This article was written by Amanda Kanaan and originally featured in the Med Monthly Medical Magazine December issue.
If you’ve ever had a patient present in your office with a self-diagnosis from WebMD, then you know firsthand the impact of the internet on health care. Patients are not only searching for conditions online, they’re also comparing doctors. In fact, patients are now “shopping” online for medical providers in the same way they look for a good restaurant or a new purse.
Your website has just seven seconds to make an impression on patients or they’ll move on to the next link in Google. Patients will also use your website to compare you to your competitors, and will actually choose a provider based on the design, functionality and messaging of a website. With that in mind, here are three of the latest website design trends to help you stand out online.
1. Responsive Design
More than half of all smartphone owners have used their phone to look up health or medical information. Mobile websites make browsing the desktop version of your site much easier and faster for patients. Since users’ search behaviors are different on mobile devices versus desktop computers, having a mobile website is a necessity if you want to improve the online experience for patients.
ResponsiveWEBHowever, website designers are now taking this thought process one step further by creating “responsive” websites. This allows your website to adapt to any device – not just smartphones. From smartphones to tablets (ipads, etc.) to computers, there are many different size devices these days. A responsive website automatically responds and adapts to any size device which results in a better user experience. This also makes your website much more likely to convert visitors into patients, because it is more functional and aesthetically pleasing.
2. Patient Interaction
Websites should be more than a pretty online brochure. There are plenty of interactive tools you can integrate to keep patients on your website longer, which is not only good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes but also to bring value to your relationship with the patient.
A good example is symptom checkers. There are many companies that offer affordable online tools, such as symptom checkers, that allow patients to use your website as a resource for researching a condition. After all, wouldn’t you rather a patient come to your website to look up a symptom rather than relying on WebMD?
Another great example is a dosage calculator for parents to calculate their children’s medications online – a great tool for pediatric websites. These tools not only bring value to the relationship with your patients, but they also drive additional traffic to your website and position you as the expert in your specialty (meaning anytime a patient has a concern, you are top of mind).
3. HIPAA Forms
Medical providers are extremely nervous about collecting Protected Health Information (PHI) online, and rightfully so. However, there are now companies that specialize in meeting HIPAA’s compliance regulations for online interactions. With so many patients now online, this not only makes communication with your practice more convenient but it can also make your staff more efficient.
A prime example of this is the ability for patients to request an appointment online. If you can securely collect PHI (including the reason for their appointment) and allow patients to simply fill out a form through your website, then your scheduling staff can significantly increase efficiency. Once your staff receives the form submission then they can call the patient back to schedule when it’s convenient (i.e. during low call volume times). This can also reduce the number of missed calls or the length of time patients are on hold. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Another great example is to give your patients the ability to fill out registration paperwork online. Some practices use a patient portal for these purposes, but if not, you can collect these forms online and then just upload to your EHR.
Implementing secure online forms not only makes your practice more efficient but it’s also something patients appreciate; Sixty-five percent of patients are willing to switch to a physician who engages them using digital communications. According to this research, patients are more likely to choose your practice if you can interact with them online.
Patients conduct their banking online, they shop online, and it’s to be expected that they would also want to engage in their healthcare online. For this reason, it’s going to be more important than ever to invest in a strong online presence in 2014. By keeping your website up to date with the latest design techniques, engaging your patients through online resources, and providing them with secure ways to schedule and interact with your office, your practice will stand out amongst all the growing competition online.