It is a common question in any hospital or health system marketing meeting: How much does a hospital website cost?
It is a difficult question to answer, and a lot of variables come into play. In this article I will explain what those variables are, and give you an idea of how they factor into the website’s cost.
To get an initial gauge of the cost, you can compare the website to the hospital itself. Is it a large or small hospital? How many services does it provide, how many specialties are supported? How many physicians and support team is there on staff? How many physicians have rights to the hospital? How many patients are seen annually? Is the hospital a part of a larger health system or an independent? Does the hospital have a community outreach center or ongoing public events? Does the hospital have an active blood donation department? Does the hospital have an emergency room?
These are just a few of the high level questions that come into play in determining what goes into a hospital – and a hospital website can be as multifaceted as the hospital it represents. So, each of these elements can affect the cost.
Of course, that doesn’t help you much if you’re looking to determine how much your hospital website may cost. To that end I’ve listed some of the most common features that are required for a modern hospital website.
- Customizable Content Management System
- Customizable User Levels and Permissions
- Integration with the Hospital’s Employee Directory
- Integration with the Hospitals Electronic Medical Record Systems
- Secure Online Patient Forms
- Secure Patient Portal
- Integration with Hospital Billing Systems
- Integration with Insurance Provider Systems
- Advanced Search/Lookup Capabilities
- Newsroom for Media and Community
- Integration with Applicant Tracking System/Job Board
- Calendar Integration and Event Registration Tools
- Email Marketing and Newsletter Integration
- Responsive Design or Mobile Version of Site
- Geographically Based Content
- eCommerce and Donation Capabilities
This is a partial list, and each of these items can be very simple, or extremely complex depending on the needs of your hospital. One of the first phases of our process is the Discovery process, and it includes a thorough examination of your hospital’s needs to determine which solutions are most appropriate.
Another major factor that comes into play when determining how much a hospital website might cost is the distribution of responsibilities across the teams involved in the effort. In some cases, the entirety of the website design and development, including content, is outsourced. In others, several departments within the hospital will work with us very closely to execute each step through development of the website. While the details of this partnership model vary with each organization, I’ve broken down some of the most common ways we’ve worked with hospitals below.
1. Consultative or Managerial – This relationship leverages existing hospital resources, internal marketing teams, design and development staff, and others, for the majority of the tactical execution of the website, and leverages our expertise in the industry to help provide an outside perspective on the project as well ensure best practices are being used.
In these cases, the hospital is responsible for all of the labor for the website, from design concepts and revisions, through development, setup and deployment. We usually help build the strategy and information architecture at the beginning of the project and then help ensure that plan is maintained throughout the process, while being mindful of the fact that the strategy must remain flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen issues that will undoubtedly arise through the process.
This working structure is best for hospitals with the internal staff, expertise, and bandwidth, to accommodate the effort. A great advantage in this case is that the team that built the site is in house, so ongoing maintenance and development is usually more easily budgeted for. In most cases, these consultative projects cost anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000. As a part of the initial discovery process, we can also help estimate total in-house man-hours that might be required to develop the website.<
2. Collaborative – This relationship leverages the best of both your hospital’s and our team’s people, experience, and expertise.
In these cases, we review the strengths of each member of the collective team which will help on the website. This usually includes marketing and communications specialist, copywriters, videographers, both front and and back end developers, database specialists, and the subject matter experts themselves: the physicians, nurses and other staff and team members in addition to the core team who will oversee the effort. The team members that bring the most to the table are then selected and included in the project.
Many times this is about a 50/50 mix, other times it may be more lopsided. The important thing is making sure the best team is assembled to provide a holistic perspective and meticulous execution.
The cost of these types of projects range widely, but are most commonly between $45,000 for a smaller hospital, up to $125,000 or more for complex organizations.
3. Platform and Content Teams – This relationship is similar to the Collaborative option above, but has more delineation between the expertise and function of each part of the team. While in the prior case both parties come together to create a single unit, in this case the project is usually a little more cut and dry. Most often relationships of this sort include the contractor (us in this case) being responsible for the development of the platform itself (the website design, content management system, development) while another team focuses on the content which will live in the website itself.
Many hospitals have more marketing and communication staff than developer staff, so they usually take on the content side of the project as there is more ease of access to subject matter experts when they are down the hall from you. The two teams work closely together, and their end products are blended together in the Deployment phase of the website development process, which includes the content being placed into the site itself. Both teams then continue to collaborate to drive things through to completion.
While these projects can range quite widely in cost, we have found that most fall in the $55,000 on the simpler side, up to $185,000 on the more complex side. (Usually the number and type of integrations required drive this cost most.)
4. Turn Key – This relationship is essentially the inverse of the first option. In this case, we would provide the complete effort for the development of the website for both the design and development of the platform itself as well as the content which will reside in the completed website.
You and your team would aid in the management and oversight of the project, and of course provide access to subject matter expertise, while our team would take care of the complete design, development, content creation, deployment and launch phases of the website. As with any relationship, we would be working together quite closely to ensure the project continues to move along, and delivers on your needs and requirements.
The average small urban hospital can expect to pay $75,000 to $200,000 for this effort, while larger hospitals or health systems may be looking at investments from $500,000 to over a million.
As you can see, the cost for your website can vary quite a bit – and it should, considering how different your hospital is from others, and its unique needs, features and values. The seemingly simple task of even determining the cost of your website can be a substantial undertaking, and we usually recommend you consider how the website impacts the hospital itself, and how you determine the value it provides.
How to Determine the Value of Your Hospital Website
Below I’ve provided an extremely simplified version of how you may begin to determine the value your website has for your hospital. Please remember, this is just a simple example.
[table “4” not found /]
Let’s say know you have a possible patient community of 500,000 people. Of that population, you see an average of 10% of it in any given year. Of that 50,000 possible patient pool, 50% or more of your first time patients (with the exception of emergency room patients) visit your website before coming in – that’s approximately 25,000 patients. If each of those has an average annual value (in terms of their billing) of $1,500, then you’d be looking at about $37,500,000 ($37.5 million) in possible revenue. If your hospital has a lower than average 5% operating margin, you’d be looking at a possible one year net value of $1,875,000 ($1.9 million).
Again, that is a very simplified version of the equation to determine the possible value your hospital’s website may have, but it should give you an idea of how to value your website. Of course, most websites will last longer than a year, and are always a work in progress. However, with the right tools, analytics, and ongoing management you can continue to ensure you get the most value out of your website, and marketing in general. But I digress, that’s a conversation for another time.
In our discovery process, we will often ask to learn about the various values of different patient types and categories, competitive concerns, market share, insurance payouts, and much much more to begin to more accurately determine the value a website can have for a hospital or health system.