Inc. magazine schools Mayo, Cleveland Clinic in website design

The Cleveland Clinic goes straight to the front of the class for its website--but Mayo Clinic gets it knuckles rapped. 

In a "website smackdown," Inc. magazine examines the online presence of two healthcare giants and finds that one "understands its target audience and serves that audience's needs extremely well [while] the other just doesn't get it."

The article is a good reminder that healthcare organizations must design websites for their customers--not for themselves. Although hospitals and health systems often highlight information about world-renowned research, details about fancy imaging and robotic technology, or photos of beautiful buildings, site visitors are much more likely to be looking for quick answers to key information, such as phone numbers, directions and visiting hours.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic falls down in this category, Inc. notes.

"There is virtually nothing on the homepage that is designed to help patients, families of patients, or people looking for assistance from the hospital," the article says. "After much searching, you can find (in a tiny font and in a sub-navigation) 'Request an Appointment' and 'Find a Doctor.' What you won't find is a phone number, directions, or anything else that might be of real use."

Ouch.

The primary navigation on the Cleveland Clinic site gets much better marks for clearly leading visitors to contact information, locations and directions, doctor search, appointments and patient and visitor information, Inc. says.

Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic emerges the winner in health information and find-a-doctor features, as well.

Inc. magazine's opinion notwithstanding, both organizations are well-regarded in the healthcare field for their efforts in online communications, including social media.

Earlier this year, Mayo Clinic, which has its own social media network and has hosted three annual healthcare social media summits, earned the top spot on a list of 20 healthcare organizations with "inspiring" social media strategies.

But the two clinics are hardly the only healthcare organizations to get poor marks for website design.

A recent study by The Journal of Healthcare Management, for example, assessed U.S. hospital and health system websites' performance based on accessibility, content, marketing reach, technology, design and maintenance--and found them wanting.

The mean overall score for the U.S. health systems included in the study was 6.37 on a 10-point scale, indicating that hospital and health system websites have significant room for improvement, Eric Ford, the Forsyth Medical Center distinguished professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and one of the study's authors, wrote.

Neither Mayo Clinic nor Cleveland Clinic made it into the study's list of the top nine sites.

To learn more:
- read the full Inc. magazine comparison of the Mayo and Cleveland Clinic websites
- see the Eric Ford's healthcare website research summary
- learn more about 20 hospital and health system social media strategies

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