Industry Insights

The Evolution of Digital Experience Delivery for Healthcare

  • Company: Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc.
  • Industry: Hospital & Healthcare
  • Founded in: 1998
  • Headquarters: Denver, Colorado
  • CEO: Rob Draughon
  • Employees: 800
  • Parent: Vestar Capital Partners
  • Recent Acquisitions: Influence Health

As a long-time, frequent business traveler, I've endured more than my fair share of cumbersome transportation hubs, modes, and infrastructures in large metropolises. When recently arriving in Denver, CO to meet Crownpeak, I was pleasantly surprised with the city's rapid transit system. The Denver RTD was conveniently connected to the airport, simple to use, much more economical than a cab or rideshare, and delivered me to my destination in just 35 minutes. The agreeable experience did not end there. Accommodations reserved for me at the Hilton Denver City Center just so happened to be connected to Crownpeak's head office—making for an effectively smooth business travel experience all around. This had me thinking about why I was in Denver in the first place, which was to conduct interviews for one of Crownpeak’s clients — Healthgrades. Was the Crownpeak deployment for Healthgrades as seamless as my Denver travel experience?

The Healthgrades team was onsite for what Crownpeak dubs as Customer Day—a full day affair of discussion, collaboration, and further relationship building, providing a perfect opportunity for me to delve into Healthgrades’ digital experience journey.

The Search is On!

Healthgrades website powered by CrownpeakAs solid as Healthgrades’ reputation was in the industry as an online healthcare resource, they faced difficulty evolving into the next phase of their experience delivery. Their two legacy CMS products included an open souce solution for smaller sites and a custom CMS built on top of SharePoint 2010 for heavier implementations. Challenges arose when it became evident that Sharepoint could no longer support its client's needs, and consequently,  Healthgrades was pressed to find a fix. The required solution had to support Healthgrades' proprietary CMS products that were responsible for managing their more than 200 healthcare organization's websites, landing pages, microsites, and mobile sites—all with the ability to deploy personalized, enterprise web experiences with no coding required. This need led Healthgrades to carry out a relatively short, ninety-day search for a best-fit solution for their team to work hand-in-hand with a focus on scalability, patient personas, and a top-tier user experience model. “Because we knew we had to get to market and announce a solution the following year, we didn’t have a lot of time in selecting a new technology partner,” stated Doug Slay, VP—Web Experience at Healthgrades. “We wanted to make sure the company was heading down the right path…a partner we could trust and grow with, in the long-term."

Due to the complex nature of customer data sensitivity, security was paramount. Healthgrades operates in a highly regulated sector, with data governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was essential that the solution provided robust protection for their clients’ data and business-critical operations.

During the swift evaluation stage for their licensed CMS, Healthgrades shortlisted down to three potential technology partners—Acquia, Crownpeak, and Episerver. At the end of the process, Crownpeak came out on top, primarily for its pure-play SaaS model, AWS hosting capabilities, and their decoupled architecture component. “Having a true SaaS platform removed any worries we had with architecture and infrastructure,” explained Slay.

Getting to Know Crownpeak

Thirty-days after the technology selection and purchasing stage was complete, Healthgrades dove straight into the discovery and software training stage. This was the point where Healthgrades learned what Crownpeak really had to offer and what their internal IT team could do with the platform.


Software Used

  • Digital Experience Management (DXM) Platform
  • Crownpeak’s Managed AWS Hosting Solution
  • Advanced Cybersecurity & Edge Protection Service

Historically, business users have had to rely on overburdened IT departments when undergoing lengthy system addition or change projects. This process often entails procuring and configuring hardware and software to launch and run web properties and access valuable data for marketing purposes. By contrast, Crownpeak enables business users to skip the drawn-out, convoluted hardware and software procurement initiatives thanks to the platform’s cloud delivery. Crownpeak’s digital experience management (DXM) platform provides control over the look-and-feel of web portals and line-of-business functions typically managed by the IT departments.

Crownpeak’s SaaS platform enables business-users to manage any digital experience; from global corporate sites to mobile-optimized experiences, intranets, commerce sites, portals, microsites, and landing pages. Crownpeak provides a web experience management solution for the necessary speed, flexibility, and self-service capability that empowers digital marketers and business-users to launch their new digital experiences themselves. Moreover, this is achieved within a secure, stable, scalable architecture that ensures peace-of-mind for corporate IT and information security teams. Crownpeak’s DXM fully supports other headless content delivery systems and allows for created content to be repurposed across multiple channels in any web development environment—including .NET, Java, and PHP.

Crownpeak provides a Premium and Elite DXM option, with the Elite package offering the best security and governance available. Core DXM features include:

Content Management System
Site Search
Workflow Management
Digital Asset Management
Content & Data API Access
Headless Content Delivery
Disaster Recovery
Automatic Updates
Developer SDK & IDE Integration
Social Media Publishing & Management
Digital Quality Management (DQM)
Content & Data Connectors
Forms, Personalization, Testing, Targeting
Reporting & Behavioral Analytics
Marketing Automation Integration
Platform Delivery
Amazon Cloudfront CDN
As an Amazon Web Services Advanced Technology Partner, Crownpeak delivers its hosting and services using Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

The Crownpeak Differentiators

What I found refreshing when speaking with Healthgrades, was learning about the responsiveness of Crownpeak throughout the planning, requirements, and deployment stages. Crownpeak worked side-by-side with Healthgrades’ team, and in some cases, camped out at the Healthgrades office to help identify any technical needs or bugs—having a patch in a matter of days if necessary. Healthgrades would share what they were trying to accomplish with Crownpeak, and they would work together as a cohesive unit, assuring the project stayed on course.  

