Nov 21, 2012 (06:11 AM EST)
Hospital Websites Don't Meet Consumer Expectations

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

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Hospital and healthcare system websites' average customer satisfaction score dropped four points since 2011, according to a healthcare satisfaction benchmark study released by customer experience analytics firm Forsee on Nov. 14.

The firm asked approximately 106,000 respondents to rank websites focusing on health information, hospital and health systems, and health insurance. For hospital and health systems, the report concluded, this year's average satisfaction score of 74 (on a 100-point scale), compared to 2011's 78, indicates consumers have growing expectations for what they can find on a hospital or health system's website.

The report said that much of the satisfaction score drop was due to new sites added to the small category. In fact, 15 sites that were rated both in 2011 and 2012 lost only an average of 0.3 points, with individual scores ranging from 63 to 85. The category included websites from organizations such as Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

[ To find out which medical apps doctors and patients are turning to, see 9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look. ]

Larry Freed, president and CEO at Forsee, said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare that in today's discussions surrounding healthcare and cost-cutting, the value of websites is often ignored. The role websites can play, he said, focuses mainly on making the industry much more consumer-driven and, at the same time, driving down healthcare costs. The three groups of sites outlined in the benchmark -- health information, hospital and health systems, and health insurance, he said, "provide a great opportunity for a more customer-friendly experience, which will translate into more use and less costs -- those who excel at it will even see increased revenue."

Hospital and health system websites "do fairly well" compared to health insurance and health information sites, said Freed, but there are opportunities for improvement. Satisfaction scores fell within a wide range of 63 to 85, with 80 being the "threshold for a top-performing site," said Freed. "So the average being mid-70s is run of the mill; hospital and health systems are doing okay, but one interesting thing to look at is consumers' expectations of these sites, and how those are rising."

Consumers are expecting "a whole lot more" from these types of websites, continued Freed, which explains the decrease in average score. The score went down, but the number of people who could accomplish what they set out to do on a hospital or health system website went up.

"Even the average loss, 0.3 [points], tells us it's moving down, but more people have accomplished the task they wanted," Freed said. "Their satisfaction is going down because their expectations are rising, and that's driven by the fact they're more apt to use healthcare sites now. Consumers can see the value they provide."

Looking forward, Freed said hospitals and healthcare systems need to focus on providing a myriad of information for consumers, like how to find the right doctor and specific medical information. "They're selling at this point," he said. "This is going to be a more competitive landscape. We're going to start using web and mobile to sell hospital systems."

Clinical, patient engagement, and consumer apps promise to re-energize healthcare. Also in the new, all-digital Mobile Power issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Comparative effectiveness research taps the IT toolbox to compare treatments to determine which ones are most effective. (Free registration required.)