Three Trends in Digital Health Experiences That Should Not Be Ignored

Chris  Corriveau

September 15, 2015

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From the threat of a primary care physician shortage, to the adoption and management of electronic medical records (EMR), to the rise of accountable care models where business outcomes are more closely tied to patient health outcomes-digital experiences are poised to transform the healthcare industry on many fronts. For health systems in particular, the opportunity (and the need to get it right) is significant.

But, to date, digital health experiences are often pretty dismal for both patients and doctors, caught in a web of HIPAA regulations, non-integrated medical systems, and politics. Relying on legacy designs that offer limited confusing user experiences also puts health systems at risk of losing consumers today who are empowered more daily to seek out quality healthcare experiences.

So, what can be done in this highly regulated industry to improve health system websites?

Here are three digital trends that shouldn't be ignored:

  • Digital Health Experiences Must Be Mobile. A 2015 Pew Research study indicates that 64% of Americans own a smartphone. 19% of Americans say that they either "do not have any other form of high-speed Internet access at home" or "limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone." That means nearly 1 in 5 Americans' sole access to the Internet is via their phone.  Additionally, Pew revealed that 62% of smartphone owners used their phone in the past year to "look up information about a health condition". Modern digital healthcare experiences must lead with a mobile strategy (rather than follow) to create patient experiences that adapt seamlessly across any device or screen size, and responsive design is the most efficient way to accomplish this.
  • The Uberization of Everything. Recently, my colleague Simon, shared his perspective on The Uberization of Financial Services. But, that trend is not unique to banking. With service expectations influenced by the likes of Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber, it's imperative to provide customers with experiences that are as convenient as they are empowering. While a looming physician shortage has been predicted (and debated)-as has the virtualization of healthcare-there is no doubt that digital experiences coupled with emerging technology will continue to play a role in improving doctor-patient interactions, fostering personalized treatment plans, and integrating patient self-service across the system.
     

    At the same time, current appointment and referral models are poised for optimization and redesign to reduce friction in making appointments, creating efficiencies across health systems and addressing overbooked health practices.  A digital experience that allows users to find a provider and book an appointment from wherever they are-and book based on immediate availability-would be a game changer for many health systems in terms of both customer acquisition and loyalty.

  • Content is King, but Context is Queen. The rise of personalized content on websites can be both a blessing and a curse in the health field. On the one hand, it makes it possible for users to experience the content they need when they need it. On the other hand, in order for healthcare content to be relevant, there's a lot of heavy lifting in content strategy and tagging, and a robust taxonomy is required. In the medical field, with complex language, complicated spellings, and multiple names for conditions, strategic content and taxonomy plays a major role. Using natural language is key.
     

    If a patient is coming to a site to learn more about a health condition, and doesn't find relevant content on the site related to his term, he is going to go somewhere else to find it. For example, a patient with Factor V Leiden, a blood clot condition might search for "blood clots" rather than hematology or thrombophilia. The more relevant and accessible content is, the better for the health system in establishing its role as trusted advisor. But, challenging as it might be, such targeted content plays a crucial role to improve searchability, and "getting it right" can drive increased patient appointments and referrals.

Consumers consult the web as a "source of truth" and use it to validate their decisions-making it imperative to deliver the right content, at the right time-particularly when it comes to health. As digital health experiences move away from one-way educational, marketing, and administration tools and toward fostering two-way doctor-patient relationships and a more central role in the treatment of patients, designing healthcare experience with user first and mobile top of mind will be crucial to long term business outcomes.

Source: Pew Research Center