6 Tips on How to Structure a Hospital Website

Customers often judge the quality of a business by the quality of their website. A sloppy, inefficient online presence can drastically reduce the amount of people who will trust that your product, service or organization is right for them.

This is increasingly true in the medical field. As more patients do their research on the internet, websites are fast becoming the best way to drive people in or drive people away. A web presence is no longer just a way to list your departments, a medical dictionary and locations. It must give potential patients a good overview of who you are and what you do, while also providing an easy way to begin the relationship. With that in mind, here are some key issues you should consider when assessing your online presence.

1. Keep the Home Page Simple.
The key objective of any hospital website is getting the patient to engage with your organization and services. That means the home page should focus on these calls to action and leave more complete details for another page. Visitors to a hospital site are usually looking for three key items; doctor’s names, what services they provide and the location of/directions to facilities. Too much content outside of these main calls to action can be distracting from the main purpose. For example, many hospital websites will provide the large navigation options “For Physicians” or “For Employees.” Careful consideration should be given about whether to give these links a prominent position in the main navigation or elsewhere, like the footer. Make sure the patient, who is more likely to be new to the website, can easily find their next step.

2. Provide Patient-Friendly Navigation.
Good navigation is a critical factor in making sure the patient finds what he or she is looking for. Just like the home page, always remain aware of what a patient will be looking for on your site. And since they are probably new to the site, it’s good practice to include ‘bread crumbs’ so users understand where they navigated to and how they got there. For example, if a user has linked their way to a page with directions, the ‘bread crumbs’ should read something like “Home -> Doctors -> Offices -> Directions.” Your developer should also make sure not to include pages that unnecessarily open new windows or new URLs. This will often confuse a user and will reduce the site’s effectiveness on search engines.

3. Include Search Features.

The quickest way for a patient to find who or what they are looking for is to include a search feature on your website. Applications like a “Find a Doctor” or “Find an Office” feature allow users to filter out information they don’t need and get right to what they want. If you have a large healthcare system, be sure to include more search options than just name. Allow patients to filter doctors by everything from their specialty and office location to languages spoken and insurances accepted. Include details about each physician to help create a connection with the patients. Just a name and picture won’t do much to inspire confidence in expertise. Finally, allow users to filter their search results without having to navigate back to the main screen. These functionality features all add to a positive user experience.

4. Use simple wording.
As for the content of a hospital website, always keep in mind your audience. While employees and physicians might understand complex medical jargon, your prospective patients likely will not. The wording should be easy to comprehend so visitors don’t become confused and frustrated. Remember, the goal is to get users to engage with you through an appointment or visit. This won’t happen if the patient doesn’t have a full understanding of what exactly you specialize in.

5. Search Engine Optimization.
If you are beginning a web site project, you should be familiar with SEO concepts. Your content needs to be easily indexed by the major search engines. This means making sure your URLs, page titles, META tags and content contain meaningful information. For instance, let’s say you have a page that describes your cardiology department and capabilities; you would want to make sure the URL included the word “cardiology”.  In addition, the title might contain the words “cardiology”, “heart treatments”, etc.  Meta keywords and description should also contain similar words and phrases.  Finally, your content should also include these words and phrases to have the biggest impact possible. 

6. Adapt As You Go.
Web site evolution is much like a product life cycle as they need to be continually enhanced as customer expectations change. Even though you may have had a good initial design, technology is continually progressing and websites can become dated quickly. Having a development partner can help you keep the site clean and simple while also utilizing the latest enhancements and bug fixes.

There are certainly many more complex considerations for building a hospital website but it’s important to remember these key issues before delving into the details.

A good web development partner will be able to help you achieve these basic goals and then customize the site your unique business.

Hospital website development isn’t unlike most other good business practices. The customer is always your top priority. The rest will fall into place from there.

Roy Chomko co-founded Adage Technologies in 2001 and has over 20 years of experience in technology sales, consulting and development. Prior to founding Adage, Roy was a principle of a Cisco VAR and a web development firm in the late 1990s. Roy has also held business development positions with Wolfram Research and GE Capital. Learn more about Adage Technologies.

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