People are increasingly turning to smartphones and other electronic devices for everyday needs -- including their health and healthcare. And, wow, did COVID-19 deliver a wake-up call for the healthcare industry to get their digital house in order. If a patient interacts with your clinic, practice, or hospital, they’re interacting with you digitally.
Yet only 30% of consumers use patient portals; a clear sign they fail to deliver useful or simple digital experiences. And many healthcare provider websites offer only basic information, with little thought to the patient journey.
In response, the idea of a digital front door has become increasingly pervasive. The digital front door is accurately focused on the patient journey; however, the idea is so broad that by itself, it does not guide what a healthcare website should do.
We can say definitively that medical websites need to be more modern, effective, and—most critically—attuned to the needs of the consumer. Offering a user-centered digital experience turns online visitors into one-time patients and one-time patients into loyal and trusting patients. Along the way, well-designed healthcare websites allow staff to focus on high-value patient interactions in the moments that truly matter.
Even though it sounds easy, there is a disconnect between what healthcare organizations and medical practices want in a healthcare website strategy and what patients expect to see when exploring websites. This is why healthcare marketing executives are investing in custom website design and development: not to replace the specific functionality provided by a patient portal or a use-specific app, but to create a seamless, intentional experience that stitches these capabilities together with the user in mind.
It’s time to build a digital experience that seamlessly translates from the in-person patient experience you’ve already reached at your hospital. Ready to learn how to make your website go from optimized to patient-centric? Let’s dig in.
What is user experience in healthcare web design?
User experience (UX) is a mindset and set of practices that prioritizes user’s needs and experience. UX applies to any physical or digital experience, but is most often used when designing websites and digital experiences (e.g., apps, portals, email/text communications, etc.).
UX considers both the users' end goals (what the user is trying to accomplish) and the context of those goals (is the user hurried, scared, tired, on-the-go, etc.). This means it goes beyond the accessibility of health information and includes the emotional experience. Of course, a patient portal could deliver test results via text notification, but delivering a positive test result for a potentially scary condition is clumsy and detrimental to the patient's emotional experience.
Successful UX is synonymous with a user-friendly website, because it integrates simplicity and elegance with awareness of the user’s point of view at all times. Healthcare site visitors (patients, potential patients, and families) typically rate their website experiences based on some or all of the following factors:
- The ability to quickly meet their specific need at that moment in time
- Website features and functionality focused on digital delivery: appointment scheduling, location information, video visits, physician lookup, etc.
- Ability to view health information, test results, and billing
- Site or page speed load time
- Availability for customer support
- Voice and tone of the content and images
In building a positive UX, you need to make sure your online presence answers the following questions:
- “Can users accomplish their goals on my website?”
- “Do they have the best possible experience on my website?”
If you’re not meeting those metrics, you can lose potential new patients and invite current patients to go elsewhere, seeking another provider.
What are patients looking for?
No one intends to deliver a bad user experience. Yet most organizations—and, in our experience, particularly ones in healthcare—vastly overestimate their ability to truly understand what patients are experiencing and seeking to accomplish. Having the right information and functionality accessible is a good start, but patients are looking for something more personal. Four major attributes can help facilitate this personal feeling, including:
- Emotionality. The potential emotional state of patients should be taken into account when drafting content, especially for particularly stressful health conditions.
- Human factors. Your website needs to be inclusive of different health conditions patients may face – including poor or altered vision, cognitive impairment, or low dexterity – that may impede their ability to communicate or read.
- Family context. Families often play a significant role in people’s healthcare, especially at children's hospitals. Designing the system to allow caregivers to communicate with health providers can help streamline care, lower frustrations, and open opportunities for better patient outcomes.
- Ease. Patients want information at their fingertips. They want a site that lets them navigate without confusion, eliminates healthcare jargon, and helps them search what they need, when they want it. This is easily said but often extremely difficult to do in a complex healthcare environment where internal politics and regulatory compliance can have significant influence over web development and design.
Healthcare organizations and care centers must begin by fully understanding what patients want and need, setting aside their expertise for a moment to develop empathy for patient experience. You want to start with research and patient journey mapping. The more data you have on the patient, families, perceptions, and motivations, the more knowledge you’ll have in reaching a good UX and web design strategy that meets your goals while successfully fulfilling your patients’ and visitors’ needs.
To add, a patient-centered point of view grounded in research will help internal leaders align on the right path forward.
A Patient’s Website Experience is a Personal Experience
When a patient sees their doctor, it’s personal. When a parent takes their child to get care, it’s personal. When patients access healthcare websites, mobile apps, social media, and patient portals… it’s also personal. How do you solve this? Simple.
Give them what they need! Now that you know how research-based insights plus UX informs digital strategy, you’re ready to design and deliver a more high-quality, personalized website. Here are a few ways insights inform medical website design:
Patient insight #1 = I want to have easy access to finding a location or provider and know if my insurance is accepted.
- Solution = Place these wants prominently on your home page, headers, and navigation. The home page and navigation is home for a lot of medical information that hospitals need to display — prioritizing what patients look for will be essential to ensure they get what they want quickly
Patient insight #2 = I’m overwhelmed by all the health information and content.
- Solution = Create a clean layout with plenty of white space or a more simple color scheme. Healthcare organizations have an ample amount of content, so the trick is to not have less information, but rather simplify what you have. You may need to better coordinate links, buttons, text, and even CTA to one specific color so when users see a call to action, they understand quickly what they are expected to do next.
Patient insight #3 = The mobile app is complicated, slow, and clunky.
- Solution = Optimize with mobile responsive design. It’s imperative that you build a responsive website that reaches mobile and tablet users, especially when they're looking for doctor’s offices in their location.
In website design, there are so many ways to put patients at the center of your hospital’s website. It’s a matter of working with a medical web design partner that helps clarify what your patients are looking for, merges those findings with UX design, and creates a build that meets your hospital's and patient’s goals.
As healthcare providers and digital marketing leaders learn to treat their websites as centerpieces for their mission and care model, you will discover the power of digital: to deliver better patient engagement and retention and more efficient care.