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It can be difficult to determine the right personalization approach as a healthcare organization. You have to be sensitive to and protective of users’ personal information, and also be mindful of the serious scenarios in which people are coming to your site. Users may be looking to make an urgent decision about their health or find out information for a loved one in need. Personalization has to be helpful and valuable to users in that moment, but it also needs to help your organization achieve its business goals. 

When helping healthcare systems get started with personalization on their site, we often see a recurring set of questions and challenges. We use the following six steps to help healthcare system clients achieve success with personalization while abiding by the industry’s complex privacy standards, laws, and compliance standards:

  1. Start With Strategy
  2. Define Audiences and Their Needs
  3. Outline Personalization Options
  4. Develop a Roadmap
  5. Obtain Internal Buy-In
  6. Implement, Measure, & Optimize

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Start With Strategy

Website personalization can be used and implemented in many different ways, so as Velir’s Chief Strategy Officer Jenn Blazejewski says, “it’s important to remember that personalization is an optimization tactic, not a strategy.” It can make the experience look sleeker or more modern, but if it’s not serving a business or marketing goal for your organization, then it’s not worth the effort.

Start by asking yourself why you want to implement personalization. What is your organization trying to do? At the Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC), Andy Gradel, former System Director, Digital Marketing at Main Line Health summed up their primary objective for personalization by asking, “How can we get [a] person, as quickly as possible, to the page they need? How do we hold their hand without being creepy?”

For Main Line Health, and for many health systems, it’s about getting patients to schedule an appointment or contact the appropriate department at the right location quickly. Documenting these goals first is a crucial first step.  

You can then distill these business and marketing goals down into measurable outcomes in order to eventually track progress and impact around them. Articulate how you will measure the success of this implementation. Are you looking to increase site interaction or online appointment scheduling? Both? Your specific goals can vary widely, but your desired outcomes must absolutely be measurable. This is an important part of the process which will be paramount later on.

Another big part of starting with strategy is to create connections between the content on your site. A site-wide taxonomy is used to define these connections similar to a good tagging strategy on a blog.

You need take the time to define the categories of content on your site and how they all interconnect. This is essentially the foundation of most of the technical and development work that needs to happen later and if proper thought is not put into defining these relationship correctly early on, all your other efforts will likely be in vain. It’s these kind of defined relationships, and the thought around them, that allow companies like Netflix and Amazon to excel at making suggestions that you find relevant.

This can be a daunting task to take on by yourself and, in our experience, clients struggle with how to think about these connections correctly. We’ve spent a lot of time previously guiding clients through this process and cannot emphasize enough how important it is for personalization and to implement an effective user-centered design. 

Define Audiences and Their Needs

In order to make your user experience effective, you need to actually focus it around your varied audiences and their needs. Implementing personalization over a bad a user experience is like putting a band-aid over a broken bone. 

Start your personalization efforts by spending some time defining your audiences and what their greatest needs are. At this point in the process, it’s not necessary to limit yourself to the website. After all, patient experience isn’t limited to your website

The key is to be helpful without being invasive and facilitate user experiences that are more relevant to each individual. At HCIC, Andy Gradel gave a great example of thinking about needs from the users’ perspective rather than the business’ when he said, “What about things we never talk about in marketing meetings like imaging and labs? Users care about that.”  This shows a deep concern for the user over even his own role in marketing. 

Prioritizing the needs of the user like this, along with the needs of the business, ultimately helps the business in the long run. Take some time to put yourself in the shoes of each of your audiences (patients, caregivers, etc.) and explore questions like, “What would make this experience better for me?” 

In guiding clients through this process, we’ve found an even more compelling question could be, “What would make this experience worse for me (as a patient, caregiver, etc.)?” This question exposes underlying fears, allows you to understand your audiences’ pain points, and will help you understand what actions you’re trying to make easier for your audience. With some of our previous clients, reducing friction for users trying to complete key activities in this way has been wildly successful.

Once you have decided on the “why”, you’ll want to move on to answering “how” personalization should be executed. In Part 2, we’ll dive into outlining personalization options, developing a roadmap, obtaining internal buy-in, and how to implement, measure, and optimize your personalization strategy.

Are you contemplating personalization for your healthcare system? We’re happy to share what we’ve found to be helpful for our clients and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to us directly at [email protected] or Tweet Us @Velir.


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