simple steps. When it works, it’s a wonderful thing, and when it doesn’t, it can ruin your day. Therefore, designing and building a beautiful and forward-thinking website is just half of the work. The other half is determining where it will all sit, digitally speaking. In this article, we will review three of the most common and widely used content management systems in healthcare.
Content management systems for healthcare
A CMS or content management system is a system that allows you to create, manage, build, and customize the digital experience for an end-user. There are a vast amount of options, however, we’ll focus on the three largest players in the healthcare space and hit a few important highlights and pitfalls of each.
Picking the right content management systems for your healthcare system is incredibly important. Information needs to be secure, fast to obtain, and hospitals need the ability to manage a CMS with scale while having the confidence that it will not crash. The consequences of a poorly chosen or implemented CMS can be catastrophic to an organization, especially one in an industry as important as healthcare. Especially since we’ve seen a dramatic increase in cyberattacks over the years, in fact, incidents rose42% in 2020 alone.
If you’re refreshing your consumer digital experience and looking to update your current CMS or move to a new one, this should help.
Open and closed source CMS
Before we go much further, we should talk about the differences between a “closed-source” and “open-source” CMS. With open-source you have a lot more flexibility in everything from pricing to coding. Open-source is “free” for anyone to use and comes with a large community of users and developers constantly working to create and improve the platform and the plugins that come with it. This can lead to a very powerful and robust solution (when done correctly) for almost any website but can also lead to security and vulnerability issues since there are so many moving parts and constant changes.
All the above is the opposite of closed-source, which does not have an open community and coding options. With this comes increased security but also larger fees and pricing associated with implementing and managing this kind of CMS, since you’re relying heavily on the CMS creators.
There are pros and cons to each. The main takeaway is that whichever route you choose when done right, will certainly have its benefits.
So, with that, let’s get into three of the most popular content management systems for healthcare organizations out there.
WordPress is an open-sourced CMS that started as a popular blogging platform but has quickly evolved into a leader in the space. Many small, medium, and large (enterprise) sized websites are hosted on WordPress. Its flexible and customizable features are a huge plus for this CMS.
With plugins, community and developer support, and plenty of use cases and documentation to support your needs, it is usually the first choice for a developer team. It’s customizable, SEO-friendly, flexible, scalable, and offers great levels of personalization. It can be very secure, but can often take a bit more leg work.
Pros and cons of WordPress
In addition to the above, WordPress offers other benefits worthwhile mentioning:
It is pretty easy to set up and start working with.
Has a lower cost of ownership and setup.
There are thousands of themes and plugins to choose from so that you find the perfect solution for your team’s needs.
It’s relatively easy to deploy your changes and enhancements as needed.
Is a powerful and modern editor experience when using Gutenberg.
There are options for automatic updates to help with plugin management.
While there are plenty of reasons why WordPress is ideal to use, there are a handful of “cons” with using this platform.
Security risks are heightened when using a large and open-source CMS. With so many features and plugins, it’s hard to always keep up with updates and minimize risk. For an enterprise site built on WordPress, this could be a full-time job.
WordPress is typically not used on very high-traffic websites. Don’t get me wrong here, they still are to some degree, but we see this being used less and less on your enterprise-level architectures, mainly due to management and security needs.
Finding the best modules for your implementation can be challenging and often the best ones are not free, so additional costs can add up.
Drupal is another very popular and robust option for websites of all sizes. It is another popular open-source platform that prides itself on having what they claim is the best experience of any CMS out there. It’s around 20 years old and the current newest version is Drupal 9.
*Tip: If your team is still on Drupal 7, you’ll lose community support inNovember 2022. Learn why you should upgrade to Drupal 9 now.*
Drupal holds a much smaller market share of websites, but that shouldn’t deter an organization from migrating over. With its robust offerings, all geared at a great web experience, it’s easy to see why Drupal is chosen for many enterprise builds. It shares the same features as WordPress as well and most CMS’ we talk about all have those by default. Drupal also has some great aftermarket support from companies, like Acquia, and they are able to add a lot to an already-solid system, making it a great choice for large, heavily-trafficked websites.
Pros and cons of Drupal
Offers custom content types/capabilities that are more flexible compared to other CMS like WordPress.
Comes with advanced security features out-of-the-box, which makes it a perfect choice for security-conscious businesses.
