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Understanding Healthcare Journey Maps

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Healthcare journey maps are usually drawn as a linear progression with a clear beginning and end. But look closely at the healthcare journey and you’ll see it’s circular. The end of treatment doesn’t mark the journey’s end; instead, it’s a period of maintenance before the next symptoms or life events trigger the journey to resume. This isn’t pessimism or an assertion that people keep getting sick. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that each healthcare encounter – how we find care, receive care, and engage aftercare – dramatically impacts how we make healthcare decisions when the next health issue arises.

By focusing on the circular nature of the journey and fine-tuning each of its touchpoints, you can increase patient satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

What Is a Healthcare Journey Map?

A healthcare journey map is a visual or text-based depiction of each touchpoint in a patient journey. The key is to describe each phase, touchpoint, and related issues – motivations, pain points, emotions, messaging opportunities, or other details.

What’s the Difference Between a Healthcare Journey Map and a Healthcare Customer Experience Map?

Healthcare journey maps and experience maps are different names for the same thing. The primary purpose of crafting the journey map is to better understand and ultimately improve the customer journey, and so it is often called a customer experience map.

What Are the Phases of a Healthcare Journey Map?

No matter the symptoms or diagnosis – nor whether in-person or virtual, primary or specialty care – in non-emergency situations, the journey typically goes something like this:

Before treatment:

  • Deciding to Act: New symptoms or a life event prompts action
  • Researching Care Options: Doctors, locations, specialties
  • Making Contact: Reaching out to learn more or to schedule by phone, online, web chat or other means

During Treatment

  • Pre-Service: Addressing insurance issues, completing intake forms, getting medical records, and related issues
  • Arrival: Getting to and waiting at the physical location or virtual waiting room
  • Appointment: Time spent with clinicians
  • Diagnostics: Additional labs, imaging or other diagnostic tests
  • Treatment Plan: Providing a program or advice to treat or manage a health issue.
  • Discharge: Patient departs, follow-up instructions provided

After Treatment

  • Follow-up: Receiving prescriptions, booking follow-up appointments, and related issues
  • Maintenance: Managing health and maintaining wellness.

What Are Journey Map Touchpoints?

During each of the phases on the previous page, a patient will likely experience multiple touchpoints. For example, in researching care options, a person may search the internet, talk to friends, approach patient advocacy groups, contact their insurance company, and much more.

Each of those actions is a touchpoint, and in an ideal journey, the touchpoints are seamless, each leading to a clear next step. In a convoluted journey, touchpoints may be circuitous or completely disjointed, leading to uncertainty or dissatisfaction.

What Does a Typical Journey Map Template Include?

There is no single ideal journey map template or model. The ideal journey map design may vary depending on the specific journey being outlined and how the journey map will be used. More detail isn’t necessarily better. Too much detail may clutter the story if the goal is to provide a big-picture view.

On the other hand, if the journey map is being used as an internal map to fine-tune improvements, insufficient detail will mean key opportunities are missed. Ultimately, the journey map should tell a meaningful story about the healthcare consumer experience and clarify opportunities for improvement.

READ MORE: How to Build a Healthcare Journey Map.

Are Journey Maps Based on Personas?

All journey maps are based on a persona. In some cases, the persona will be drawn out in detail with a persona card and journey map working in tandem. Journey maps may even combine the persona and journey map into one consolidated view. However, it’s also possible the persona might not be fully built out, but only conceptually considered.

LEARN MORE: What Are Healthcare Personas.

How Do I Use Journeys in Healthcare?

Marketing, clinical, and patient experience teams can all leverage healthcare journey maps. Marketing tends to own the “before” phases, when people are healthcare consumers searching for the best care option. Clinical and patient experience teams tend to focus on the “during treatment” phases. The “after” phase is too often ignored. This is a huge loss for both the patient and the health system, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Again, the journey is circular. Focus on creating a seamless connection across all touchpoints, again and again, to build a better healthcare consumer and patient experience and ultimately build loyalty

READ NOW: What Happens When You Ignore the “After” Phase of the Healthcare Journey.

Are Healthcare Journey Maps Like Retail Journey Maps?

Healthcare journey maps follow the same concept of retail journey maps because, like retail consumers, healthcare consumers go “shopping.” They follow a series of steps and a whirl of emotions as they make their healthcare decisions.

Both retail and healthcare journey maps address pain points and are focused on building a more seamless journey. But healthcare is much more complicated, intersects with many more systems, has less-transparent pricing, and tends to be much more emotional – particularly for journeys where life or quality of life is at stake.

All of this means that the process of building a healthcare journey map looks very different than the process for retail journey maps.

SEE MORE: 10 Reasons to Build Healthcare Journey Maps.

Get Started!

Personas and journey maps build empathy, understanding, and direction to help your marketing, operations, and care teams deliver more meaningful and impactful experiences.

Perficient brings deep healthcare industry expertise to help you build an integrated strategy that starts with understanding your consumers’ journeys and how they make their care decisions. Are you ready to attract and nurture consumers and position your organization as service line leaders? We can help you jump-start your progress. Gain step-by-step guidance to increase patient satisfaction, loyalty, and retention with well-executed personas and journey maps through our interactive guide

GET THE GUIDE: Personas & Journey Maps: The Definitive How-To Guide for Healthcare Providers

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Linda Watts

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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