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4 Ways to Improve Digital Accessibility in Healthcare

Digital accessibility is a critical component of a healthcare and life sciences organization’s digital health strategy, meaningfully impacting the patient and member experiences and truly differentiating the organization’s digital footprint. But getting started with digital accessibility can be a challenge within complex healthcare environments. Here are four steps to help you get going:

1. Take stock of your organization

For healthcare and life sciences organizations with little or no investment in a strategy for digital accessibility, knowing how to lift it off the ground is the first step. It starts with assessing your digital environment’s current resources, including different teams’ capabilities and capacity to develop an accessible digital environment. Next, you need to decide who should be involved within your organization and who has the diverse skillsets and perspectives required to create impactful, accessible healthcare content. That means including stakeholders from such areas as digital services, compliance, customer support, IT, legal, patient services, and any third-party vendors. It also includes defining what it means to be an inclusive healthcare organization.

2. Decide on your approach

There are two distinct approaches to making healthcare information and services accessible online. Some organizations adhere to compliance standards to reduce risk and exposure to discrimination. These healthcare entities provide accommodations by phone, text, or email, for example, if and when people cannot access a digital environment to accomplish something like finding a location.
This approach can meet ADA compliance; however, it misses opportunities to innovate with digital accessibility. Alternatively, leading organizations focus their teams’ capabilities on integrating accessibility best practices within policy, process, and procedure, to create compelling engagement across the healthcare journey. Again, thinking about finding a provider’s location on a website or mobile app, inclusive-minded organizations will identify the relevant user stories for persons with disabilities, and then design for assistive technologies like Siri’s VoiceOver and Google’s Talkback and test the design with actual healthcare consumers. They will also publish their accessibility policy and ask for feedback to continuously improve that healthcare experience.

3. Create your accessibility vision

The key question to ask yourself is, “How do we want to implement digital accessibility in the future?” The most forward-leaning healthcare and life sciences organizations eliminate barriers to information to create a peak online experience. One of our clients, a non-profit hospital and multi-specialty academic health science center, approached its strategy two ways: both as a continuous improvement process and as a driver of digital innovation, to provide quality healthcare experiences. Achieving this vision involved three key stages that we helped steer:

  1. Educating teams about progressive levels of digital accessibility maturity
  2. Laying the foundation, with the right level of maturity from the beginning
  3. Establishing objectives to reach the right level of maturity for the client’s specific strategy

Following the release of several high-visibility and high-use content areas on the website and mobile app (e.g., home page, visitor and patient information, locations), we achieved the vision laid out by the client – to see reports verifying that the foundation for digital accessibility was achieved, and at a higher level of maturity than first projected. This client continues to partner with us for subject matter expertise, the latest resources, ongoing training, and to reassess its short- and long-term strategy in digital accessibility.

4. Lift digital accessibility off the ground

With the strategic vision in place, you should put your accessibility strategy into operation. At a high level there are two key dimensions. First, establish organizational roles for responsibility and accountability and decide who in your organization should be consulted and informed. Second, create processes to establish and maintain accessibility and put those into place (i.e., the various ways of engaging the organization in your accessibility efforts).
For more information about how to improve digital accessibility in your healthcare or life sciences organization, download our guide, Enhance the Digital Health Experience with Digital Accessibility.

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Lisa McMichael

Lisa McMichael is a Senior Manager Digital Accessibility, CPACC with the Detroit Business Unit.

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