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Swedish Medical Center Website Attracts $50,000 a Month in Referrals.

Henry Yamamoto
Interactive Strategy and Marketing
Swedish Medical Center
747 Broadway
Seattle, WA 98122-4307
Phone: 206-386-6785
Fax: 206-386-2769


Swedish Medical Center is a Seattle-based healthcare organization comprised of two medical facilities and a home health and hospice center totaling 860 beds. The center employs a staff of 4,000 including 1,500 physicians. In order to maintain their position as an economic leader, Swedish needed to implement a website specific to their needs with a measurable return on their Internet investment.

The emergence of health maintenance organizations has put price pressure on doctors and healthcare providers, forcing them to adapt or join larger organizations. The result is that doctors need to increase volume to maintain profitability, and patients are receiving less attention, creating a need for a customer-centric service. This is why many organizations and healthcare providers are turning to the Web to improve their offerings and services.

By enhancing communications, streamlining processes, and creating new business opportunities, the Internet has the potential to dramatically change the healthcare industry. Swedish Medical Center recognized the tremendous value the Internet presented to the organization, invested in the opportunity, and has since demonstrated how Web investments can be profitable for the healthcare industry.

The compelling business reason that encouraged Swedish to turn to the Web was to strengthen its business position in an increasingly technology-savvy economy. At the time, the lack of a Web site was not hurting the organization, but since the site has launched, the benefits have more than outweighed the costs. Now that Swedish has determined the value the site has brought to the organization, the center would see a significant increase in expenses, hindrance of patient care, and decreased productivity if the site were to go down.


Swedish selected Free Range Media, an online solutions provider, to help them plan and build their Web presence. Together, Free Range Media and Swedish built a strategic plan for an online business solution with clear, measurable objectives:

* Reach a premium, technically sophisticated audience.

* Give site visitors both the information they need and the impetus to select a physician at Swedish, thereby generating revenue.

* Build ongoing relationships with clients.

* Preserve the strength of the Swedish brand, and keep the Web site consistent with existing campaigns in print and other media.

In a little over a year, Free Range Media built four distinct versions of the Swedish site with two major designs, focusing attention on physician referrals and Swedish services, both prime sources of revenue.

Within months, online referrals were bringing in more than $50,000 per month, Swedish was saving approximately $8 in staff costs per online referral, and the Web site had paid for itself within three months. And, site visits continue to grow at 30 percent a month.


Swedish selected Free Range Media as their Web development firm because the organization wanted an experienced company that had actually implemented solutions like Free Range Media's before. Free Range Media has a collaborative, interactive process that helped Swedish focus its strategy. Part of their offering includes in-depth strategic planning and a Return on Internet Investment model. By determining a baseline upfront, Swedish was able to track and measure the success of their site from the very beginning of the project.

Planning and implementation of the Swedish Web site began in early 1997, continuing through four major phases which launched in July 1997, November 1997, May 1998, and October 1998.


Swedish Medical Center wanted the first phase of the Web site to duplicate the information and level of service of the toll-free number, 1-800-SWEDISH which can include the names of up to three physicians along with their office location and hours. The newsletter and brochures mailed after a telephone call had to be available on the Web; visitors also had to be able to get physician referrals there. The Web site service surpassed the toll-free service. Web visitors can choose from a list of all physicians of any specialty. In addition to office data, they can also read about each doctor's educational background, clinical interests and other details. The site's popularity also grew because it gives its visitors anonymity, thereby keeping their queries more confidential.


The Web team at Free Range Media added background on many unadvertised Swedish services such as addiction recovery, diabetes, and eating disorders. Swedish also added an online, non-profit bookstore stocked with recommended books from the hospital bookshop. Barnes & Noble Online fulfills the orders using the bookshop database.

With an eye on the bottom line, Swedish ensured the site was peppered with physician referral buttons. For example, a visitor reading about diabetes can click the "Get a physician" button and go straight to a list of appropriate doctors. This means there are more places for the visitor to select a physician, driving business and revenue to Swedish.

