Fully engaging the healthcare consumer beyond page-based websites

December 2, 2018
Bob Prohaska Director of Digital Experience

Two digital trends to engage healthcare consumers

The shift from healthcare patient to healthcare consumer has brought with it a mindset shift in the way we interface with people digitally. A healthcare marketer whose sole focus for digital engagement is a website focused on statically displaying information is likely already failing to meet consumer expectations. Even a well organized, visually pleasing website that clearly communicates the brand story isn’t enough. Browsing the pages of a website is just one way consumers find information. More than ever consumers in their everyday lives are accessing personalized information through chat and voice. That’s just one example. By not addressing the needs of the consumer with new technologies, experiences that people come to expect as soon they arrive on the scene, marketers are missing an opportunity to capitalize before their competitors do.

If they take that opportunity, developing and serving the experience of their patients, health systems will provide a differentiator that studies show will improve patient loyalty.

As consumers get more comfortable with certain digital technologies in their daily lives they come to expect them in their healthcare experience. If you aren’t providing your audience what they need, they are perfectly willing to find someone who does. Here are two trends to explore as you look to fully engage consumers across digital technologies and beyond the world of page-based websites.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots

Navigating a series of pages to reach the right content takes effort, even in the most well organized experience. Helping the user find that information through the assistance of a chatbot could minimize that effort. Healthcare is well positioned to capitalize on this technology due to the many decision trees and systems already in place for the diagnosis and triage of conditions. This isn’t a trend destined for the distant future. According to Gartner “Twenty-five percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two percent in 2017”. If you hadn’t noticed the calendar, 2020 is just one year away. Chatbots and AI are already being used today in healthcare. Piedmont Healthcare has a “health bot” that can help with common tasks on their website.

While launching a chatbot can be a large undertaking, it’s possible to start with modest goals and eventually develop more robust solutions. The first step should always be deciding what the purpose of the chatbot is, what problems you are hoping to solve, and your goals. With that in mind, it’s easier to assemble a small team, evaluate vendors, and work toward developing a proof of concept quickly. As with anything, building the foundation now will help you implement more robust solutions in the future.

 

Voice Interface

There is an adage in the world of UX, “no interface is the best interface”. This has never been more true than with the rise of the virtual assistants and products being offered by Google, Amazon, and Apple. According to Google, currently 1 in every 5 mobile searches is carried out via voice. As natural voice recognition continues to improve, consumers will likely rely less on visual interfaces.

In a survey by Yext of 1,000 adults who have asked a healthcare-related questions using a voice device:

  • 17 percent use voice search at least once per day
  • Nearly 1 in 3 would prefer to use a voice search device for health information
  • The top questions respondents are interested in asking via voice were local questions, such as the nearest urgent care (55 percent of respondents), a doctor’s location (44 percent), or where a prescription can be picked up (36 percent)

Getting started in voice search requires a commitment to utilizing current SEO best practices such as making sure your content is accessible to search engines, structured, and long tail keyword focused (i.e. how humans search). Pair these best practices with an updated Google My Business listing and ad campaigns optimized for “near me” searches for some good first steps to being found with voice searches.

While neither of these technologies are pervasive across the healthcare industry (yet), we are starting to see great examples of how they are being used in practice. These technologies aren’t being implemented just because they are the latest and greatest trend. They are solving problems based on customer needs. What consumers ask for and what they need can sometimes vary considerably. So it’s imperative to have a strong research and discovery process from which strategies can be defined to meet consumer needs. The previously discussed trends are a few things we are starting to see pick up steam in the industry, but ultimately what you end up implementing should be rooted in a deep understanding of what your consumers need. Otherwise it’s just another new technology.

Bob Prohaska is the Director of Digital Experience at Core Creative, a branding agency that specializes in telling the life-changing stories for mid-market healthcare systems and the emerging med-tech world. 

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