It’s no secret: patients today are taking a more active role in researching treatments and providers before choosing where to spend their healthcare dollars. As with other sectors of the economy, the internet is the go-to source for healthcare consumers to research their options and educate themselves about their conditions and treatments. When it comes to hospital website design, it’s imperative that the trends and behaviors of today’s healthcare consumer be taken into consideration.
So, what are the new behaviors that are guiding today’s patients?
Preference of Mobile over Desktop
First and foremost, web search traffic is now coming mostly from mobile devices. That means that your patients are most likely finding your hospital’s website from a cell phone or tablet. Mobile-responsive websites are no longer a “trend” in the industry – they are what consumers expect. Responsive web design is so important for usability, and so ingrained into the expectations of information-driven consumers, that it’s now even a factor that Google considers when determining your site’s search rankings. Patients and healthcare consumers are mobile first – so your hospital’s website design should be as well.
Expectations That Your Site Will Have High Functionality
Patients and healthcare consumers expect certain functionalities, and they expect to be able to find and execute them seamlessly. Whether it’s finding a physician, learning more about their condition and the treatments available, or checking Emergency Department wait times, designers need to be fully aware of the functionality their patient population is looking for, as well as ensure that the user experience is as frictionless as possible. Clear, consistent navigation options and prominent color contrast for calls-to-action are integral parts of creating an effective hospital website design for today’s digital, information-driven patient.
Minimalist Design That Makes Finding Important Features Easy
Patients don’t just want to be able to easily navigate a site to find the information and functionality they’re looking for from their mobile devices: they want to cut out the clutter. Screen space is in short supply on a mobile device. Clean, minimalist, UX-focused designs allow quality content to take a leading role, keep visitors engaged at a higher level, and make the site far more usable.
Innovative navigation techniques have also shown a significant increase in user experience and engagement. This might include a scrolling navigation, or mid-screen arrows that allow users to jump forward or backward from a frame of focus that’s much more natural to the mobile viewing screen. It’s important to find creative solutions to the problem of limited screen size for mobile website viewership.
Important: Never Neglect HIPAA
OK, so you’ve implemented a responsive, mobile-first design with the functionality patients and healthcare consumers are looking for. You’ve also implemented an intuitive navigation to guide your website visitors to the information they’re looking for, and your design allows the site content to take center stage – that’s it, rightOh, that’s right – let’s not forget about HIPAA. When interacting with your site, patients may disclose ePHI (electronic personal health information). That means you have to be aware of any potential point of contact where ePHI might be disclosed, and ensure proper encryption and protection. That means securing SSL certificates to encrypt information as it is sent, and hosting your site on a HIPAA-compliant server so that patient information is encrypted not only in transit but at rest on the server. There are many other considerations that go into providing HIPAA-compliant hosting services, but for your hospital, the most important part is ensuring that your hosting provider signs a Business Associate Agreement with you.
When it comes to hospital website design, it takes a great deal of industry experience and design expertise to coordinate these different variables. Template designs just don’t have the personalized touch to address each of these points properly, and not all custom design agencies are created equally. If your health care organization chooses to hire an agency to create a new hospital website, make sure you choose a partner that specializes exclusively in the healthcare market and has the industry know-how to deliver engaging user experiences optimized across web and mobile devices.