The Four Phases of Online Patient Engagement

Typical larger practice websites undergo a journey from the most basic informational needs to a full integration with patient engagement efforts. In my experience consulting with multispecialty groups, I’ve found a set of four common stages for a website.

The Directory Stage

Patients view your site as a convenient way to get phone numbers and addresses. They likely arrive by searching for your practice name. Beyond the home or contact page, they spend little or no time learning about other practitioners or specialties you have available. While your site itself was findable, it does not have enough pull to draw visitors in to the messages and value that you really want to deliver.

The Informational Stage

Patients arrive at your site by searching for your practice specifically or for providers and specialties in your area. From home, they read descriptions of your medical specialties and profiles of your doctors. Ideally, they are using finder tools to get to the destinations that match their interests and medical needs. While their needs are met, they remain unfamiliar with what else your practice might offer to them or to their family members, either at present or in the future.

Where does your website fall in this model?

The Educational Stage

Patient visits shift from two to three pages to three to five pages or more. Typically, this happens when links to deeper information about related services, further detail on procedures and offerings, and patient education content are well-integrated into your core pages such as doctor profiles. It’s much less common for patients to seek out such information without an extra boost.

The Engagement Stage

In today’s world of greater practice accountability for costs, make no mistake about it. Patient engagement is a key driver for cost reduction. And your website can help strengthen it, by providing fully integrated patient education tools, easy access to patient portal/EHR functionality, and a wide complement of trackers, diagnostics, and patient forum tools to help patients stay on top of their care outside of their doctor’s office.

The Take-Away

For all these, keep in mind, it’s not about what the content and features you have; it’s about what your patients do. Features are never enough by themselves without good design. In many cases, patients’ actual site visits are not making the most of what you offer.

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