Healthcare Websites Need To Communicate To A Broader AudienceApril 5, 2012
The importance of clear, concise communication between patients and healthcare providers has always been at the forefront of the patient/physician relationship. That same philosophy needs to extend to their websites as well.
A recent American Medical News article examined a study about what makes an effective website and measured how some the nation’s hospitals and health systems are doing. The study, completed by the Journal of Healthcare Management, assessed the websites of hospital and health systems based on accessibility, content, marketing, and technology. The study found that many physician and hospital websites fell significantly short in two categories; content & accessibility.
The content wasn’t problematic in what it was communicating- rather the issue is in how it is being communicated. In general, content should be written at an 11th grade level so it can be understood; the study found that most of the content on the websites was written at a graduate school level. Jargon and medical terms, secondhand nature those who work daily in the medical field were difficult for patients to understand. Secondly, the pages weren’t easily navigable. Links between pages and information were difficult to find and didn’t flow easily together. The study found that information wasn’t only difficult to understand, it wasn’t easily accessible to users either.
In launching new websites and redoing old ones, healthcare facilities need to be aware of whom they are communicating to. The healthcare audience expands across demographics, ages, and socioeconomic levels. Hospital and physician websites need to steer free of acronyms and jargon-heavy content and make sure that their websites have broadly structured content that is easily comprehended by the large and widely diversified audience they serve.
Of course, it’s not fair to rate hospital’s websites against other online giants, such as the user-friendly Amazon or eBay. Hospitals and healthcare facilities are not on the cutting edge of social media and web-savvy technology, nor should they be. They have other larger concerns (the population’s health and well-being for starters) to worry about. However, website to patient communication still needs to be streamlined. Building websites focused on clear communication and easy access will make them more user-friendly and will generate more traffic for the website.
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