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Your New Hospital Website Action Plan

Learn best practices and tips from healthcare industry leaders across the country who have been where you are, wanting a new website.

Let your vision for a new website flourish by using this clear, easy-to-follow action plan with added guidance from healthcare industry leaders. You’ll gain insight on building a case to present to your C-Suite team, the steps it takes to create a new website and even how to give your current vendor notice. When you use this guide, you’ll save time and increase your chances of budget approval.

Access to expert advice

A website redesign is something every healthcare marketer goes through. These experts recently went through a redesign. They can help you prepare with proven tips for convincing your executive team it’s time for a new website or content management system (CMS).

Because the 2021 Healthcare Digital Marketing Trends Survey shows that digital strategy is at the heart of the redesigned experience, we want you to have access to expert advice. Sprinkled throughout this helpful how-to, you’ll get insight from Alexandria Cruey, Director of Marketing & Communications for Fisher-Titus in Ohio, Barry Wallace, Web & Social Media Specialist at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and Terri Skitch, Digital Marketing Manager, at PIH Health in Whittier, California.

They joined Geonetric for a redesign roundtable and shared how a redesign helped them meet organizational goals like:

  • Showcase the breadth and depth of their healthcare system
  • Bring a strong offline brand online
  • Promote primary care and providers more prominently

Your 6-step action plan

Planning prevents your ideas from getting shut down. Luckily for you, pitching a case to your leadership team for a new website has never been easier when you prepare using this solid six-step plan.

This action plan will help you:

  • Benchmark your website with local and national competitors
  • Define and communicate your website goals
  • Demonstrate the need for a new website based on redesign and re-platform cycles
  • Gather stakeholder feedback
  • Learn other teams’ website goals and see if yours align
  • Show your commitment to staying within budget
  • Demonstrate the return of investment
  • Launch a new website that meets your organizational goals and web users’ top tasks

Step one: Benchmark your website

Fisher-Titus is in rural Ohio and has a lot of competition in their area. Alexandria Cruey knew that a new website was the answer to inform their community that they could get high-quality care close to home without needing to travel.

Alexandria needed to make a case for a new website and supporting digital marketing initiatives and prove it would have a substantial role in driving business for their organization.

While it’s common for marketers to look to industry-leading organizations for ideas that can push their digital strategy forward, Alexandria knew comparing their organization to an industry leader wouldn’t have the impact she needed with internal stakeholders. Instead, she focused on comparing their current site to their direct, local competitors that impact Fisher-Titus’ business. She found that when you compare yourself to a direct competitor and are weak, you might just find yourself with the budget you need.

Her tips for selling the need for a redesign are:

  • Emphasize how quickly websites can become outdated since digital trends and user expectations are rapidly changing
  • Compare your website to your local competitors and note the weaknesses
  • Grab screenshots that highlight your weaknesses
  • Survey your leadership team to document how important it is to them to have a strong website presence
  • Keep a running record of the negative comments people have about your website
  • Ask stakeholders specifics about what they think constitutes a “good” healthcare website

These steps will help you determine where to focus your pitch for a new website budget. If you compare yourself to an organization out of the market, consider how you compare to your competitor’s:

  • Business models
  • Competitive landscape
  • Resources
  • Size

Step two: Define your goals

Barry Wallace knew East Tennessee Children’s Hospital needed a new web design and CMS to extend their geographic footprint and build a more robust provider directory that highlights the expertise of their doctors.

When creating goals for a redesign, he suggests you:

  • Create a list of potential goals
  • Determine how to measure the success of each goal
  • Look for potential barriers to achieving your goals
  • Identify how the plan to overcome any potential obstacles
  • Review and iterate your list

Barry encourages healthcare marketers to take the time to shore up communication with every department in the hospital. It can be a big challenge finding the right people to talk to. By doing it early on, you’ll know who has the information you need and gain their support as you move forward with making your goals a reality.

Step three: Create a digital strategy roadmap

Your website is an extension of your brand, which means patients can find you anytime, anywhere. Because your website never sleeps, it’s essential to show a direct tie to your organizational strategy and how you plan to build a new site that allows for growth.

When creating your digital strategy roadmap, demonstrate what you need to accomplish your goals together online. For example:

  • Demonstrate that consumers choose their doctors with online ratings and reviews and why your website needs to have them if your goal is to grow patient volume
  • Explain how your website’s current features and functionalities don’t support your goal to create a seamless user experience for access to care
  • Highlight the need for people to find and register for classes and events throughout your organization, especially if your goal is around population health and wellness

Step four: Prove the ROI

When you outline your digital strategy, demonstrate the value of increasing your reach online. Discuss how people are currently using your site and how they expect to navigate their healthcare journey online.

