September 20, 2017 Stephanie Wagle

Lifespan Health System: An Award-Winning Digital Strategy to Support a Growing Hospital System

How we created a successful digital strategy, and award-winning homepage, for a hospital system, merging its network of websites into one coherent, empowering experience to drive patient volume and brand trust.

When it comes to picking a hospital, 77% of patients use search engines prior to booking an appointment. And before they convert, patients will typically search on symptoms and condition terms.

As the healthcare industry experiences more consolidation between healthcare and providers, creating streamlined digital experiences that satisfy patients’ expectations is a growing challenge for marketers who count on their website to drive patient volume.

The 4 keys to creating a successful digital strategy for hospital systems

At Consensus, we believe there are 4 keys to creating digital experiences that convert:

  1. A comprehensive digital strategy assessment that prioritizes your business goals, target audiences and their user goals.
  2. Diligent content management designed to make migration painless, even for large content sites.
  3. Responsive User Interface design based in research and outcomes.
  4. Outstanding design that connects authentically with your target audience.

We applied all 4 of these strategies when we set out to create a digital experience for Lifespan, Rhode Island’s first hospital system.

The strategy worked. Lifespan.org won an eHealthcare Leadership Distinction Award for Best Internet Homepage at the 2017 Healthcare Internet Conference.

As part of a larger rebranding strategy, Lifespan needed to fold their network of 16 hospital and centers and services websites into one robust, coherent and highly organized experience that would drive patient volume and patient satisfaction. What’s more, the new website needed to be a showcase for Lifespan’s transforming brand, and drive awareness of its breadth of services across Rhode Island.

Creating a successful digital strategy

We approach each new project with care and diligence, starting with a painstaking discovery process that yields a 360-degree digital strategy assessment, a set of research-based feature recommendations, and a comprehensive digital plan. Our plan is all backed by research — user surveys, stakeholder interviews, industry research, and domain expertise — giving our clients a set of recommendations they can trust and socialize to internal stakeholders.

The key to a successful digital strategy lies in not just understanding your business goals and your target audiences — it’s understanding how important each business goal and target audience segment is. In other words, we stack rank them. And after that, everything we learn and every recommendation we make is based on that ranking of goals and audience segments. This means we’ll never get led astray in our design and IA process, mistakenly prioritizing a feature because of one loud or powerful voice in the organization. Staying focused on satisfying our top user segment is something our clients thank us for time and time again.

Our digital strategy assessment for Lifespan yielded what we had learned from so many clients from our years of experience in healthcare: The website needed to drive patient volume, drive awareness of Lifespan’s breadth or services, and improve patient satisfaction. Of course, our most important audience were the patients.  A 2-week long user intercept survey on Lifespan’s network of websites helped us prioritize our feature set, and create the IA that would lead us to our ultimate experience.

Centralized Content Management Strategy

Combining 16 websites under 1 umbrella website took precision, patience, and perseverance. Working side by side with the marketing managers at Lifespan, we reviewed each piece of content on every site — thousands of URLs — to determine 3 things:

  1. Quality of Content: would it need to be rewritten, deleted or moved over to the new experience?
  2. Location of the Content: where, in the overall site taxonomy would the content need to live?
  3. Content Object Relationships: The new site experience was designed to connect Centers & Services, Locations, and Conditions — so every piece of content needed to be tagged appropriately.

At Consensus, we  “get healthcare” and leveraging our hospital and healthcare expertise we took the challenge head-on with a “Do it Right or Don’t do It” fervor. It was a diligent rebranding exercise that was played out across each and every Center and Service, Condition, Research Project, and Location in the entire network.

The end result was a smooth content import of pages, videos, locations, and doctor profiles, each tagged to the appropriate Condition, Center or Service and Location. If you like Content Taxonomies, this one is a thing of beauty.

Outcomes-based User Interface Design

With so much content, so many critical user goals, and a brand in transition, we needed a highly efficient UI, so we employed tactics we knew would drive user behaviors and achieve business goals.

Persistent navigation: With page sizes growing longer, and the scroll becoming common user behavior, incorporating persistent navigation and buttons like, “back to top,” are incredibly effective, orienting the user to where they are and what information is available to them. Plus, we know it works: sticky menus are 22% easier to navigate. And in a user study, 100% of users said that websites with sticky navigation were easier and faster to use.

