Good UX strategy improves healthcare websites
Learn how a veteran UX director shapes digital experiences that put patients’ needs first
Creating user-centric websites in the healthcare space, Bob Prohaska, Core Creative’s Director of Digital Experience, explains his role.
Episode 12: Digital strategy
You can listen to the podcast episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.
Angi Krueger: Welcome to the Core Exchange, a healthcare marketing podcast. I’m Angi Krueger, Vice President of Marketing from Core Creative. And this week we’re continuing our interview series with some of our employees here at Core and today we welcome our Director of Digital Experience, Bob Prohaska. And he’s going to discuss his role here at Core and his observations in healthcare marketing from a digital perspective.
Angi Krueger: Welcome, Bob.
Bob Prohaska: Good to be here.
Angi Krueger: It’s fun to have you here. I sound a little nasally today because I’m getting over this cold and bronchitis and all this stuff going around right now. It’s a little crazy. We can’t wait for summer and spring to get here because it just is never ending. But thanks for being with us today. Bob comes to us from this digital perspective, which is, I think really important right now in the healthcare marketing space. And just a little background on how Bob came to Core, last year Core acquired a digital firm here in the area because we knew, especially in the healthcare space we really needed to be smarter and gain a competitive advantage of really being in that space. And Bob brings a lot of experience from the nonhealthcare world too, which is actually really interesting. So, Bob, why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about your experience and your background and all that kind of fun stuff?
Bob Prohaska: Like you had mentioned I’ve kind of worked in varying degrees of digital marketing, software development, that sort of thing. So I’ve kind of been all over the place in terms of roles as far as design, product managements, user experience, even a little bit of development. So have a diverse understanding of all things digital. But currently in my day to day I oversee the development team here at Core help the user experience discipline.
Angi Krueger: Can you explain what a user experience specialists does and why it’s important?
Bob Prohaska: User experience is a catch-all term. My involvement with user experience depends on what either the project requires or the role requires. The term is wide enough to encompass both information architecture, it could be interaction design, it could be user research design, even a little bit of development is kind of wrapped up into it. To what extent a user experience is involved with a project, just depends on what that project requires. And ultimately it comes to making sure that you’re delivering a good online or user experience for the people that are interacting with the product or the channel. And making sure that what you’re designing meets their needs as well as is communicating the experience that your organization wants to communication.
Angi Krueger: Right, that’s so important right now, especially with the topic of patient experience being a hot topic it also means that patient experience online, from a digital perspective as well. So yeah that’s really important these days.
Bob Prohaska: Yeah, there’s a lot of overlap between patient experience and user experience. A lot of the terms are used interchangeably and it just depends. Like I said, I like getting more specific with the different roles within user experience. User experience is such a catch-all term.
Angi Krueger: Right, so before Core you worked on primarily what clients outside of healthcare? I know you did do healthcare as well, but what other clients did you work with?
Bob Prohaska: Yeah. I spent a good chunk of my career in the power sports, RV, and marine industry offering digital and online marketing solutions for dealers and OEMs. But beyond that, once I moved into the agency where all I worked in all different kinds of industries, all different kinds of clients from B2B, B2C, CPG, and like you said, even some healthcare.
Angi Krueger: How does that B2B and B2C experience translate to healthcare?
Bob Prohaska: I mean obviously every industry’s unique and different. But the fundamentals are a lot of the same stuff. So certain industries and clients are ahead or behind of others in their space. But having a wide variety of experience in the different industries allows you to pull from what others are doing well. So just having a wide variety of experience across all of them allows you to see where some are ahead and where some are behind.
Angi Krueger: Yes, there is so much out there about healthcare really being behind when it comes to technology and just a lot of things in general when it comes to marketing, especially in that digital space. And now that healthcare is moving to more a retail experience for consumers, I think having some of that B2C background is just really, really important. So you know that’s really helpful from that patient experience standpoint because patients are now expected to be treated in the healthcare arena just like they are when they go online and shop for something. You know they want convenience, they want information, they want a lot of stuff.
So I think that experience is definitely helpful in this space. In what ways are patient journeys specifically similar or different than say someone shopping or a new consumer product or business service?