PHASE 3: MAY 1998

After almost a year, the Swedish site had matured into a Web destination for health information. A major redesign of the site captured its immediacy and importance with the look of a daily newspaper. New features include a front-page story about Swedish and a Daily Dose column with up-to-the-minute health news. It also gives voice to Dr. Lee Norman, a family practice physician and clinical educator (who also happens to be the medical director of Swedish Medical Center). In his column, "Ask Dr. Norman," he answers popular medical questions submitted by the Web audience. The redesign also coincided with a shift in responsibility for adding content from Free Range Media to Swedish.


The major notable feature of Phase 4 for the Swedish Web site was the launch of the Health eMinder. Health eMinder is a free service provided to visitors of the Swedish Web site, designed to keep subscribers informed on health screenings and other health-related topics. The Health eMinder steps up the information process by reaching out to the community with health-related information instead of requiring people to search for the information themselves. Subscribers are able to stay up-to-date on health information that pertains to their personal lives, in privacy and at their own convenience.


Hardware: Dell Poweredge 6300 with Xeon Pentium II processor


* Microsoft Windows NT 4.0

* Microsoft SQL Server 6.5

* Microsoft Site Server 3.0

* Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0

* Microsoft Active Server Pages

* WebTrends

* Revnet Unitymail

Consultants: Free Range Media consulted with Swedish to develop a specific Web strategy that aligned them with the Internet industry, and leap-frogged them over their healthcare competitors.


Swedish's marketing communications department funds the Web initiative. The original Web investment was seen as a marketing strategy, but once the site rendered such significant savings and profit, Swedish invested in advancing the site so as to provide for itself. The Web site is now an integral part of their business model.


Swedish Medical Center employs approximately 4,000 people who routinely use the Swedish site. The site also serves the Northwest community as a whole with in-depth healthcare resources, expert advice and a wealth of healthcare information. Over the last two months, the page impressions on the Swedish site have averaged around 70,000, and Unique User Sessions are averaging 12,000 per month.


Savings: Swedish has seen a return on Internet investment in a number of areas. For instance, Swedish saw payback within months. Online referrals to physicians bring in more than $50,000 in new revenue each month. Swedish also saves about $8 in staff cost for each Web referral, compared to a telephone referral. In the spring of 1998, Web referrals surpassed those from the 800-phone service and from radio and print ads. Also, the Web site paid for itself within the first three months.

Productivity: The Swedish site has exceeded expectations, even displacing other marketing approaches. They now get better information about clients and build ongoing client relationships. When visitors link to the Swedish Web site, the staff can see what company they are coming from. This helps us track which marketing campaigns and which communications channels are most effective. Swedish even saw a few unexpected Web site bonuses. Human Resources has seen a reduction in paperwork and staff time and volunteer services have recruited several high-quality volunteers each week without any promotion at all.

Patient care or Service:

Swedish met their goal of reaching a targeted high-end audience. With more than 1,500 visits from Microsoft alone in February 1998, and a visit volume that's growing 30 percent a month, Swedish Medical Center continues to meet the demands of the technology-intensive Pacific Northwest. Content is served dynamically according to the requests of each visitor. This engages visitors and at the same time captures demographic data that helps Swedish refine its understanding of its customer base.


The enhancements for future phases will include more personalized advice, marketing campaigns to reach a greater audience, more detailed and specific healthcare resources, as well as maintaining the site with the most up-to-date information and news items in the healthcare industry.


In July 1998, Swedish Medical Center won the Gold award from the national trade publication "Healthcare Marketing Report." In December 1998, Swedish won the Web Marketing Association's 1998 Standard of Excellence Web Award, and in January 1999, Swedish's Web site was selected as one of three finalists for the Washington Software Alliance Industry Achievement Award's "Best World Wide Web Site."
COPYRIGHT 1999 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Company Business and Marketing
Author:Yamamoto, Henry
Publication:Health Management Technology
Date:Apr 1, 1999
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