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Report: America's Best Hospital Fail to Meet Patients' Digital Demands

Many of America's top-ranked "best hospitals" lag in extending their health care expertise beyond the walls of the hospital and into the online world where patients are increasingly seeking information, according to a recent analysis.

The report, "The Digital Health of Today's Best Hospitals," evaluated the online presence and patient use of digital assets offered by the nation's top hospitals, as identified by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals 2013-14 publication.

The analysis, released by Evolve Digital Labs, reveals that top hospitals lag behind most other digital sources—such as third parties and industry—when it comes to helping a patient manage his/her health. Overall, many website features to serve patients were found to be "inadequate" for some of the leading institutions including the following:

"As more consumers consult online channels to better understand their health conditions, hospitals need to keep up with their end of the digital connection of care with patients," says Derek Mabie, president of Evolve Digital Labs. "While efforts such as the Affordable Care Act seek to incentivize hospitals to improve health outcomes, one of the greatest untapped opportunities to help providers succeed is the role digital can play in providing better patient care and outcomes."

Barriers that prevent hospitals from maximizing use of digital for patient care include concerns regarding regulation of digital content; lack of clinical oversight of published content leading to inadequate sources of information for patients; a hospital's lack of investment in digital and a lack of understanding of the value or return on investment that digital can play in enhancing patient outcomes; inefficient internal systems and processes; and an emphasis on legacy business methods that are not adapting/changing fast enough to deliver to patients the digital innovation available today.

While many hospitals have room to improve their online health information, the study also uncovered commonalities among those hospitals receiving high marks for digital prowess such as the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. In addition to a clear commitment to patients "digital health" built into the values of the institution, many of these institutions do the following:   

"A visit to the hospital today is now far more than just treating an immediate health problem; providers must advise the patient about lifestyle changes that could reduce future health risks and diseases," Mabie says. "The right digital tools will allow institutions to more easily adapt to the changing needs of patients and new requirements of hospitals to address population health."

The "Digital Health of Today's Best Hospitals" study methodology incorporated use of several leading search analysis tools and social media tracking to calculate the patient "reach" of the hospital's website via traffic, domain and page authority, linking domains, and inbound links recommended via other sources. Key search criteria included terms for all 16 health specializations for which the "best" hospitals are ranked nationally and how often these were utilized on a monthly basis. The study analyzed 57 national hospitals from January 2013-January 2014.

Source: Evolve Digital Labs