With over 28,000 pages available on Northwell Health’s website, patients were having trouble finding information on the specific treatment, ailment, or doctor they were interested in, and Northwell wasn’t seeing many appointments booked from its website.
Taking a page from retail’s handbook, Northwell looked to improve its website UI, adding CTA buttons in prominent locations, and implement Lucidworks’ robust out-of-the-box relevancy and typeahead features to make finding content simple and straightforward.
With relevant search results, patients can now navigate to doctor profiles they’re keen on, or research treatments or ailments, and book appointments. Search recommendations promote browsing and favorited physician lists guide patients to CTAs that increase conversions.
Northwell knew it needed to satisfy its patients’ changing needs, both in-person and online. To offer care in the localized way that was gaining popularity with patients, it incorporated urgent care facilities so it could meet patients closer to home. It added conveniences such as on-demand laboratory services where an appointment is booked online and a phlebotomist shows up at your front door for a blood draw. Then it turned to its website.
Redoing the website was nothing new for Northwell, it had completely revamped six homepages in five years. This time, though, it wanted to knock it out of the park so the website didn’t have to be redone again in a year. It wanted to transcend what other healthcare providers were doing and offer an Amazon-quality UX. Its new website should empower patients with information and services while supporting business goals.
And these goals support a big business: over 13,000 physicians, 70,000 employees, 25 hospitals, and 750 out-patient care centers all live under Northwell’s umbrella. A team of just 12 people supports the organization’s technical needs, and led the charge on the website renovation project.
Since you have to be able to find a product in order to purchase it, search is at the center of most retail websites. Similarly, even with best-in-class doctors, the most advanced hospitals, and most successful urgent cares, if a patient can’t find services, it’s all for naught. With that in mind, the technical team set a series of ecommerce-influenced findability goals to kick off the redesign:
All of these features support the greater business goal of keeping patients engaged on the website, rather than them turning away to find answers from a competitor.
Northwell partnered with Lucidworks to facilitate the search advancements it needed. Not only did Lucidworks have experience transforming search for others in the healthcare field, but Lucidworks’ search platform offers features that aligned well with Northwell’s wishlist. Lucidworks enables typeahead and spellcheck, and has excellent relevancy out-of-the-box with user-friendly tuning capabilities to allow for further refinement.
To increase conversions, patients are now guided toward call-to-action (CTA) buttons throughout the site. Individual doctor profiles and practice pages prominently feature “book an appointment” buttons so appointments scheduled—what Northwell considers conversions—increase. Navigation bars with CTAs are sticky so they follow the user down the page, making a button click effortless and enticing.
If a patient visits a doctor’s profile, but doesn’t book an appointment, then returns to the website later, a pop up appears asking, “Would you like to talk to Dr. Smith?,” further encouraging a conversion completion.
The “find a doctor” feature was bolstered with a number of UI improvements. Recommendations of what “others have searched” encourage browsing. “Recently viewed physicians” and “favorited physicians” make returning to physician profiles, and booking an appointment, straightforward. For those patients with time constraints or urgency, physicians can be searched based on availability. All of these capabilities mirror what patients are familiar with using on commerce sites.
Clicking onto a physician profile page, patients find a picture of the doctor prominently featured alongside the “book an appointment” button. Scrolling down the page, the doctor’s bio, credentials, areas of focus, and practice locations are all listed. Finally, a “meet his team” section highlights other doctors this physician refers patients to—another way to encourage conversions. If your favorite doctor is booked up, make an appointment with a colleague he trusts.
On top of the 13,000+ physician profiles on Northwell’s website, over 15,000 web pages provide information on conditions and treatments, or house videos, press releases, and campaign landing pages. With this much content to explore, a patient looking for particulars in one article, or on one ailment, will never get there on his own. Search has to assist.
Before recruiting Lucidworks, result relevancy was poor and created a roadblock to patients’ ability to retrieve information. If someone searched “TAVR,” a surgery that puts a stent in the aortic valve, rather than information on the specific surgery or names of top physicians who perform the procedure, a link to general cardiology was the first result. Before Lucidworks, the first result for a patient searching “cardiac catheterization” was a link to a cardiology practice in Staten Island, a location that doesn’t perform the procedure. Results just didn’t make sense to patients.
With Lucidworks improving relevancy, the TAVR informational page—what it is, when it’s necessary, how it’s done, along with risks and recovery data—is the first search result, followed by “about us—cardiac surgery,” which TAVR is. The informational page on cardiac catheterization is now the first thing patients see when searching for that procedure.
To further improve relevancy, the technical team uses Lucidworks’ analytics capabilities to analyze queries and tune with real-time feedback. Synonyms have been added so when a patient searches for “heart attack,” documents written about “myocardial infarction” (what medical professionals call it) come up. Patients are finding the information they need faster and with much less effort.
Typeahead and content grouping became a dynamic duo in the fight for superior content delivery. Previously, a query for “hip” would show a list of all possible results with “hip surgery” first, an unsettling thought for someone looking for help. Is hip surgery my only option?
Now Lucidworks’ typeahead functionality updates suggested pages as the patient types, grouped by content type. With each keystroke, a list with potential result matches refreshes in a pop-up window below the searchbox. Perhaps the patient searching for “hip” is looking for a physician profile. Is it Dr. Hippolyte or Dr. Hip-Flores? Or is he after information on treatments available for hip problems? Or maybe conditions related to the hips? By grouping content by type, results are presented in a rational, easy-to-understand format.
Complex medical terminology is easier to navigate since patients can eliminate some results based on content type. He knows he’s looking for a procedure related to the hip so can rule out a result for “ankylosing spondylitis” (a hip ailment rather than a procedure) without having to click the link to learn more.
As Northwell gets more sophisticated with its usage of Lucidworks’ search capabilities, signals and machine learning will be used to boost content and further automate relevancy. Adding synonyms manually won’t be necessary anymore since signals will use machine learning to make the connections between queries and relevant content automatically.
Signals will also populate CTAs within the search results so the number of clicks required to complete a conversion will be reduced. Right from search results, patients will be able to “schedule an appointment,” “call a doctor,” or “purchase an event ticket.”
Using AI, Lucidworks’ misspelling detection feature will map words that are spelled incorrectly to their corrected spellings rather than returning no results to a query. Faceted search will give more flexibility to the way patients can use the site.
By looking outside of the medical industry for inspiration, Northwell Health enabled its patients with a retail-caliber online experience, far surpassing the capabilities of its competitors’ websites. When December rolled around—the season it usually ripped out and replaced its website like an old band aid—the technical team, instead, continued tuning its search and adding features to more closely reach parity with top digital commerce enterprises. Its patients, meanwhile, were busy browsing treatments, favoriting doctors, and booking appointments with the click of a button.