September 22, 2015
By Jane Weber Brubaker, eHealthcare Strategy & Trends
We interviewed Paul Griffiths, MedTouch CEO and Founding Partner, to get the 50,000-foot view of CMS re-platforming projects, what it takes to succeed, and what healthcare organizations hope to achieve.
MedTouch is a Platinum Sitecore Implementation Partner and works exclusively with healthcare organizations. Sitecore is a Web content management system recently rank #1 by Gartner for “ability to execute.”
eHST: Why do clients come to you?
PG: A lot of our work is helping clients get to the place where they can really be effective digitally. We help them solve their perceived deficiencies, which is usually, we have a website that’s out of date from a brand standpoint, or it’s out of date from a technology standpoint; there are a number of things we want to be able to accomplish that we can't; we’re being held back. Their needs have changed because they are no longer able to do the website as a side project and check it off the list.
eHST: How do you begin the dialogue?
PG: We ask them, once you get your new digital presence live, how are you going to use it? What are your hopes for it? How will you know you're successful? Once we start asking those questions, even at the beginning of a relationship, we are setting them up for long-term success. The biggest shift that we’ve seen in the last few years is that we are really focusing on outcomes.
Digital marketing is an ongoing, perpetual opportunity. We help clients focus on attracting and retaining patients, and improving the patient experience. Our primary goal is helping our clients build those relationships. How we do it becomes secondary.
eHST: What functional role in the client organization do you interface with?
PG: We are seeing that marketing is tasked with the digital presence, owning it, refining it and delivering on it. IT often has a role and it’s either to support marketing's decisions or to ensure that the decisions that marketing makes are consonant with other IT choices. The clinical groups are engaged with issues of quality, transparency, and clarity around physician data.
eHST: What are the typical in-house resources clients have? Are they looking to you to fill in the resources that they can't hire, or haven't gotten approval to add to their overhead?
PG: Our goal is not to be the outsourced marketing department. Our goal is to help them get digital marketing programs off the ground and drive measurable results, like patient volume. If you don't have the tools, you can't get there, so the first step is getting proficient in the tools. Proficiency means a good user experience, accurate content, and reliable technology. Those are the table stakes. Once you're able to achieve that, then you can leverage it.
eHST: Has the function and focus of marketing in healthcare organizations changed?
PG: There’s increased demand for a more sophisticated marketing department. Our clients are looking for more out of their digital presence. They want more feedback, they want more analytics, and they want it to be more integrated. I see a lot of clients working through the implications of a rapidly changing marketplace, and that consumes them.
eHST: What’s the primary reason an organization wants to change its website?
PG: Everyone who comes to us apologizes for the age of their website. We had a client who said, 'We have done five migrations over the last 12 years. We've changed the design and we've changed the structure, but I'm worried that we are migrating content that's 12 years old that no one has looked at.' Even if they're changing the front end and the visual experience, there's still a lot of legacy content and legacy assets that are getting pulled over.
eHST: What would you suggest is a reasonable website lifespan?
I think from a big-picture standpoint, three years has been the benchmark. It takes you nine months to a year to create a site. Then you get it live, and then you're spending the next year learning and improving on it. By your third year you're probably thinking, 'Our market needs have changed; how do we reengage?'
It also depends on the size of the organization. Some of our larger clients don't have only one website. They have a lot of different versions of a website, so they have more of an evolutionary strategy. If a client has a three- to five-year business planning cycle, they should have a three- to five-year digital planning cycle, too.
eHST: How should clients be thinking about mobile?
PG: With some of our clients, the majority of their traffic is from a mobile form factor. All of our work is responsively designed. We have clients for whom more than 50 percent of their traffic is either a smartphone or tablet. I don't know how organizations, if they look at their traffic, cannot feel like it's a massive missed opportunity for them not to have a fully responsive site. Knowing how bad some of those experiences can be, it's a requirement now. It's beyond optional.
eHST: Do you have any data or anecdotal sense of what percentage of hospital sites are not responsive?
PG: If people have redesigned or rebuilt their site in the last year and a half, I would guess that the answer is yes, that they are. The vast majority of clients that we start working with do not have a responsive version. They might have a mobile site, but they certainly don't have a responsive version. I think you'd be surprised if you were to really look at regional hospital systems where they are large enough to have a decent Web presence, but may be on a slower cycle, and they might not have gotten there. But it is still surprising. It feels like something that people should've caught up to by now.
eHST: So the process of redesigning a website is nine months to year. Is that an average length?
PG: Yes, depending on size. Nine months give or take a few months is a good timeline.
eHST: Can you pin a number down to how much it costs?
PG: It depends on every organization. What I can tell you is, larger organizations are looking at the investment in their websites the same way they look at a TV campaign, except it lasts for years. The budgets have increased two- or threefold in the last few years as the complexity of the sites have likewise increased. The complexity of the sites has to do with the complexity of the organization.
eHST: Once clients get the website up, is one their goals to become more self-service?
PG: Definitely. Our goal is to enable our clients to manage the publishing challenges that they have more expediently. They need to be able to react to changes inside their organizations. We are empowering clients to be able to go in and make changes, publish content, look at analytics, and modify things appropriately.
eHST: What are some of the ways that hospitals should prepare for a website redesign?
PG: Getting the project really clearly aligned to the outcomes of the organization is the number-one priority. If the website design and the envisioning of the digital presence is tied into the larger strategic goals, it helps decisions get made faster, it helps resolve priority conflicts, which always happen, and it helps when the site eventually goes live for everyone to feel like we did something great together.
Two is really to clarify roles and responsibilities, particularly around content. Getting clear on how much is going to change and what is going to change is important. Often people's ambitions around content outstrip their ability to deliver. One of the key reasons a website launch won't go according to schedule is the complexity around content.
The third piece is to understand how the website fits into the business cycle, and how it can leverage other activities. You're slotting a big change into an organization where there might be acquisitions or new practices starting. There are always changes happening inside reasonably sized healthcare systems.
Fourth is having a really strong sense of the technology needs and requirements. Who are the real stakeholders? There are some people who have a vote and other people have a voice. Being able to clearly articulate the difference as decisions get made helps to manage expectations.
eHST: What is the best way to fail-proof a website project?
PG: We see that the time it takes to execute a project doubles if you select a vendor who doesn't know healthcare. There's a belief that healthcare needs to change and people want it to be different. I can appreciate that. But we’ve had to step into projects where someone had demonstrated experience in other industries and they couldn't deliver on the healthcare requirements and create value. We’ve been able to partner with extremely brilliant people on the clinical side and C-suite who are very outcome and long-term focused. They are incredible advocates when you know how to leverage their insight to create an engaging and strong digital experience.