Built with scalability and performance in mind. The platform is capable of handling massive traffic spikes.
Drupal core comes with multilingual support out-of-the-box, and you do not need any additional integrations or modules for the same.
You can have more control over access and user permissions. Its built-in access control system allows you to create custom user roles with different permissions. This feature can be highly beneficial for enterprises where access control can be a major issue.
Many consider Drupal’s system to be more flexible than other CMS platforms. This makes the content organization much easier. You can group your content together in various configurations.
Setting up with Drupal is not as easy as WordPress and you will need to rely on a Drupal developer who understands the system and complexities to get it up and running smoothly while continuing to manage it.
Like WordPress, Drupal has plugins that will need to be updated and supported on a regular basis.
Finding the best modules for your implementation can be challenging and often the best ones are not free, so additional costs can come with a Drupal implementation.
With older versions of Drupal, like Drupal 7, not all of the newest and better features are available like what can be used with the latest version.
Sitecore is a closed-source CMS that is used by enterprise-level organizations. It focuses on a solid all-around digital experience. With Sitecore you’ll likely be choosing between four main products (Sitecore Experience Commerce, Sitecore Experience Manager, Sitecore Experience Platform, and Sitecore Content Hub) to get your site up and running. Each of those products has its purpose based on your industry which means Sitecore can cater to many market segments.
Sitecore has established itself as one of the more secure platforms since it is closed-source and doesn’t offer an open door for outside developers and companies to come in and create modules, features, plugins, etc.
Pros and cons of Sitecore
As stated above, Sitecore comes out of the box with a high level of security since it is locked down pretty tightly.
The various product offerings of Sitecore make it scalable and customizable for organizations of various types.
Sitecore has a really strong content editing interface out of the box.
Unlike some other open-source platforms, Sitecore comes with many sought after features by default, like personalization, analytics, segmentation, and more.
Being a custom closed-source platform, changes and enhancements will often take time and become costly.
Speaking of costs, Sitecore is not a cheap CMS out of the gate and requires some steep licensing fees to get started.
When managing your site and backend you will often have to rely on Sitecore’s team of developers to help, which can add time and additional costs.
Modea’s take on healthcare CMS
When looking for a well-suited CMS, the process begins with taking a deep dive to fully understand the needs of your organization and what will be required to keep your website, and customers, happy. We often assist our clients in selecting a CMS based on many factors such as:
Size and capability of a team
Who will be managing the system
Any specific, unique needs
How often the site will receive updates
Total traffic to the site
The above and so much more are included in what we call our “Discovery Phase” and it’s a crucial part of any digital transformation. You can’t build a house without a solid foundation, and a website and digital front piece are no different here.
We work with a variety of healthcare clients who use a plethora of advanced tools to collect big data. Often times the goal is to get advanced analytics on their various digital platforms and campaigns. Hootsuite, Sprinkler, Google Campaign Manager, and of course, the big one: Google Analytics.
No tool is quite so ubiquitous, powerful, or anywhere near as intimidating as Google Analytics. But many users struggle to get as much out of this tool as it offers. In this article, we’ll share a few examples of how your healthcare organization can quickly get powerful insights out of Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is tricky, especially for healthcare
Google Analytics is free and easy to install via a Content Management System interface. The tool collects so much out of the box and therefore you’ll begin collecting helpful data off from the start.
So it’s just easy and low-risk enough that often the marketing department sets up a Google Analytics account. And the installer then becomes the resident “Google Analytics expert”. This is, usually, not a position they have signed up for. However, while the initial setup and installation of this tool are low in difficulty, the learning curve is high
The initial dashboard you’re presented with is easy to navigate.
But doing anything deeper and clicking around, let’s say for a custom report is anything but clear.
This can feel very complicated. The data itself isn’t always the most welcoming. For example, check out this report in Google Analytics.
What do all these fields mean? How do I tell the difference between a page and a landing page? What about bounce rate and exit %? Are any of these metrics good or bad?
Google Analytics does not offer us context for any of these metrics and is therefore very difficult to interpret.
We often see healthcare teams start with the reporting infrastructure but get lost, or worse, overwhelmed, and simply stop.
Google Analytics is incredibly powerful and easy to set up but ishard to utilize without proper context. In practical terms, many hospitals have Google Analytics but can only get a fraction of the insight that they should be able to get from it.
