UX in Healthcare: Designing Websites to Improve the Patient Experience

Patients are increasingly relying on smartphones and other electronic devices to access healthcare websites. Especially in an industry where patient health is at stake, healthcare websites must adapt to be functional and user friendly. But most importantly, the patient needs to leave the website feeling comfortable trusting your facility.

Picture this: you’re an amputee who has recently received an above knee amputation secondary to diabetes and infection. You’re sitting in the patient bed in pain, apprehensive about getting a prosthesis but also excited at the possibility of becoming mobile again. You type into google, “prosthetic facilities in my area,” to find there is one prosthetic clinic in your area. You click on the website and it looks like it was made in the 1990’s; there is no color coordination, there are no images, blue underlined links, haphazardly organized content, the sad list is endless. Your first impression is utter disappointment and anxiety, you are now worried about getting a prosthesis, and ultimately you decide to look elsewhere.

More likely than not, a healthcare website is a patient’s first impression of your facility; that is why it is so important that this first impression is positive, leaving your patient with confidence in your services. Outlined below are some user experience tips that will improve the patient experience on your healthcare website.

Collect Patient Research

1. Identify your patient population

In order to properly design your healthcare website, you need to understand the basics about your patient population by collecting patient demographic data. Are you a pediatric clinic designing for kids and their parents? Are you a geriatric optometry clinic designing for elderly patients with poor eyesight?

Knowing your patient population and critically thinking about their needs will determine design choices on your healthcare website. For example, if you were designing for a pediatric clinic, you might want to include more pictures of children and use brighter fun colors. Or if you were designing for the elderly, you would want to keep the font large and dark, and stay away from non-intuitive internet conventions (for example, most elderly patients don’t know that clicking on the logo will lead to the home page).

2. Identify your patient needs

Having the right information in accessible places is paramount when creating a positive patient experience on your medical website. The only way to truly know what information your patients are looking for is to conduct research.

Conducting online or in-person surveys are a great way to get helpful information from patients that will ultimately inform your design decisions down the line. Patients may be looking for resources, contact information, services, hours, insurance information, or whatever else depending on the type of medical facility you are. Once you have the patient needs, you can make sure these features are easily accessible and identifiable on the website. This will ensure the patient does not become frustrated while looking for information they need.

3. Is there an existing website?

If there is an existing website, you can conduct user research on the current website to determine what is or is not working. You can have patients rate the overall aesthetics and usability.

You can conduct patient testing where you have patients identify key important features you determined in step two. This will be a good foundation and baseline upon which you can build the new website.

Empathize With Patients

1. Create User Personas

Once you have a better understanding of trends in patient goals and pain points, you can begin creating user personas by putting yourself in the mindset of the patients. You can summarize your patient experiences into different biographies/goals/pain points/preferences.

This information will inform your design decisions later on and prevent you from focusing on non-important features. It will bring clarity to you and your team, ensuring you see the bigger picture and gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be a patient with a particular condition.

2. Create site map

Now that you have patient research to inform your design decisions, you can create a site map that will serve as a floor plan to your website.

Creating a site map now will give you a visual representation of the site’s organization and how different sections are linked together. It is a great way to keep organized that will keep you and the team on the same page.

Design/Test

1. Design prototypes to test new design

With true user needs identified and empathy tapped into, you can start working on solutions. Create sketches, low-fidelity prototypes, high-fidelity prototypes and don’t forget to user test on patients along the way to make sure you are still meeting patient goals!

2. Test against the old design (if it exists)

If an existing website exists, you can always conduct user testing on the old website vs the new website.

You can measure the amount of time it takes a patient to accomplish or find certain features on a website. You can measure the aesthetics of the old website vs the new website. You can measure usability. You can ask follow up questions and gather feedback that will inform future design iterations.

Ultimately, the data generated will provide quantifiable metrics that can determine if your design interventions were successful or not.

Iterate

1. Use patient research results to inform design iterations.

Your website is never going to be perfect from the start. Use data pulled from your research to inform how you make incremental improvements.

If multiple patients were not able to find the medical insurance information on the website, what was blocking them from finding it? Maybe the font was too small on the link and they completely missed it. Then enlarge the font. Maybe the link was under a tab that patients didn’t think to look under. Then make note of where patients are looking for link, and move the link there.

Keep researching and designing until all of the patient goals have been met!

Summary

UX is important for every business to consider when designing websites, but healthcare organizations are especially vulnerable to the consequences of a bad UX strategy.

Negative experiences on healthcare websites can drive patients away whereas positive patient experiences can lead to increased patient engagement, higher interest in your healthcare services, and higher likelihood they were share your content and services with other patients.

When you start with the patient experience in mind and design from there, you will be sure to create a website that your patients will love.

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