• LinkedIn

VitalSite Search Experience Improved

Learn how you can get customizable website search results for your patients

Geonetric’s CMS allows use of taxonomy to filter search results, and auto-suggests results during searches for provider names.

I have recently become obsessed with the way that website visitors search for and find content on large, complex sites. This obsession has left its footprints in our recent VitalSite release. Before we focus on the improvements we’ve made to VitalSite, let’s start by considering how the big players utilize search.

Let’s face it. You can’t talk about search without talking about Google. But it’s important to understand this: the problem Google is trying to solve is different than the problem Wikipedia is trying to solve. And this is different still than the problem an effective hospital website solves. Google’s goal is to find a bunch of things that match the whim of the searcher close enough to give a path forward. Google has both the advantage and the challenge that the domain of their search is the entire internet. They crawl the internet looking for what a visitor wants. And because of this, we all welcome Google’s crawlers onto our sites. In fact, we go out of our way to help them understand what we want indexed, what we don’t want indexed, and even how we’d like search results to appear.

Wikipedia’s goal, on the other hand, is to find topics within the confines of their own database. They don’t worry about what the entire internet is saying. They only care about the content on their own domain. (It’s worth noting that the content is large in its own right. Wikipedia is routinely ranked in the top ten biggest and most visited websites in the world.) The advantage that Wikipedia has is that users who come searching within Wikipedia are expecting content on Wikipedia. As a result, dead ends are acceptable. Disambiguation pages and redirect pages that say, “I think you actually meant this other topic” are reasonable and expected.

What both Google and Wikipedia have figured out is the user experience. They have hundreds of user experience and software volunteers and employees concentrating on helping visitors find exactly what they are looking for. A hospital website doesn’t have those kind of resources. But, fortunately, a hospital website doesn’t have that kind of daunting task either.

Based on the data we have been collecting on search patterns on hospital websites, there are two types of searches that visitors conduct. The first is actually the easiest: the site-wide search.

In this case, the visitor is looking for information about something specific. Let’s say the visitor is pregnant and wants to tour the birth center. She comes to the hospital website and immediately locates the search box. She types in something like “pregnancy tour.” And the search results gives her enough of a direction to find what she’s looking for. This is similar to the Wikipedia or Google search problem.

The second case is module-specific search. For example, consider a visitor looking for a new primary care physician or trying to find the nearest instant care clinic. This kind of search is where understanding the user experience comes in.

In our most recent VitalSite release, we enabled:

Provider, location and other search pages to be customized using taxonomy to filter results.
Name search on providers to now auto suggest results.

With these two customizations to module search pages like providers, locations and services, VitalSite administrators can customize the experience to visitors’ expectations and needs. For example, when we looked through the data on how visitors search, we discovered that an overwhelming number of searches are name searches. So we added an auto suggest function on the name search field. This populates a list of results while the visitor types his or her query.

We also found on some sites it was extremely important that visitors have the ability to find relevant results based on queries for provider specialties or insurance policies accepted across their locations. To help support this, we added the ability to use taxonomy terms to filter results in ways that are meaningful for site visitors.

So what does this mean for you? It means more ability to customize the module search experience to your visitor’s specific needs. It means we can now do more to provide the website visitor with exactly the provider, location or service he or she is looking for. And it also means that if you’re curious about tweaking the way your own website search functions, we just might be able to help. But it requires a conversation. Are you interested?

Jennie Ocken

VitalSite Search Experience Improved