So, here are a few real-world examples of how to get this UX information and how to use it.
Helpful UX Google Analytics reports to pull for your healthcare organization
There are a wealth of ways you can cut and slice this data. If you’re overwhelmed, I have good news for you: there are a bunch of very simple ways to access and view this datawithout a ton of effort. Small wins can make the tool less overwhelming!
Below are three common scenarios that will be meaningful to a healthcare system like yours. In addition to quick-and-dirty data, you can pull to have a meaningful, data-informed conversation.
Scenario 1: Our health system’s homepage is super important and we must add this feature to it!
There’s a consistent theme that we run into when designing a website: somebody important (usually a VP or equivalent) comes to a meeting with an idea-request-demand.
“Hey, we just got a big grant for our excellent cardiology research,” they say. “We should promote this and make cardiology more prominent on our website’s homepage!”
Now, your initial thought may be “Okay how can we add this feature or content? But I don’t want to disrupt the homepage”. Or even “No, we can’t just redesign the homepage to account for your whims.”
But there’s a deeper issue we need to unpack first.
The homepage isn’t your patients’ front door
The assumption is that the homepage is the place where most people will see that information is not accurate.
Here’s what I mean. Go to your Google Analytics account right now and see how many people ENTER the site on the homepage. You can do in Universal Analytics via this report:
And the report you’ll look at will look something like this:
What do we see here? First of all, yes, there are a ton of entrances on the homepage. If we look at the helpful percentage beside the homepage indicator, we can see that it’s still less than a quarter of the total entrances.
Keep that in mind:roughly 8 out of 10 people enter healthcare sites on a page other than the homepage.
We find this is broadly true across basically every client we work with in the healthcare space. Most consumers enter the site on a ‘detail’ page (provider, location, or service-line specific pages on your website).
Why does this matter for your conversation with your C-Suite person? How could or should we better use our data?
Well, people often think of homepages as the front doors of the website, however, that’s wrong.
Google is the “front door” of your website, and it dumps users into the interior of your site with regularity. These detail pages like “www.hospital.com/doctors/your-doctor-name-md” or “www.hospital.com/service-line/cardiology.”
What report can I pull Google Analytics?
Healthcare websites often have simple, easy-to-filter URL strings that can be used to parse out content types like “locations/” or “/providers/”. A filter for those strings can give you a long, inclusive list of these granular types of content pages. This will allow you to see a clearer picture of exactly where people are arriving on your website.
Even with these simple queries, we’ve shifted the conversation to a more interesting place: 12,000 visits began on provider detail pages! If we really want to increase the visibility of our cardiology research then we shouldincrease visibility on the provider pages.
And while we’re at it, how can we increase the connective tissue on those provider, location, and service-line pages so that people can more easily navigate the site?
Looking at entrances and specific groups of URLs, can often be an easy way to figure out the real “front doors”. If it’s not what you expect, that can be a helpful way to redirect either strategy (how do we adjust to this new reality?) or spending (should we invest in better SEO performance for these areas that are underperforming?).
We suggest that rather than add a feature to the homepage highlighting cardiology, we could instead add some content to both highlight the awesome research and make those provider profiles or location pages even better and more appealing.
Scenario 2: Our online appointment tools aren’t working and we should scrap them!
Here’s another common example:
Southeastern Hospital put a bunch of time, money, and effort into building out online scheduling tools to allow its users to digitally book appointments. That’s great! But so far, it seems like the result is a paltry trickle of actual people coming in for appointments.
The first thing we should recognize is that the big call-to-action button on our website that allows users to “schedule an appointment online” is not the end of the user journey. Rather it’s just one step along the way from “deciding I need care” to “physically present in a doctor’s office“.
Here’s how we often think about our digital tools:
User visits site –> user clicks on CTA = Conversion!
And that is, unfortunately, an oversimplification.
An actual user flow
An actual user flow will look something more like this:
User Googles “Doctor near me”.
Visits site on doctor profile page.
Browses 1-5 other pages.
Returns to doctor profile page.
Clicks on a CTA.
Kicked out to internal form on separate site.
Fills out a form.
Submits request appointment form.
Gets to thank you page.
It’s a much more complicated and multistep process. At every step, a user can abandon the process. Often, a surface-level look will simply tell us the end result of our user journey. Rather we need to focus the whittling down what occurs throughout the process.
