How to Build a Healthcare Journey Map

You’ve learned about healthcare journey maps. And why it’s important to build healthcare journey maps. Now you’re ready to create a journey map for your healthcare organization. But what’s the process?

In my experience building healthcare journey maps, the most important factor is to have a solid foundation in healthcare. The person who builds the journey map should have a strong knowledge of typical healthcare processes, know what types of technology might be involved, and be practiced in demonstrating empathy with patients.

With that framework in mind, here’s the 5-step process to build a healthcare journey map:

1. Understand your healthcare persona

A healthcare journey map should be based on a particular healthcare persona. While you may not build out a persona card for the journey map persona, you still must have a solid understanding of who it is.

You can build this understanding through interviews with patients – or staff members, such as clinic coordinators, who work closely with patients and engage in non-clinical conversations with patients. (Remember: the journey map should look outside the clinical lens, and through the eyes of the patient.)

You might also use site surveys or other market research to learn more about your persona.

2. Research the healthcare journey

You’ll want to do some “mystery shopping.” Test out the process – do the type of online research your persona will do. Try to schedule online. Call to make an appointment. As you go through the journey yourself, you’ll learn a lot.

For parts of the process you’re not able to test – the actual appointment, the discharge instructions, etc. – really probe to uncover specific details. And, if relevant and appropriate, ask for copies of documentation. When you’re told, for instance, “patients receive notification that they’re due for an appointment” – ask what the notification says, what trigger is in place, how users can respond, and so on. This is where it’s particularly helpful to have a strong healthcare foundation. You’ll know what types of questions to ask, and be able to probe appropriately without being intrusive or obnoxious.

3. Map the healthcare journey

Start with index cards or post-it notes. Write out each touchpoint. Find a big wall, and post them them in order. Find where gaps remain, where the story isn’t yet complete. See where some touchpoints overlap or repeat. Indicate the emotions associated with each stage in the process. The journey map should start to feel clear now. Then work with a designer to flesh out the best visualization for your journey.

4. Share the story and strategic recommendations

The journey map visualization will provide an executive summary of the journey. It will show how different touchpoints flow (or should flow) from one to the other. But the journey map also should have a point. So the next step is to share the “so what?” aspects of the journey – which are the parts that are proving particularly problematic (or delightful!) and why? Build additional slides that tell the story behind the map. At the end, provide clear strategic recommendations – the recommended next steps to improve the journey.

If there are many, plot them on a quadrant: easy to hard on one axis, low to high value on the other. Based on the quadrant, determine which steps to take first, and develop a timeline for future updates.

5. Assemble a team to improve the journey

OK, this part isn’t about building the journey map. But if your journey map is to have value, this step is essential. A journey map that sits in a drawer has no purpose – so don’t let that happen! Make sure to keep the momentum.

Assemble a team and assign roles for each of the next steps. Determine whether those assigned truly have the bandwidth and authority to make the change required. Keep it realistic, so that your project will be completed.

You’re ready to start your healthcare journey map!

No matter the type of healthcare journey – primary care, acute care, virtual care – those five steps hold true. If you have that strong healthcare foundation needed to run a journey map process, then it’s time to pull together your team and get started. If you don’t, find a team that can work with you to bring your journey map together – and to start the process of improving the experience for your healthcare consumers.

About the Author

Linda is a healthcare digital strategy leader with 20 years of progressive experience in guiding diverse health system teams to develop and execute digital experiences and infrastructures. She is passionate about improving healthcare consumer experience, while also ensuring business ROI, to help health systems expand on their broader missions to improve their communities' health and well-being.

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