The effectiveness of your website impacts your organization’s bottom line. When you have a website that meets your users’ needs, you’ll see an increase in:

  • Average session duration
  • Conversions
  • Number of sessions
  • Organic search ranking
  • Organic referrals
  • Overall web traffic and traffic from a specific demographic
  • Pageviews

The key to proving ROI is to go a step farther than the baseline metrics listed above and tie that traffic to value and conversions. Some examples:

  • Tie appointment requests to downstream revenue for targeted service lines
  • Tie site traffic to the cost of paying for that traffic through online advertising
  • Tie online bill pay to faster payment collection

Step five: Explain the risks of not moving forward

Keeping your digital marketing efforts where they are now will keep you or put you behind your competition. Be sure your C-Suite team understands that having local competitors outperform you puts you at risk of:

  • Losing traffic if your priority audiences can’t find you online
  • Creating a poor user experience
  • Missing the mark of meeting your organizational goals
  • Losing market share of your health services
  • Having ineffective brand awareness efforts makes it difficult to acquire new patients
  • Losing brand loyalty
  • Having an inaccessible website by not meeting the AA standards for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – which also puts you at risk of getting sued

Step six: Making the pitch

Take a page from Terri Skitch from PIH Health in Whittier, California. Terri knows that assets age quickly in the digital world. That’s why she advises you to:

  • Combine the above efforts into a presentation that displays both the importance of a high-performing website to your leadership team and where you are deficient compared to your local competition
  • Anticipate objections and questions and come prepared with answers that include facts and data
  • Encourage the biggest internal nay-sayers to join your web committee so you gain their buy-in early and often

Creating your website

Once you get the approval to move forward with a new website, write your RFP, find the right partner and platform, it’s time to put your vision into action. Outline your process with a project plan to help you stay within your budget and timeline.

Your project plan should map out your steps in sequential order:

  • Define and get buy-in on goals while returning to them often to make sure your work is aligned. Include key stakeholders early and often in key decisions, such as approving the design or navigation.
  • Identify an internal project manager to keep you on schedule and within budget. Work with your partner agency to create phases of a website project, prelaunch, launch day and post-launch initiatives.
  • Assess your internal team’s skill set and capacity by outsourcing gaps for and support early to prevent delays.
  • Monitor your internal team’s progress, ensuring full adoption of the project management process and removing any ‘blockers’ that team members have flagged. A blocker can be anything preventing a task from getting completed, from a gap in someone’s web design knowledge to a missing piece of content needed to complete a page design. When a team member flags up a blocker, the project manager works with them to find a solution.
  • Work with your partner to determine the best practices for working on two sites at simultaneously – keeping your current site up to date while bringing the new site live.
  • Iterate your plan using data to drive decisions.
  • Train your internal team on how to use the new CMS platform.
  • Create phases for launch such as your must-haves that align with your top goals, features that can wait, and items that a nice to have but not essential.

All three experts agree that it’s vital to create phases for your redesign, especially when it comes to content. Not having your site’s content ready is often the primary culprit to a delayed launch. To stay within your timeline and budget, make sure your team is refreshing and writing content early and often. If that’s not feasible, outsource content to your partner agency so they help you get it done.

Give your current vendor notice

It’s not uncommon to switch web vendors. When you are ready to make a vendor transition, be sure to determine how much notice to cancellation of services you need to give your vendor, which is often listed in your existing contract. When possible, do this early, many contracts have lengthy notification lead times.

Next, you’ll want to write a letter that includes:

  • Your organization name and account number (if applicable)
  • Your accordance with your agreement and terms of the contract
    • Mention the number of notice days given to comply with legal obligations
  • Name of your new vendor and how you will be moving forward
    • Request a transition meeting and the date you want everything completed by

After you notify your vendor, you’ll continue to run your website with them until the new site is ready to launch. Typically, that launch is before a renewal with the current vendor. Make sure to plan extra time in case of unexpected changes to your launch schedule due to unforeseen issues.

If your launch extends past the contract date with your current vendor, most vendors will allow you to renew for a short period or month-to-month. Be prepared for this possibility and the possible expense. When the new site is ready to launch, a reconfiguration of your domain (DNS) will point users to the new site so consumers can easily find you.

Plan with Geonetric

Ready to start your redesign project? Or looking for more tips? Contact us – we can help every step of the way. And if you’d like to learn more about VitalSite, the CMS that Fisher-Titus, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and PIH Health call home, sign up for a demo.

Bryan Fentress

Digital Solutions Director

Your New Hospital Website Action Plan