Health content is essential to the success of a hospital’s Web site. If a patient or user is searching for information on a particular diagnosis or treatment but are unable to find relevant information on your Web site, they will not only visit another site, but their experience may also leave a lasting negative impression of your organization. As a user, if I could not find relevant, in-depth information about bone cancer on a Web site, for example, I would assume that the hospital does not have the necessary services to treat me, or that it is simply not a very sophisticated hospital. Most purchase this type of content from a health information vendor and some even create their own content. Regardless of how it is obtained, the key is to provide some type of health content on the Web site; which can be evaluated using the following questions as a guideline:
Is the content:
- Customizable to include hospital specific information? Are the health pages hospital-branded?
- Flexible to be integrated with other relevant content such as doctors, classes and events, services, etc.?
Are interactive health tools available?
- Quizzes and calculators
- Drug database
- Risk assessments
So yes, clearly health content is important and at a minimum, these points should be incorporated when including health content on your Web site in order to meet user expectations.
Who exactly is interested in health content and what are their behaviors? Research indicates that most users who search infrequently want to see moderate depth on a health topic. These “infrequent users” search online once or twice a month. This may include information on symptoms, complications, or diagnoses.
Some users generate searches more frequently and have a higher adoption of online health activities that are related to daily healthcare. These are the users who are more interested in up-to-date health news, tracking vital signs, etc.; they tend to put more emphasis on trustworthiness than do average health users. Additionally, they tend to visit more sites and want to read as much as possible on their topic of choice.
- Seventeen percent of online occasional health users have one or more chronic conditions; fifty three percent are in good health
- Twenty-three percent of online frequent health users have one or more chronic conditions; forty-three percent are in good health.
- Thirty-four percent of online power health users have one or more chronic conditions; forty-two percent are in good health.
Interestingly, loyalty to health Web sites is relatively low; only nineteen percent of health users admit to consistently using the Internet for health information. In addition, according to Forrester
research in 2007, health insurance Web sites and over-the-counter drug sites were more commonly accessed than hospital Web sites! This however, should be considered an opportunity to become the Web site of choice in your region by implementing a strategic plan that includes a targeted campaign providing unique information to each audience mentioned above. Also keep in mind that because of the lack of loyalty, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to attracting these users.
Key takeaways to consider when creating your health content strategy:
- Health content is important to all health-related audiences, from the occasional user to the power user.
- Unless you are a power health user, loyalty to a specific Web site is low when searching for health content.
- The less healthy you are, the more likely you will search for health information and will be interested in up-to-date health news, tracking vital signs, etc.
- The less healthy you are, the more likely it is that you will want detailed information on the topic of interest.
- Implementing a well-thought SEO strategy is essential in attracting health users to your Web site.
Take this opportunity to add targeted health content if you have not done so already, or develop a strategy that will draw users to your site and will be compelling enough to keep them coming back.