Thanks to digital advancements, the first point of contact between international patients and medical travel providers is a website. Medical tourists can obtain all the essential information they require to make a medical travel decision without leaving their homes with just a click of a button. Therefore, your website forms an interface between your medical travel program and potential health payers and, as such, will likely have a strong impact on the success (or lack thereof) of your program.
As with most digital platforms, the structure and organization of your user interface correlate with the user experience. If clients find it challenging navigating your website or finding relevant information, it may influence their perception of the quality of care you offer. Further, it stands to reason that health providers with websites that offer essential information that is targeted to medical travel patient needs and is easy to find will likely receive more inquiries than those that don’t. Patients are already stressed enough with a myriad of medical problems for which they seek help; creating an intricate or convoluted website only makes your program less likely to be selected for their health travel needs.
That said, there are other factors at play in designing your website or user interface to improve the patient experience and your brand visibility. Beyond curating information on your website that is relevant to your medical travel patient populations, it also matters how you present the information, in what language(s) it is available, what images are used, and whether the content aligns with the cultural nuances of your target audience.
Here are some factors that are essential in building a website for your medical travel program that is focused on enhancing the patient experience:
Relevance to the target audience
More often than not, traveling patients look for specific information when reviewing a medical provider’s user website. Imagine a patient who has been trying for years to achieve a healthy weight and has had to deal with the social, health, and psychological impact of morbid obesity. When this patient is going through a medical travel program’s website, there are key nuggets of information they are seeking.
First, in the context of obesity treatment or weight loss procedures, prospective patients want to know full details about the procedures you offer, their various costs as well as their success rates, risks, complications, and long-term outcomes. This will generally hold true for all medical procedures or treatments across all specialties. Further, they want to know who would be performing these procedures: what are their qualifications, level of experience, training, as well as their success rate.
Further, in the post-pandemic era of medical travel, there is a greater emphasis on safety and hygiene standards. Most patients are not willing to travel to a medical tourism destination to learn what safety measures are in place or to find out what happens if they are confronted by an emergency or unexpected medical complication. They want to have a clear understanding of your protocols before they travel. Your website and other communication channels should proactively educate potential patients about what to expect prior to their journey.
Patients' questions about what to expect during the trip and how the trip would be planned from departure to discharge must also be met with clear information for each stage of the patient journey. This must include pre-travel medical checks and tests, care plans, flight booking, visa information, transportation logistics, accommodation, post-discharge recovery, and local tourism attractions.
Finally, is there an easy way for the intending medical tourist to contact you for more information or further engagement? Do they have to be put on hold for hours to speak to your representative? Are the contact numbers on your website still valid or do patients have to try hours on end to connect through a non-existent phone number?
Patients often visit multiple medical travel programs’ websites to eventually narrow their choices and the more detailed and relevant your website, the more likely it is that a patient will engage with your program.
Factor in Cultural Nuances
Our cultural differences heavily influence our perceptions. So, essentially, you can say the same thing to two people from two different cultural backgrounds and get different reactions. Not taking this crucial factor into account can negatively impact the user/patient experience and the effectiveness of your website.
Beyond ensuring the information on your website is relevant to your target audience, adequate localization is needed to communicate these pieces of information effectively to the audience. The process of localizing your program’s information involves taking into account the language and cultural contexts of your target audience.
For example, in what language is the information communicated; what visual imagery appears on your websites; how are colors represented on the website; and how are the texts and images laid out? Just as using the wrong language or wordings may be easily misconstrued by the wrong reader, using certain images, symbols, or even gestures may be offensive or misinterpreted by other readers depending on their cultural or religious background.
Motorpoint, a company that specializes in online localization strategies discovered some interesting analytics after localizing a website for a hospital group. The hospital group, whose intended audience was U.S.-based, saw a surge in new visitors from international markets after localization. This traffic was larger by 50 percent compared to international visits to the English-language website. Moreover, organic traffic from international visitors also increased from 25 percent to 38 percent.
Consider learning more about the cultural contexts of your target audience and localize your website accordingly. Even in translating languages, ensure the translation meets the language needs of the audience. For instance, if your target audience cuts across all Arab countries, it is safe to use Modern Standard Arabic versus Egyptian colloquial Arabic if your target audience are residents of Egypt. Also keep in mind that while many languages, including English and French, are read from left to right, others do not follow this pattern. For example, Arabic is read from right to left, and Chinese from top to bottom.
Images and symbols have varying cultural connotations and they say a lot about your organization and whether your organization understands and respects cultural nuances - a critical trait in medical tourism. For example, if a medical travel site targeting patients in a Muslim-populated country uses pictures of scantily clad men or women, chances are your program may not be successful in attracting this audience.
Colors are also perceived differently in different cultures, stemming from religious, social or historical events. In China, for example, red represents fertility, and this may be a useful tool in localizing imagery for a fertility website targeting this audience. In parts of Africa, however, red signifies grief, violence, and death.
Understanding these subtle differences and harnessing them to improve your website brand is key to attracting your target audience and improving the patient experience.
Improve your User Experience
As with all digital platforms, a poor user experience will result in reduced engagement and, in turn, a higher bounce rate (users leaving your website). For context, if the popular social media platform Facebook had a layout that made it onerous to create posts, engage with posts, or even search for profiles, it would probably see a drop in user engagement.
The same thing applies to your medical travel program’s website. If potential patients find it tasking to find relevant information; if they have to wait for longer than a few seconds for information to load, they may just move on to the next medical travel site.
When clients visit your site, they want to find it simple and easy to navigate. They want to have a seamless engagement with posts, sections, and visuals. Make your links and buttons distinct and clear and keep your layout simple. If your visitors have to scroll up and down while trying to grasp a piece of content, they may tire out easily and lose interest.
Keeping it simple also means limiting how much data entry you require from your visitors. Inputting large amounts of data into a thousand form fields before accessing a page or using your app will only drive users away. Limit how much information you require to a few bits of data so visitors can quickly get on with accessing the information on your websites. Of course, there will be instances when patients may need to provide more information (such as their medical history or diagnostic reports and images); ensure there is a simple and secure way to do so.
Making your website mobile friendly and social is a vital way of boosting your user experience as well. Most people initiate transactions or engage with clients on their mobile devices these days; if your prospective client cannot access your website via their mobile device or the user design is more suitable for a computer interface, you may lose out on a large pool of potential clients.
GHA Improving Patient Experience for Medical Travel Programs
Leverage Global Healthcare Accreditation for Medical Travel to improve your medical tourism program’s patient experience and sustainable business processes. GHA Accreditation positions your organization for global visibility and leverage as it provides the requisite resources, training, and tools to support your program to achieve top-line medical travel patient care that aligns with global best practices.
In the post-pandemic era of medical travel, accreditation is a key tool that identifies top-tier medical travel programs, which prioritize patient experience and safety. GHA evaluates medical travel programs against quality indicators that assess the patient experience and sustainable business processes such as marketing, financial transaction, and IT. This seal and accreditation, therefore, demonstrate to patients and other international payers, that you are committed to first-rate care delivery and patient experience along the entire medical travel care continuum.
To learn more about GHA, visit: https://www.globalhealthcareaccreditation.com/