For Lifespan, we knew our main navigation needed to feature Locations, Services, Conditions, Doctors, and Events — but our research told us users had some other key goals we couldn’t fit into the top navigation. So we created the Popular Links feature, and made it part of our persistent navigation so patients could always find the critical features they needed, like Request an Appointment, Pay Your Bill, and the Patients & Visitors content.

Dynamic mega menus: Did we mention Lifespan had a lot of content?

Since usability studies have shown expandable mega-menus to be a great way to showcase a lot of content, especially lower-level pages, we decided to use that approach for Lifespan.

In this case, we designed Lifespan’s mega menus to be an at-a-glance look at the content contained in each section.  We used imagery to give Lifespan the ability to promote its top content in each section. And the extra space in the menu allowed us to list the links to every top-level page in the section, so folks could dig deeper without scrolling.

Full screen search experience: On any site, one of the top user goals is search. For hospitals, it’s even more critical, with 77% of patients searching online for information before they book an appointment. We answered that user goal by creating a full screen search experience, allowing busy, multi-tasking users to focus on that singular task, getting them to an answer quickly.

Designed to achieve top user goals: We created a homepage layout that meets user goals in exactly the order our research indicated patients preferred. Starting with Lifespan’s key hospital locations, we created modules that allow folks to request an appointment and plan their visit right on the homepage. A highly visual presentation of Lifespan’s largest Centers & Services establishes trust in Lifespan’s brand and expertise, followed by events and news.

The fastest doctor finder: With its expanding network of over 1,800 doctors, spread across 6 hospitals and over 150 practice locations, Lifespan needed a powerful, simplified doctor search experience. Powered by Algolia, the Lifespan Find a Doctor Search uses filters and facets, synonyms and geo-search, to help users find the right doctor by name, location, specialty, or area of expertise – one keystroke at a time.

 

Design that makes an authentic connection

We used Lifespan’s brand palette to create a look and feel that creates an immediate emotional connection with prospective patients and their families, and establishes trust.

The Lifespan visual direction encompasses images that represent happy, healthy people, engaged in activities and relationships that are warm and genuinely connected. It promotes living a healthy, happy lifestyle, something that works perfectly with Lifespan’s tagline, “Delivering health with care.”  

We had the opportunity to define the secondary color palette for the brand, and created a warm palette of purples with a highlight of vibrant orange to balance the teal and yellow of the brand identity.  The combination of these colors offer an energy to the site that supports the healthy, happy lifestyle approach. The typographic style, Proxima Nova, is a clean, modern font that displays crisply at all sizes. And our type treatment incorporates color as well to make headlines, pull quotes, and links stand out, so each page is highly scannable and easily digestible.

The overall brand representation is warm, innovative and unique, truly setting Lifespan apart from competitors in a sophisticated, comfortable, inviting way.

The right CMS and Personalization Tools

We also conducted a thorough CMS audit to help Lifespan decide which CMS would be the right fit for their organization. In the end, Lifespan chose the Acquia-powered Drupal CMS, with Acquia Lift integration so they could create personalized experiences throughout the site.

“Delivering health with care”

At Consensus, we’re research junkies. “What do the numbers say?” is something everyone on our team asks from time to time — we seek out new ideas and proof that they work, so we can constantly deliver the best experiences to our clients and their prospects. Our long experience with healthcare, though, has taught us something even more important: which is that we know healthcare users. We know that a “prospective patient” is really a scared mom, worried daughter, or a sick patient. They’re trying to learn everything they can during a difficult time – which means they need answers they can trust quickly.

In designing the Lifespan site — and all of our healthcare sites — this deep knowledge of that patient mindset colored everything we did — how we organized the content, the images we selected, the layout and certainly the speed of the site. Because patients are looking for a hospital they can trust to help them get better as soon as possible.

Creating smart digital experiences is what we do best. We are a team of passionate smart creatives who are constantly challenging ourselves to innovate, create and deliver results for our clients. We are proud of the final Lifespan.org website, and thrilled to be continuing to work with them long after its launch!