American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

The Company

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-- Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. (AAO-HNS) represents more than 10,000 otolaryngologists -- head and neck surgeons who diagnose and treat disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.

The Problem

AAO-HNS maintains both a site for the general public and patients, and a site geared towards healthcare professionals that includes extensive members-only resources. Initially, these sites were maintained using a homegrown tool, but as time went on, it was clear that a more robust tool set was needed. In considering options for managing content on its site, AAO-HNS set the following objectives:

  • seamlessly separate public, professional and members-only content on their various websites
  • allow more staff to update Web pages
  • improve personalized content and interactive forms
  • build an expandable infrastructure
  • get more members online

AAO-HNS also wanted to be sure the tool would allow non-technical staff to author content, provide link management facilities, allow for metadata creation, separate content and presentation, support multi-user authoring, content reuse and above all be easy for staff to use. Working with Webster, New York-based Fusion Productions, a team at AAO-HNS developed an RFP and evaluated a wide range of options, including high-end CMS solutions, custom built products, association-oriented tools and mid-market content management solutions.

The Solution

AAO-HNS ultimately selected PaperThin’s CommonSpot™ Web content management solution because it most effectively met their requirements, provided an easy-to-use interface, was priced competitively and would allow for flexible customization over time as the organization’s website requirements changed. Additional features that distinguished CommonSpot from other solutions that AAO-HNS evaluated included version control and archiving, workflow and approval, security, integration with external systems and reporting, according to Sue Holzer, Director of Internet Services for AAO-HNS.

Over a three-month period, the development team at Fusion Productions built templates for the sites, assisted in the migration of content and developed several custom applications that were integrated into CommonSpot. Fusion developed templates with a different look-and-feel for each of the distinct sites, each with its own navigation structure. This separation of content and design provides many benefits, including the flexible re-use of content. The same article can appear in multiple locations, with different layout or presentation styles. To improve efficiency in maintaining its extensive content on the site, AAO-HNS assigns metadata and/or keywords to content, which in turn is used in order to automatically determine whether content should appear in a particular section (for example, Kids E.N.T. Health) or on a particular topic (for example, ears & nose, throat trouble, etc.).

Resources like doctor and fellowship directories, tremendously valuable to members and site visitors, have historically been costly and inefficient to maintain and produce. AAO-HNS used to send out a bulky hard copy of its fellowship directory to its members once a year. Now this information is available online and continually updated. Working with Fusion Productions, processes were developed to streamline the maintenance of the fellowship and find-a-doctor databases. Staff members update content in Access databases, which is then automatically replicated to the Microsoft SQL databases, where it can be retrieved using forms built in CommonSpot, on the AAO-HNS site. This process eliminates double entry of data, improves accuracy, saves AAO-HNS on print, labor and shipping costs, and provides greater value to members.

AAO-HNS also uses scheduling and personalization on its sites. Upon login to the members-only site, users see special members-only alerts. Additionally, different content and search forms are presented depending on whether the user is anonymous or a member. In some cases, these personalizations have even been built into the navigation and templates. Staff members see a link on the home page to the AAO-HNS intranet that is not visible to other users; board members see a link to a fully personalized, secured area where they conduct their board business.

Like many associations, AAO-HNS coordinates many events - upwards of 1,000 each year. Planning for its annual member meeting is a significant effort. Using CommonSpot to manage key aspects of the event online, AAO-HNS has been able to reduce staff costs associated with the event and/or delay the hiring of temps normally required to support the preparation and planning for the annual meeting. CommonSpot’s flexible site architecture led to the ability to create an entire site dedicated to promotion of the meeting. Templates enable the visual identity of the meeting to be reflected in this special promotion site, while still enabling content managers to access the full repository of the other sites that make up and

Future expansion plans for AAO-HNS’s websites include providing more centralized customer service, using CommonSpot as a key component of a knowledge management strategy, and delivering more services to members online, Holzer added.

The Return

AAO-HNS continues to rely on Fusion Productions for customization projects, but the day-to-day management of the sites is now handled by an in-house team of three. More than 30 staff members are now trained to update or add new Web pages using CommonSpot. On average between 50 and 75 pages of content are added to the site each month, and more automated content updates are planned in the future. The ability to maintain the content themselves rather than outsource site updates has saved AAO-HNS thousands of dollars in monthly fees, and has enabled the non-technical staff to take ownership of the content on the site, noted Holzer. “Our annual costs to maintain the site are considerably lower than before we implemented CommonSpot.”

Beyond the cost savings and production efficiencies achieved, AAO-HNS has also seen a demonstrable increase in site visits, as well as dramatically increased usage of its member databases. The following statistics show the difference before and one-year after the launch.

In looking at the objectives defined at the outset of the project, AAO-HNS succeeded on all fronts. AAO-HNS has seamlessly separated public, professional and members-only content on their various websites, and enabled more staff to update Web pages. They have implemented personalized content and interactive forms, and built an infrastructure that can grow as the organization and its Web requirements grow. And perhaps most importantly, they have brought many more members online, providing an increased level of member service.

What makes PaperThin different? “It’s kind of like software ‘for the Web people, of the Web people,’” commented Holzer. “PaperThin’s approach is to stand behind their product by listening to their customers and then making changes to their product -- quickly. They appreciate their product will be used by many different niches, and so they are trying to understand those niches and connect customers to like-minded customers…not your typical software company."

What makes Fusion Productions special? Holzer added, ”They are our partner, through and through. We can count on them for answers, inspiration, and honesty. We count on them to fill our gaps in expertise and to care for our business needs as though they are their own. It’s refreshing to be able to turn to professionals who take our business as seriously as we do!”

Customer Information

Site Type: Internet