290,000 Patients Agree: Your Website Matters

NRC Health’s National Healthcare Consumer Study is designed to find out what consumers want from their health care providers. The 2017 study gathered opinions from more than 290,000 households — the largest database of its kind in America.

On the surface, this year’s results aren’t too surprising, but a closer look at the data reveals some important takeaways. Here’s what patients want to see from hospital websites.

Hospital Website Traffic Continues to Grow

The data show that reports of dominance by third-party websites like Yelp and Facebook have been greatly exaggerated. Even in the presence of well-funded, sophisticated external competitors, health system websites are still flourishing.

Nearly a third of consumers visited a hospital website in 2017. That’s up 1.9% from 2016, and almost 20% from 2013. The growth is also consistent across every demographic. More of every group, from ages 18 to 65+, turned to hospital websites for information.

But the largest segment of visitors was also the youngest : 39.06% of 18- to 34-year-olds said they visited a hospital website last year. These young consumers are worth watching. They’re in the very beginning of their engagements with health care systems. Many may be searching for a provider for the first time. If hospitals take the right steps to engage them, they have the opportunity to build a relationship that could last for the rest of their lives.

The Right Content to Win Patients

Hospital websites will only be effective if they continue to deliver what patients want. These are the top four features that patients say are important, ranked by the percentage of respondents who chose them:

1. Patient Reviews (33.82%)
No surprise here. Unchanged from last year, the most-desired feature on hospital websites is still reviews from other patients. The digital age has trained consumers to expect transparency from their health care providers. It’s the first means they use to decide if they’ll trust a new provider.

2. Specialty/Service-line Information (31.79%)
This is critical for patient access. Patients need to understand what services they can acquire from an organization. Without that knowledge, pursuing care is next to impossible. Service-line information, organized intuitively, will greatly reduce the friction patients feel as they try to secure the services they need.

3. Provider Biographies (29.01%)
Patients want care to feel personal. This is one of the enduring advantages that traditional providers have over retail clinics, and hospitals should lean into it. Biographies on a website can help patients get to know their providers better. That will make them feel more comfortable seeking care and build a foundation for a long-term relationship.

4. Payment and Billing Information (26.59%)
Most patients report feeling confused or frustrated about their hospital bills. Sometimes the aggravation causes them to hesitate before seeking care — or even to forgo care altogether. That’s not good for their health, or for health care organizations. A well-designed billing website is an opportunity to give patients clarity. The more thoughtful and thorough a hospital’s billing section, the better.

The Digital Front Door

Ultimately, all of these web features are about building initial trust. A health care organization’s website is often its first impression with consumers. Results from this year’s National Healthcare Consumer study show that hospitals are getting better at making those impressions count, but there’s still room to grow.

The stakes for online engagement are high. Hospitals can secure an enormous advantage from drawing customers to their owned digital properties, instead of losing them to third-party sites. And organizations that understand what their customers want will be well-positioned to win them over.

About the Author | NRC Health

NRC Health helps healthcare organizations better understand the people they care for and design experiences that inspire loyalty.