1000 users google “doctor near me”.
400 visit site on doctor profile page.
320 click on CTA.
315 start filling out the form.
50 submit the request appointment form.
45 actually show up to an appointment.
In this equation, where is the dropoff? Where is the pain point? Is it the design and placement of the button? Or is it in the form that individuals are required to fill out online?
This is an important UX feature.
What report can I pull Google Analytics?
An easy way to find this in Google Analytics is the creative use of custom segments. When logged in to Google Analytics, pull up the segment builder to create a new segment:
If you hit the ‘preview’ button, you can see exactly what percentage of users accomplished this task. When you update that segment with a subsequent step, you can see the preview changes:
That’s a quick-and-dirty way to get some identification as to where there’s a bigger-than-expected dropoff in sessions or users, and use that to direct your efforts. You still have to be able to accurately identify the steps and for this, you’re going to want to use either events + pageviews if you have them, or URL string fragments if you don’t.
Think through what we can do better about that particular stage in the journey? Can…
A form be shortened or simplified?
Load time be increased?
Move elements to more visual prominence to facilitate the user’s journey?
And, if this step is difficult, is it even necessary?
Scenario 3: Our internal search tools aren’t working at all
This is another common issue we run into with our hospital clients: somebody comes storming in and says…
“Our internal site search stinks! I’ve been searching my name/specialty/location and no relevant results pop up! We’ve got to reassess how our search results are ranked, it’s all wrong.”
Before we fully revamp our search weighting, let’s figure out a quick way to use Google Analytics to get an answer to that question.
What do we mean by “successful”?
The first thing you should ask in this situation is not “is our internal search successful?” but rather, “what do we mean by “successful?’’
Maybe this is “select a relevant search result from the list displayed.” Maybe you want this to be “clicks on a specific CTA” after that search result. Maybe you want them to end up in a specific location or URL on the website.
Most of the time, the simplest way to ascertain “success” for an internal search tool is “did the user find a relevant search result?” The good news is that there is a straightforward way of getting that information.
Almost all the time, your search information will be pushed into the URL in the form of parameters. They’ll look something like this, and populate when a user executes a search:
This process makes it easy to trace a user through the search journey. It also is why we like using URL parameters rather than or in addition to Google Analytics’s native site search features: this allows us to get information on the filters used as well as the queries used, and most healthcare providers have internal find-a-doc or find-a-location tools that feature filters very heavily.
What report can I pull Google Analytics?
So what do we do here? We look for the search pages with a query parameter attached. The easiest way to do this is by content categorization. We’re looking for two specific steps here:
A user who entered a query into our search tool.
A user who subsequently clicked on a relevant result.
In order to do this, we need to run a very simple report: We need to go to the “All Pages” report, located here in the GA interface:
Once there, we are going to add a secondary dimension called “Previous Page Path” to the report.
The last piece of this puzzle is to add a custom filter to this report, where we filter the previous page path to only include URLs that include an entered query (that’s the “?” piece of this puzzle. And yes, I have chosen an example that is particularly clear-cut, if you want to choose a messy example well then you should use that in the blog you write). We also filter the page paths to include only those pages with a provider profile page as the next page.
So what we have here, then, is a helpful little dataset: we know what queries are entered, as well as what pages they subsequently ended up on.
You can adjust the filter that you use to be more or less specific or more inclusive and see what specific filters or queries led to, or what specific results were clicked on. You could even use either the Google Sheets integration via API or an API call from R or Python and get even more detail there as well, but even without that, these steps would give you a pretty good first look at the data and let you feel more confident and familiar with moving forward!
An ending note
I hope this has provided you with some helpful first steps towards actually getting MORE out of your Google Analytics implementation in a real, practical, tactical sense. These are all really common, simple versions of analyses and data diving that we do for our clients regularly.
However, I also want to make a note here: each of these scenarios involves some strategic thinking as a preamble to their execution.
We have to redirect from a poorly formed directive to a better research direction and question.
First, we have to better identify and layout our user funnel and identify the steps involved.
We have to identify and align on how we’re defining “success.” That part of the puzzle is, of course, every bit as important as the analysis itself (I argue it’s more important, but this is a blog post trying to give you tactical stuff to do and get some cool use out of a tool you probably already have!).
We hope these tactics can be used to get some real use out of your free tools! Good luck, and don’t be afraid to break things.