We search for health information in times of heightened emotions: fear, stress, frustration, dread—and even, at times, excitement and anticipation.
Irrespective of emotional state, when consumers encounter a healthcare organization’s website, they are not asking to be marketed to, nor are they asking for an accurate representation of departmental structure—they are asking for your help.
When we fail to deliver a clear, intuitive, and supported journey to our consumers, we send a strong message that, at best, we aren’t paying attention and, at worst, we don’t care.
Let’s talk about what happens when you focus on business entity first, patients second.
The Patient You Almost Lost
Meet Bryan, a 29-year-old transitional living assistant. His is a true story, gleaned from a patient interview. Bryan hasn’t learned to be his own healthcare advocate, which becomes all-the-more apparent when he is diagnosed with chronic urticaria (hives).
Two months into a complex treatment plan of trial-and-error, Bryan’s doctor prescribes a new medication. The next Saturday morning, he awakes to the most painful and intense outbreak he’s had since the early days of his diagnosis.
Bryan decides he needs an urgent visit to his doctor.
He thinks of his doctor by her clinic location, so he Googles, finds the clinic website, and looks for office information. Bryan lands on his clinic’s page and sees the clinic is not open. He calls the number on the webpage and a representative explains that his doctor is out until Tuesday and “I’m sorry we can’t help.”
It’s a dead end.
Neither the phone representative nor the clinic page offer alternate suggestions. The page only connects to more information about the clinic itself (and the lovely new waiting room!) but does not account for Bryan’s use case. Bryan considers heading to the ER, but every time he goes, it’s at least a six-hour ordeal with no real results.
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In his frustration, he wonders if he should find a doctor with better access.
Bryan’s girlfriend works in healthcare and has an above-average understanding of health systems. She suggests: “Why don’t you just go to urgent care?” Bryan knew about urgent care and had used them before when he had routine colds in college. But he had no idea that an urgent care location could help him with an existing course of treatment. He was afraid he’d have to explain every medication he’d been on and every dosage. He also feared his own doctor would be unhappy he let another doctor interfere, or that a new solution would potentially conflict with existing medications.
“But they’re part of the same health system,” his girlfriend explains.
Bryan did end up going to an urgent care within the hospital network. The urgent care physician could assess his treatment plan and make the best short-term choice to help him get through the weekend.
His symptoms were alleviated and he could make it to his doctor appointment without disrupting the complex medication trials his doctor was working on.
The digital team never knew they almost lost a patient because of a preventable content experience breakdown.
Prevent an Experience Breakdown
Bryan’s situation illustrates a very common micro-level failure in a patient journey.
In this case, the organization assumed patients understand connection points between care types.
Our research has shown significant digital interest in walk-in, virtual visits, and urgent care. We conducted a national survey and found that, for critical health situations, most users appropriately select the ER but struggle to understand mid-level care solutions and locations, even as immediate care has become a top web service line for many of our clients.
It has become increasingly important—and beneficial to the organization—to help patients understand how to choose what care type they need and how each care type connects to the system.
This is just one of many common business problems and trends you can make clearer for your patients.
Healthcare is complicated enough from the inside, but you have the advantage of understanding the business structure and its nuances. Your patients cannot see things from your point of view, which is why you need to take the time to understand theirs.