“There were several differentiators that drew us to Crownpeak, but most of all, we were impressed by their status as an Amazon Web Services Advanced Technology Partner,” stated Sean Brasher, Senior Director, Web Technologies at Healthgrades. “Also, consistent updates on a bi-weekly release schedule was big for us… we didn’t want to plan and approve new platform features and then wait a year for those features to be implemented," explained Brasher. This also meant that all of the clients on Healthgrades' licensed CMS would always be on the latest version of Crownpeak with no service downtime for their clientele.

Using Crownpeak DXM in conjunction with their managed AWS hosting solution—while also still relying on their open source platform for other aspects of their web business—Healthgrades relaunched the web content management component of their licensed enterprise CMS. The new platform enables hospitals to manage their web properties and deploy personalized web experiences with no coding requirements. In addition to leveraging Crownpeak to provision their client services, Healthgrades recently migrated one subdomain to the DXM platform as well, while the balance remains in a proprietary setup.

End Results

Security: Healthgrades chose Crownpeak’s Advanced Cybersecurity and Edge Protection service, which offers additional layers of security protection for its solution delivery. This service leverages AWS’s premier enterprise infrastructure and APIs to handle security, cyber threats scalability, and fault tolerance. Because Crownpeak is an Amazon Web Services Advanced Technology Partner, Healthgrades benefits from their unrivaled domain expertise in managing the hosting environment.


Healthgrades chose Crownpeak DXM for its pure-play SaaS model, AWS hosting, security and scalability to deliver a top-tier digital experience in just under 60-days.

The service is configured and monitored by the Crownpeak team, who stay ahead of emerging threats by harnessing collective intelligence to evolve defense tactics in real-time and adjust as needed. Because the solution is fully managed, it reduces the load on the Healthgrades IT team and gives them the peace of mind that they meet and exceed regulatory requirements being fully defended against attacks.

Availability & Resiliency: Crownpeak’s ability to offer those Healthgrades customers on its licensed CMS a 99.99% SLA-guaranteed uptime through its advanced hosting service was another major differentiator in their search for a technology partner. Healthgrades supports over 1,500 healthcare organizations across all its solutions; thus, it needed a highly stable and reliable environment to scale their proprietary platform services. Crownpeak’s AWS hosting solution was provided in pods comprising of two identical web servers and an AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) to even-out server load and mitigate unexpected downtime. An additional disaster recovery pod gave additional resiliency for a bullet-proof implementation.

Future-Proof Architecture: SaaS was a core requirement in the vendor selection process as Healthgrades was keen to free themselves from the costs and technical overheads of manual upgrades. Healthgrades understood that just because a solution is deployed via the cloud, it doesn’t mean its SaaS.

“With cloud-based solutions, the platform is still running in a data center somewhere, so when it’s time to upgrade to a newer version, we knew the hassle and expense would fall on us,” explained Sean Brasher. “Because our customers rely on our expertise to get their websites deployed quickly, we couldn’t risk that manual upgrades would slow us down. Because Crownpeak DXM is a native SaaS solution upgrades are automatic, so our customers are always on the latest version."

Flexibility & Scalability: Crownpeak DXM affords the flexibility of a fully decoupled architecture and provides an API to allow all platform features to be automated. This enables Healthgrades to seamlessly push out central updates and changes to each client’s individual CMS. Because Crownpeak is hosted on AWS, it is always simple to add additional capacity as the client-base grows and to meet individual customer needs.

Project Surprises

According to Doug Slay, there were very few surprises during the project. Slay noted that every content management system Healthgrades has built, or been a part of up until this point, was, for the most part, plug and play. What he found with Crownpeak was that the initial starting point was simply not there. They had to build that starting point, which, from a development cycle, could push Healthgrades back onto their timeline. This perceived hindrance, however, fostered an advantage. Since the solution was built from the ground up, it could be implemented quickly and supported holistically with a strong foundation for future add-ons and upgrades.

“I think the only real challenge we had was the multi-tenant concept due to most of Crownpeak’s clients being single-client instances, which means, you're kind of self-contained,” said Slay. “We ran into a little bit of an issue with some ‘permissioning,’ where it wasn't possible, so we pivoted to a multiple-instance approach with Crownpeak. But the reaction of both Healthgrades and the Crownpeak teams made it not as big of a deal as it potentially could have been.”

No IT project, I’m aware of, goes from planning to release without a few hiccups along the way. Most of the time they’re minor issues, but there are times when it can be catastrophic. The difference between a failed project and a successful launch, in most cases, comes down to the level of support received from the software vendor.

Future Roadmap

What does the future look like for Healthgrades’ relationship with Crownpeak? Continued expansion, according to Doug Slay and Sean Brasher. “We're very interested in the other products that they are now offering, like TagControl, and how we could potentially use that for our clients. I know we are also looking at Crownpeak’s DQM product in how we could leverage that as well,” Brasher explained.

Additionally, Healthgrades now has an entire portfolio of products that they plan to integrate into the Crownpeak platform, which includes a Crownpeak guideline document spelling out exactly how to do that step-by-step. I don't believe Healthgrades has pushed Crownpeak to their technological limits quite yet, but that seems to be the plan as they grow together—strategically extending the platform for Healthgrades’ future digital experience needs.

“When we learned that Crownpeak’s platform was hosted with Amazon, we knew our customers would feel at ease”
Sean Brasher, Sr. Director Web Technology
AWS hosting 99.99%
SLA-guaranteed availability
Best-in-class security
and data protection
Scalable SaaS delivery support without escalating costs
Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry since 1993 and is the Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected, and the Founder and President of Falcon-Software. If you would like advice on how to evaluate a "best-fit" digital experience solution for your organization, Gary can be reached at

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