Posted by Teri Sun

If I asked you how a hospital develops trustful relationships with patients, you might tell me it’s through patients’ interactions with doctors. Or their experience with the nursing staff. You might be surprised to hear me also say: your website.

With 76% of patients going online to decide on a provider, hospital websites are one of the first places where patients begin to form a relationship. And, with 61% visiting two or more sites to make their decision, forming a positive relationship is critical in a competitive healthcare marketplace.


To learn how to do this on a website, we might look at how doctors and nurses are improving the patient experience.

One of the top strategies used in the world of patient experience is the concept of listening. It’s so important that it’s Question 13 on the standard CAHPS survey: “In the last 12 months, how often did your personal doctor listen carefully to you?”

And according to Press Ganey, “When health care organizations put the patient first, and create a patient- and family-centered culture, they not only improve the patient experience, but also consistently demonstrate high-performance across an array of metrics and measures.”

Why is listening so important for patient relationships? Neuroscience tells us that listening is an essential lever for building the kind of trust that leads to decision-making.

“When someone shows concerns for us, our brain chemistry makes a shift. We become calmer, we regain our composure, and we can begin once again to think in a constructive way.”

(Source: Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results, Judith E. Glaser)


If you can show someone that you’ve listened to them through your website, then you’ve earned their attention.

With the current state of online personalization technology, there are, of course, very sophisticated ways in which a website can actually “listen” and customize a response for visitors. But, instead, I want to share one very simple way that all hospital websites can become better listeners.

Doctors say Ophthalmology. Patients say Eye Care. While a hospital may be organized according to medical specialties, if you want to avoid frustrating patients, your website shouldn’t be. Some of the best hospital websites are the ones that have rethought their navigation to be more patient-friendly.

With just a little research – through a web intercept survey and some qualitative user experience testing – you can better understand exactly what your patients are looking for. In this example for Nantucket hospital, that research turned into a strategy for a dynamic menu that lets patients navigate the site on their terms.

Patients may not know to look for “Ophthalmology” so, instead, they can navigate to the “E’s” or search for “eye care” to get to exactly where they want.

On the back-end, a synonym finder application programmed into the CMS allows the hospital to easily assign patient-centric terms to departmental pages. With every interaction, the hospital learns more and more about what patients are looking for which can then be continuously updated in the CMS.


It’s as if the website is listening.

There are, of course, many more ways in which a website can listen to its visitors. And there are equally as many strategies we can pull from the principles of patient experience and apply to website design – and marketing in general. For more inspiration for your own hospital website redesign, read the full story of how Nantucket reinvigorated its brand and used its website to build trust in the community.


White Rhino is a digital marketing agency specializing in building trust between hospitals and patients. Our B2MeSM research process uncovers psychological motivators and customized Trust LeversSM that become the strategic driver for hospital website redesign and the execution of high impact marketing programs. To learn more, please contact us.

Topics: Technology, Copywriting, Healthcare