Why on-site research should be a priority for healthcare

Madison Miner, CEO and Founder of WompHealth

Healthcare websites are extremely complicated. From researching providers to finding locations, customers are forced to dig around a growing slew of care options. To simplify the customer experience, a modern approach to site search is needed.

The rigid search tools of yesteryear are just that – obsolete. Customers expect to find what they need effortlessly. And establishing a connection with a customer – from the start of a visit – starts with research.

The search for health care is interrupted

A chasm separates good and bad search experiences. Modern research gives customers control to identify care. And a bad search experience leads to dead ends and frustration.

Customers today are conditioned to research. And they expect a single search bar to interpret complex queries and return actionable results.

After decades of using Google, and its ability to understand and present data, customers are faced with search everywhere they go on the Internet. From travel to real estate websites, industries have embraced search as the go-to, call-to-action to attract customers. Yet on healthcare websites, search is often hidden, interrupted, and only used to find items.

It’s only when a customer self-selects to “find a doctor” or “find a location” that a top-notch search experience emerges, and even then functionality is lackluster. Without fail, the search applications that power most healthcare websites are rigid and rarely match results relevant to customer queries.

Customers want a simple experience to resolve issues, and healthcare websites can’t rely on low-level search capabilities.

Learning lessons from e-commerce

E-commerce, a fiercely customer-centric industry, constantly strives to reduce digital friction. If a customer searches for “men’s red polka dot XL shirt available near me”, the results will be real-time and match the desired characteristics, such as color, size and availability. This level of personalization is possible with healthcare, where a search for “Spanish-speaking family doctor on Capitol Hill” returns localized family care options, filtered by next available appointment.

Digital excellence is the bread and butter of e-commerce. While not a one-to-one comparison, both industries have the customer at heart, and delivering relevant results is critical to success.

Improve the search experience

More care options are welcome. But more options often add steps to the customer journey. Smart search is the bridge. Before building in-house or selecting a software vendor, consider the following features.

Long tail research: A search engine is only as good as its ability to capture intent. The most common applications can process specific queries, such as a doctor’s name or a specific condition. But when a customer searches for “where to find the nearest flu vaccine,” most apps yield no results. An effective search must be able to perform exact, long-tail queries and return results.

Natural languagee: Customers enter a wide range of questions and terms using simple language. Modern search is able to understand natural language – by speaking rather than typing keywords – with the precision needed to display relevant results. Natural language processing uses machine learning models to infer meaning to match results precisely.

Mistake Tolerance: Health care is full of complex terms, conditions, names and places. A simple spelling mistake probably yields no results, closing the digital door to the customer. A search application should never return any results. Instead, it should offer suggestions, alternatives, and pathways that narrow the gap between goal and action.

Synonyms: Clients look for symptoms and medical conditions. Even if they use words and descriptions that do not correspond to a specialty, intelligent algorithms can decipher the intention. For example, the algorithm should understand that searches for sinus infections or nose pain scale up to ear, nose, and throat providers.

Elements for Successful Search Results

The display of results is as essential as the processing of questions. Keep in mind the following best practices:

Badges: It is important that badges accompany vendor or location results, letting the customer know why each result appears. If a user searches for “family medicine,” provider profiles should highlight the searched keyword or phrases. It is a visual clue that the result is a match.

Real-time results: Smart search solutions enable well-sorted results. For example, health systems may choose to present results only at the next available appointment. Using multi-layered and intelligent caching, availability can be sorted and filtered, ensuring that only available time slots are displayed.

Locationlocation, location: Presenting results based on granular location provides a more personalized experience. Customers can immediately see suppliers in their area or in a neighborhood they know.

Faceted results: Customers will leave quickly if they don’t discover relevant results on the first page. Faceted search gives users the tools to filter and refine results. From insurance, availability, locations, gender and locations, filters allow customers to specify what they are looking for.
Taking research from obscurity to notoriety

A digital gateway is a modern approach to connecting clients to on-demand care. It’s a way to ensure that every step works together to deliver digital excellence and improve the patient experience. For new and returning customers, everything they need should be accessible, relevant and help simplify an undeniably complex process.

Done right, search reduces steps and frustration and instantly matches clients with the right kind of care. It’s time to rethink what’s possible with search – bringing functionality out of the shadows and into digital.

About Madison Miner

Madison Miner is CEO of WompHealth, a front-end platform that modernizes the patient experience. Madison has over 20 years of software engineering experience and is relentless in finding creative ways to combine rich functionality with performance to reduce friction with customers. An e-commerce veteran, Madison is focused on putting the customer at the center of the digital front door.

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