According to Definitive Healthcare there are 1,357 active Critical Access Hospitals (hospitals having 25 beds or fewer) operating within the US. Obviously, that's a pretty small hospital, but the US is a covers a large area and Critical Access Hospitals play an essential role of bringing advanced and often life-saving medical treatment to people in rural communities. If we expand our search to cover hospitals that have up to 100 beds (still pretty small) we find that there are 3,463 hospitals in the US that fit the bill. Given the US has 5,897 acute care hospitals (not counting VA, DOD, or Psych hospitals) smaller hospitals under 100 beds represent a whopping 58.7% of the total US hospital market.
These hospitals are providing essential medical services for their communities, but despite their large presence and value their websites are often archaic relics of the past that....
- Don't articulate the value of the hospital
- Don't offer a quality user experience
- Perform poorly according to Google PageSpeed Insights.
In this article we're going to take a close look at website performance and make a clear case for why hospitals need to have a high-performance website that loads quickly, and we're going to make a case as to why hospitals need to have a mobile-first mindset to web-design.
Here's what we're going to work through in an effort to give you the insight you need to understand the situation, evaluate your stance, and figure out a path to improvement.
- Why Website Load Speed Matters
- What is Google PageSpeed Insights
- The Case for Mobile-First Website Design
- What Causes a Website to Load Slowly
- What Hospitals Can Do to Improve Website Performance
Why Page Load Speed Matters
Website load speed is an important website metric, and it's something that Google looks at when determining website rankings in their search engine. Google prioritizes website performance as part of their overall website experience quality score, so having a website that loads quickly or slowly will affect how highly your website ranks. And website load speed has a direct impact on website visitors. Here are six interesting statistics from HubSpot pertaining to Page Load Times that hospitals should be aware of.
- The first five seconds of page-load time have the highest impact on conversion rates. (Portent, 2019)
- Website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5). (Portent, 2019)
- The average mobile web page takes 15.3 seconds to load. (Google Research, 2018)
- Half of people surveyed said they'd give up animation and video for faster load times. (Unbounce, 2019)
- By compressing images and text, 25% of pages could save more than 250KB and 10% can save more than 1MB (which contributes to page load times). (Google, 2018)
- Even though most web traffic occurs on 4G instead of 3G, the majority of mobile sites are still slow and bloated due to too many page elements. (Google, 2018)
What Causes a Website to Load Slowly
Websites can load slowly for a variety of reasons. However, here are some of the most common culprits that drag down page load speed.
- large images
- large video files
- website hosting issues
- website latency
- poor website caching solutions
What is Google PageSpeed Insights
So, how can you figure out how your hospital's website performs across both mobile and desktop scenarios? Google to the rescue! Google has a wonderful, and free) tool available to anyone called PageSpeed Insights. You can plug in your hospital's URL, or any website for that matter, and PageSpeed Insights will give you a full report on how your website performs in terms of overall performance, accessibility, best-practices, SEO, and much more.
Even better, PageSpeed Insights tells you what's dragging your website down in terms of page load speed, and it supplies you with suggestions on how to make improvements.
Now, as you go there and run your own websites through this test, I'd like to point out that the first results presented to you are based upon a mobile user experience (you can click onto another tab to get desktop specific performance metrics). This choice to serve up mobile performance results first is no accident. Google is keenly aware the majority of web traffic occurs through mobile devices.
The Case for Mobile-First Website Design
As of November 2022, 59.5% of all web traffic comes from people using mobile devices, up from 31.16% in 2015. Additionally, according to Pew Research from April 7th, 2021, 85% of all Americans have a smartphone in their pocket.
The point I'm trying to make is that there's a good chance your patients will be accessing your website from their mobile device, and it's also likely that they'll be using a data connection from a mobile provider as opposed to being on a wi-fi signal meaning their connection speed won't be lightning fast.
While the case for a mobile-first website design is pretty clear, it's not always obvious that you should put focus on a mobile design. The reason for this is that 99.9% of website design occurs at a desktop or laptop computer, and not on a mobile device. Meaning, the primary screen people are using to design a website is nice and big, and that's the primary focus on the design. Only later do they switch over to an emulated mobile view in their website designer of choice. My point is that even through you're doing your design at a desktop or laptop, you need to be intentional about what you're creating for your mobile users.
What Hospitals Can Do to Improve Website Performance
Now that we've talked about the overall nature of the problem, specifics that relate to the problem, how to evaluate what's holding your site back via PageSpeed Insights, let's take a closer look at some ways to speed up your websites mobile users experience.
Compress Images & Serve in Next Gen Image Format
It's really awesome having a website filled with beautiful high-resolution images. However, this also has a downside. The larger the file size, the longer it takes to download and render that image on your website. Often, it's these large images that are the largest contributor to website page load speed.
The good news is that the solution to this problem is relatively straightforward. First, reduce the size of the image. I personally like to use images that are not greater than 400kb in overall size. One of the easiest ways to reduce the size of an image is to use one of the amazing free tools from TinyWow. Additionally, it's highly recommended that you serve up your images in "next-gen" formats according to PageSpeed Insights. Often, when we think of digital images we think of jpgs, png, or tiff. Those are great, but it's better to use a WebP format (read all about what Google Developers have to say about what makes WebP images so great for the web) for images that you'll use on your website. Again, you can do this easily on TinyWow.
Reduce Code Bloat
Unfortunately, unless you're comfortable working with code it can be pretty difficult to know how to do this.
You Can Call Novel Koncept
If you're a small hospital that wants to bring your website up to date, offer patients a high performing mobile experience, but don't have the expertise or time you can always call us here at Novel Koncept. We exist to help hospitals get a beautiful website that tells their story, reflects their value, offers patients an elegant user experience, and is optimized for the mobile experience. Contact us if you'd like to learn more about what we can do for your hospital.
The Wrap Up
Most small hospitals have not touched their websites in years which means those sites are built on older platforms that are not optimized for being easily and quickly accessed from a mobile device. Given that more patients have smartphones in their pockets, it's important for hospitals to prioritize website performance as website page load speed is essential for a website that users can access quickly and easily.