Net Advantage

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders Media , August 12, 2008

Web site users' expectations have evolved dramatically over the past decade. Once the Internet was the place to "surf" for information, but today it's the place consumers go to get things done.

Web site usability guru Jared Spool coined this the "seducible moment" for e-commerce developers—a fleeting instant when the Web site user wants to make a transaction. It's also the moment when the Web site should provide that functionality to the customer.

Far too often, Web sites fail in this seducible moment.

"It's a combination of providing information and then tools to get things done," says Jon Catanese, director of interactive marketing for the Cleveland Clinic. "The reason that Web sites like Orbitz and Travelocity are so popular is that they put information at your fingertips and then let you complete a transaction in a straightforward manner."

As the senior online editor for HealthLeaders Media, I can't help but critique the numerous healthcare Web sites I visit each day. This industry has some of the best and worst examples of corporate sites on the Web. For every organization, like Cleveland Clinic, which has a state-of-the-art site with Web 2.0 functionalities, there are hundreds of other hospitals with static Web sites that look and feel much like print brochures.

Global destination hospitals that bank on attracting highly engaged consumers from other regions cannot afford to have Web sites that are poor in form or function.

Just how important is a global hospital's Web presence? Consider that Vishal Bali, CEO of the Wockhardt Hospitals Group, was a hands-on member of the team that created the organization's award-winning Web site.

"The Internet is a very strong driver of the globalization of healthcare," says Bali. "The global healthcare consumers are the ones which basically got created on the net; they are the group of people who go on the net to ask, 'Where can I go to get a joint replaced?'"

Bali says his team spent a great deal of time analyzing how global patients make healthcare decisions—the Wockhardt team used this data to provide precise information and actions to support consumers, with the Web site as the point of entry.

"At least 90% of our global patients have been to our Web site before they received treatment here," he says.

When you spend time on Wockhardt's site, you'll notice some advanced Web 2.0 functionalities, but Bali points out that the keys to the Web site's success are a few fairly simple strategies:

  1. Offer precise information. Wockhardt didn't set out to create a healthcare portal that provides information on every ailment. The site is tightly focused on Wockhardt's areas of strength and services it provides.
  2. Share the experience. Wockhardt has nearly 300 video testimonials available on its site and on YouTube. Seeing what the global patient experience is really like can go a long way in helping consumers make informed decisions.
  3. Be helpful. To support the information provided on the site, Wockhardt has a call center and live online chat available 24/7. Both of these options are easy to find online and support users at the exact moment they have questions or issues about the information on the site.

For more practical advice about Web site development, see a recent article by contributor Mark Whitman, vice president of digital at Northlich, a Cincinnati-based brand consultancy: How to Fix an Underperforming Healthcare Web Site.

Rick Johnson is senior online editor of HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at
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