Bob Prohaska: I think we’re obviously seeing the consumerization of patients. Their patient journey, the way that they’re shopping for healthcare is much more closely related to the way that they’re shopping for other products nowadays.
The tools and things that we need to do to engage them aren’t the same as they used to be. We can no longer tell a consumer who we are, who are brand is, what we stand for. They need to be able to discover it on their own and we need to provide the … we need to be transparent and provide them the tools they need in order to learn about brands themselves.
Angi Krueger: Yeah it’s interesting because when you have a condition or you think you have something, the first thing you do is jump online and Google search it, right?
Bob Prohaska: Yeah.
Angi Krueger: And so if that information, you’re going to find it from various places. How is that information going to draw you back to your providers locally as to where you are? And how can you connect with specialists in your area that help treat that? It’s just really interesting how that whole experience has become just so loose in the sense that you’re just going to go on to Google right away. So if you have a condition, let’s search it, let’s find it. How is that going to connect you back to your primary care doctor or is it not? Is it going to pull you away and think of a different type of specialist to see just based on the information that’s provided to you? It’s really all about you know how are we reaching those consumers in that digital space. How are we educating and teaching them. And then how are we are emotionally connecting with those patients to draw them to either your website. It’s not obviously digital, it’s not contained to a website, but it’s all those digital channels. So, how are we doing that?
It’s really interesting actually, today I was surfing through some LinkedIn articles and I came across this one from HITInfrastructure.com and there was some research done on behalf of SAP, some porter research of 100 healthcare CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs from acute care hospitals and integrated delivery networks, more than 300 beds from the top challenges facing health systems this year. And it was really interesting because there were a lot of the typical hot buttons that you hear are top concerns from these executive, but 53% cited patient experience, which is of course as you said is very broad, but a lot of that can come to digital. But 27% specifically said digital patient engagement was one of the top priorities for them.
I mean we’re hearing and seeing it, it’s just a matter of what are we doing about it and how can we take it to the next level? I mean consumers are becoming the drivers of how we need to market ourselves you know for healthcare systems and hospitals. So it just really stresses that importance. What’s your point of view on that right now?
Bob Prohaska: The whole digital patient experience thing, thinking about focusing on the website as your sole digital patient experience channel is no longer an option. Your website might not even be a location or a channel that your patients or prospective patients end up visiting prior to interacting with your brand. So the need to manage your online reputation and your data is not just confined to your website. It needs to be done across the web. You have to put procedures in place internally to be able to manage what people are saying on third-party websites or third-party review sites.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Bob Prohaska: You need to know what conversations are happening in social. You also need to make sure that your data is relevant and up to date across the web. There are procedures that you could put in place to make sure that that’s being looked at. But there’s also tools that can be put in place from a digital perspective to make sure that you’re keeping those things top of mind.
Angi Krueger: Yeah, I know in the past I’ve seen some really amazing either landing pages or even micro sites that are other drivers that can get patients more engaged with connecting with like patient stories and things like that. They’re just a more experiential opportunity outside the .com or you know of your actual health system, so I’ve seen that being successful. I personally just was going through dealing with specialists in certain areas for healthcare and it’s interesting, my primary care doctor referred me to a specialist, right? Because that’s normally how it works. And I didn’t know anything about this specialist, but first thing I did was, again, Google that specialist. And it was interesting how many reviews came up and comments and of course I read through all those before I went and visited that specialist because I just wanted another point of view besides my primary care physician of what people thought of this doctor.
Bob Prohaska: Yeah, consumers are looking for authenticity as far as from the organizations as well as transparency. And managing … Knowing the conversations that are happening across the web as well as being able to respond to those things offers that level of transparency.
Angi Krueger: Right. And it’s a lot for marketing … you know marketing individuals to manage so you’re right, it’s about those internal processes of how do we tackle all this happening at the same time? And there are ways that you know you can do that effectively. So that’s important these days, especially with all the different sites that are out there.
Switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about one of the pieces of content that you wrote recently on our website called Fully Engaging the Healthcare Consumer Beyond Page Based Websites. Can you just give our listeners a little CliffsNotes version of that?
