A global survey of more than 1,000 online users in the healthcare market finds that while many providers use the web to better serve patients, there is plenty of room for improvement.

The survey, conducted by e-commerce/online marketing vendor Kentico, revealed that nearly three- quarters of respondents believe that websites currently offered by providers need to be more helpful. Among the gripes cited by those surveyed: the inability to contact healthcare professionals via the user’s preferred method of contact; difficulty finding the information they’re looking for; and inability to chat with a healthcare representative via the website in real time.

Also See: Gap Remains with Patient-Physician Online Communication

When it comes to the most desired features from a provider website, respondents ranked ease of contact as the top feature, although 37 percent said they can’t even reach providers via email. Ease of access to information ranked a close second. While 69 percent reported finding value from receiving email or text appointment reminders, guidelines for upcoming tests, or other useful information, nearly one-third of respondents expressed some difficulty in accessing and navigating healthcare-related sites through a mobile device.

And, although those surveyed put mobile text messaging with providers towards the top of the list of communication choices, only 19 percent reported being able to communicate with providers this way. Not surprisingly, when it came to grading provider use of mobile technology to connect with patients, respondents gave a C rating. When asked to rate provider websites, more than half of those surveyed were tied between giving them a B or C grade.

These shortcomings have the potential for real damage to providers given that 65 percent of survey respondents indicated that they decide—at least part of the time—which providers to use based on their website. In addition, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they rely on online reviews when picking a provider, while almost a third called such online reviews “very important” to their decision making. Still, 69 percent of those surveyed don’t consider a provider’s social media presence on the web to be important.

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