Every year, an increasing number of Americans turn to the Internet as a primary source of medical information to supplement and extend the benefits of traditional medical practices. Social media is fast becoming a natural medium for collaboration between a variety of stakeholders in the healthcare industry, ranging from patients, caregivers, physicians and other participants. Stable and supportive social networks can fill in the gaps of in-person, localized contacts with providers and expand the possibilities of delivering services to improve patient outcomes.
Alegent Health is a leading non-profit, faith-based health care system based in the United States with a long history of providing a continuum of care for it's patients extending far beyond the doctor's office. They came to Trellon looking to extend their commitment to supporting patients through the establishment of a new web portal targeted at new and expectant mothers.
Challenge and Approach
Our challenge was to extend the existing social support networks of patients over the Internet, to help them build relationships with other mothers and access information and resources that help improve their health and quality of life. Since social networking technology remains a new technology for some people, part of the challenge was to implement all of this in a manner that is easy to use and eliminates potential areas of frustration through the thoughtful implementation of key features.
Trellon's approach was to build a site that emphasizes the shared personal experiences of users to provide meaningful context and encourages participation in novel ways. We used the Drupal platform to allow users to easily publish and share content through social forums, and deployed a number of unique content types for facilitating interaction. We developed a system for seamlessly incorporating semantic search features into the site, allowing the site to recommend content to users that is contextually relevant based on the actual behavior of users. We incorporated a number of features for deploying geographically targeted content, which allows users to find others in their area for offline interaction.
Social Networking and Content Management
Trellon leveraged Drupal's social networking and content management features to provide users with the means to connect with one another based on common interests.
Site membership is free to the public, and every new user gets a personalized home page, allowing them to build a unique identity online. This personalized home page allows users to access the latest, most relevant information based on how they identify themselves within the site. Users can access bookmarks of their favorite content collected as they browse the site, which are used to indicate the popularity of content for the site overall.
With their registered user account, each user has the ability to share other information with the public. The site is configured to allow users to share recipes, information about local attractions and events, coupons for stores, and more. By focusing on practical, familiar resources every user is familiar with in other contexts, this content strategy is designed to create affinities of interest and draw users into the site more frequently over time.
Blogs and forums allow users to connect through threaded discussions. Users within the site can be identified as experts within the community, which allows them to publish their own blogs within the site. Each user has the ability to rate discussions and comments, which provide insight into the qualitative worth of information based on the insight of the community.
Semantic Search - Smarter, Better, Faster
Web site usability is the art of presenting the most useful information in the simplest, clearest form possible. Determining what information is going to be the most useful, and knowing how to put it in front of the right people, is a key factor in retention and activity rates for most social networks. Just as users flock to the sites where they can find their friends, they are turned away when building relationships becomes a challenge.
For the Rooms for Moms project, Trellon went beyond the simple tasks of classifying and organizing information to provide a solution that recommends the right content at the right time. We implemented a semantic search system that suggests information to users based on actual user behavior. When a user comes to the site, Drupal makes a record of every page being viewed, along with all sorts of information about the content being presented (including authors, tags, navigation paths, time spent on the page, social networking activity, comments and other data) and the user to construct a profile for each piece of content in the site. This information is indexed and aggregated along multiple dimensions to provide instant access to related content that can be used throughout the site.
The result is the system becomes smarter over time by learning about its users and content. When someone visits their own personalized home page, she or he is provided the most relevant content in the site based on the behavior of other users.
Geographically Targeted Content
In order to support the needs for a system-wide roll out of features, all information published through the Room for Moms web portal is geographically targeted. Information published by site members is geotagged at the time of entry. Users are able to receive customized feeds of local information that are updated daily, making information in the site directly relevant to users.