Bob Prohaska: Typically we’re used to page based websites and what I mean by that is just a big website that’s organized into sections and pages. I wrote this article because I think there’s a trend, or at least there’s a few things that are happening that might not require such a heavy reliance on sort of page-based structures for websites in order for users to find what they’re looking for. Hospital websites are, for the most part, large, complex, requires people to drill down through pages and sections and ultimately hopefully find what they’re looking for. Information architecture’s a big piece of what I do as a user experience person, but I think if I had the option of driving someone to the content that they’re looking for without requiring them to drill down through a big content structure, I would do that every single time.
Bob Prohaska: A couple of technologies I called out where chat bots and voice search. As far as chat bots go, artificial intelligence is something that’s getting good enough to where people are more comfortable interacting with a system instead of interacting with an individual. So if you think about the way we’re all sort of trained and used to looking for answers, you jump on Google, type in a question, and Google gives you relevant search results. With chat bots, the promise is that you can have a more back and forth conversation and ultimately get that person to the content they need in a more organic way.
Angi Krueger: So you’re saying, just to make sure everybody understands what a chat bot is, it’s the thing when you go to a website and the pop up comes up, right? And there’s Jane and she’s going to help, “Can I help you today?” That’s what you mean by that interaction of how smart that chat bot is?
Bob Prohaska: Yeah, exactly. You’re looking for a piece of content and you’re looking for the answer to a question. Instead of requiring someone to go and drill down through a section and maybe a service line, you can actually get to that content quicker by just interacting with the chat bot.
Angi Krueger: I see, yeah.
Bob Prohaska: That’s how people are looking for content currently on Google.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Bob Prohaska: You’re not drilling down through sections in Google to find information.
That was one piece of it. The other piece of technology that I called out was the trend in towards voice search. Instead of actually getting search results based on a question, you’re getting Google Home, or Alexa, or Siri serving you up the best answer to your question.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Bob Prohaska: So with that, there’s considerations from an SEO standpoint to make sure that your organization or your answers are the one that the systems are serving up. But it’s something that’s going to be more and more prevalent as people get used to interacting with these voice search or these virtual assistants.
Angi Krueger: My son has one of those Alexa Echo Dots and it’s interesting the questions that he asks all the time. And it is interesting on a local level, how convenient it could be to say, “Hey, Alexa, call and make a doctor’s appointment for me today with Dr. so and so.” That’s obviously around the corner and probably happens in some places already.
Bob Prohaska: Definately. I think to what extent and how quickly that transition happens is still yet to be determined.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Bob Prohaska: But we are definitely seeing the trend in that direction and voice search is such a hot topic, both in healthcare as well as in marketing in general.
Angi Krueger: Yeah. I mean it’s surprising how fast … or far it’s already come already. It’s just amazing. So what are some essential marketing technologies and tools that modern day healthcare marketers have at their disposal? You know like what advantages do they provide?
Bob Prohaska: Yeah, there’s so many technologies out there. You see in the infographics of all the different vendors and technology partners that are available to healthcare as well as any other organizations.
Angi Krueger: It can be overwhelming I’m sure.
Bob Prohaska: Yeah, definitely. I think the two that I’d like to call out are your CMS as well your online reputation management tools. I had mentioned it before that online reputation management is such an important piece because we can no longer rely on consumers coming through your “digital front door” or your website. So there’s that piece of it. And then there’s also the CMS. And the content management system is an important piece from my perspective because I feel like it needs to be both powerful as well as usable.
Angi Krueger: So when you’re saying the CMS, on the actual say your .com of your hospital system’s website.
Bob Prohaska: Right. It becomes a hub for your content. It becomes our home base for the content that you’re hosting on your website. So having a powerful one in place allows you to integrate with other systems. It becomes sort of the structured data backend for the answers the chat bots can provide. So having something that is well structured and powerful, can easily be integrated is incredibly important.
