Choosing the right web content management solution can be stressful for many medical practices and hospitals. Marketing and patient education teams come to the table with a vision for how to connect with prospective and current patients. IT teams bring due caution about reliability and security into the mix. These differing viewpoints often make for tough conversations at cross purposes.
To help guide the discussion, here’s a checklist of 12 essential features you must look for when selecting a web content management system (CMS):
- Relevance to the entire patient journey: Patients move back and forth between seeking care (via information about doctors, specialities or services, locations, etc.) and consuming care (via educational content, trackers, wellness tools, etc.). Look for a CMS that makes it easy to publish for both of those scenarios, and link your content to help patients find the right thing at the right time, every time.
- Data structures designed for multiple specialities in multiple locations: When you open or move a satellite, or acquire a smaller provider, or offer a new service, you do not want to update tens or even hundreds of pages on your site. Make sure you choose tools that include this information dynamically so that you can easily make changes, in as few places as possible, to stay in sync with the changing structure of your business.
- Strict separation of content from design: The layout and design of your pages should be tightly controlled, at the risk of your site starting to look ad hoc and inconsistent. Choose a CMS that makes publishing content as easy as filling out a form, rather than offering content owners so many design options that the user experience becomes messy over time.
- Built-in accessibility monitoring: Accessibility guidelines (also known as Section 508 Standards) can be easy to overlook in the day-to-day crush of creating and managing content. Ask about how your prospective publishing tools handle images, multimedia content, forms, and other types of web interaction for people with vision impairments, and to what extent compliance checks are automated.
- HIPAA-compliant collection of any user data: If users are able to personalize their experience on your site, submit forms with personally-identifiable information, or provide any other information that could connect a person to their health data, ask your CMS vendor about how they handle privacy in compliance with HIPAA regulations.
- Flexible integration with patient portals: Your website should make it extremely easy for patients to find doctor and speciality information and access your patient portal quickly from anywhere on your website. Inquire about whether your CMS tools can achieve more than just offering a link to your portal login page from your home page.
- Ease of use for all content stakeholders: People entering provider contact data or publishing content on your site should not have to be webmasters in order to complete their tasks. If your CMS comes with extensive training and documentation, that may even be a red flag, surprisingly. You should expect an average user to be up and running with little more than a short orientation.
- Support for rigorous clinical review of content. Your web CMS should allow content creators to submit any medical content for clinical review, following a repeatable business process. Make sure the tool you select offers roles (author, editor, approver) and rules (which content types require what level of approval) and keeps them lean enough that you can draft, review, and publish content quickly.
- Reusable content modules: Once members of your team have written a piece of content, it should be possible to publish it anywhere across any of your online presences. If you write a surgeon’s biography or enter her credentials once, it should be possible to display them on her profile, on her specialty page, on articles written by her, on your main site, on microsites, on mobile apps, etc., etc. Be sure that your CMS is modular enough to allow this reusability, so you are not creating the same piece of content again and again, and having to edit every instance of it if changes are needed.
- Built-in responsiveness: Now that a majority (specific numbers vary) of users are consuming healthcare information and accessing provider sites on mobile devices at least some of the time, your CMS must offer templates that display your content on desktops, tablets, and smartphones automatically, without your needing to think about it. Ask your CMS vendor to provide examples that you can check on any device to confirm this.
- High performance and speed: Increasingly, access over mobile networks means your site pages must load quickly. Moreover, Google favors faster sites in its search rankings. However, many CMSs come with a lot of legacy code or other technical complexities that cause slow performance. Investigate the state of your prospective vendor’s code, especially when considering tools that have existed for several years.
- Strong customer support: Even the strongest CMS packages will run into glitches. If you host it yourself, you may encounter bugs that need fixing. If you outsource the hosting to the vendor, there may be downtime. Make sure you have a clear service level agreement that guarantees response times and easy access to a support rep.
Answering these questions early on in the vetting process will help prevent you from making costly mistakes and acquiring long-term headaches. It also gives you a common ground, to help answer questions to the satisfaction of both patient-focused and technical stakeholders.