Bob Prohaska: The other piece of that is the usable piece of a CMS, or the admin. And I won’t go into which specifically, the merits or drawbacks of some of the CMS’s that are out there, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard from organizations or businesses that implemented the most powerful CMS’s and the really popular ones only to find that there’s really one or two power users in the organization that uses them because no one else either is trained on them or is willing to take the time to learn them. Which typically that means that the website isn’t being updated as much, content’s not being managed properly.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Bob Prohaska: So for us an important aspect of spinning up a CMS is making sure that we’re taking into account the admin as a user. So not only structuring the website so that it’s usable from a consumer’s perspective, but also thinking about the people that are going to be maintaining this content and maintaining the website and thinking about them as a user so that we’re structuring the admin so that it’s easy to use, it makes sense, and they can take the responsibility of content management and administration and spread it out amongst individuals so that each individual has ownership of their piece and it doesn’t require a ton of training in order to maintain.
Angi Krueger: That’s so important now especially with relevant, current content being so necessary to, again, reach your audience in the right way. You know and then the other benefit I would think too is just efficiency within your own marketing department and just hey we want to put this up here, let’s do it, let’s make this change, let’s do this today because we need to do it today. So yeah that’s really important thing to consider.
Bob Prohaska: Yeah and so the CMS was one piece of the technologies stack that I had said was important. The other thing was that I’d mentioned online reputation management. And with that there is a lot of components to it. It’s managing your business data to make sure that it’s accurate across the web. With the rise of voice search and the way consumers are looking for information about your either brick and mortar locations or your physicians, they’re likely not starting at your website, they’re starting with a Google search. And so making sure that the information about those locations or physicians is accurate across all the third party sites is incredibly important.
The other aspect of online reputation management is the management of the reviews and the conversations that are happening across the web. Likely conversations and reviews are being submitted on Google, on some of these other review sites. If you’re not part of that conversation, you’re ceding control of any kind of your reputation and your brand is being portrayed across the web. So having a process in place and a platform in place where you can keep an eye on the reviews that are happening and the conversations that are happening allows you to interact with those individuals and either respond to bad ones or comment on good ones or even solicit more feedback from your current patients and use the information that they’re providing to highlight trends or highlight opportunities to improve your patient experience.
Angi Krueger: Right. It’s interesting. I’m sure if you monitored that on a regular basis you will see common themes, you know, so if there’s an issue and people are talking about it all the time you could act on that a lot faster.
Bob Prohaska: Yeah.
Angi Krueger: That’s really going to help make a difference because if you wait six months to identify an issue, I mean it’s just going to keep getting worse. So yeah. Wrapping up here, let’s just quickly talk about you know what’s been your biggest surprise in diving into the healthcare world you know from your digital perspective? And what are the biggest opportunities you see in this industry?
Bob Prohaska: I think one of my biggest surprises in coming and learning more about the healthcare industry was really that focus on wellness as a future priority for a lot of these organizations. And it’s not every organization, but a lot of the organizations that we work with or that we’re coming across, that focus is on wellness. And previous to, you know, coming and learning about these organizations from a marketing perspective I was learning about them as a consumer.
Angi Krueger: Right.
Bob Prohaska: So I didn’t actually get the feel that their focus was on wellness through their marketing initiatives. For me that means I’m guessing I’m probably not the only one that also didn’t get message. So with that I feel like there is a real big opportunity to communication that wellness focus. And in order to do that, I mean it requires a super strong brand foundation, you know it requires powerful storytelling, the correct marketing technologies in place in order to communication that type of thing. And then also the data to measure what’s resonating, what consumers are looking for, and how to communication them.
Angi Krueger: I think it is a huge opportunity and it is you know being present in that space and being part of that conversation. Because at the end of the day you don’t really think about healthcare until you really need it, right? So just being relevant and engaged with your audience on a regular basis is going to help them think of you first when they do have a need. This has been great talking with you and hopefully everybody in our audience has a little better understanding of you personally too now. And we look forward to having you back again sometime to talk more details, maybe after we go to HCIC or one of those events like that. There’s always some really relevant fun stuff that we all like to talk about so maybe we could talk after that as well.
Bob Prohaska: Thanks for having me.
Angi Krueger: Thanks.