The healthcare industry has been undergoing a digital evolution for some time. The wave of “consumerism” has many digital marketers looking to incorporate more user-centered design into their digital experience. 

Based on numerous conversations we’ve had with healthcare clients and industry leaders, we understand that championing user-centered design is a challenge for digital marketers in health systems in particular. Internal stakeholder demands dictate that the website remain organization-centric, designed for the departments of the health system versus patient or other audience needs. It’s often hard to respond to these user needs, especially when other internal voices are louder and more influential across your organization.

We want to empower you to create change with small, yet meaningful, user-centered initiatives. And we recommend starting with asking your actual users to share what they need. This insight should serve as your foundation for jump-starting change within your organization. 

So how do you get started? 

First, prioritize future efforts that align with both organization and user goals.
Take a step back from your wish list of initiatives. Think about what your organization is looking to accomplish and/or communicate and how your digital properties can align to those goals and what your users want.

"You should never introduce a new tactic or website functionality because it’s trending; your audiences won’t use it if it’s not tied to a real need they have."

Unsure about what your users’ goals actually are? 
Focus on identifying one pressing online need from your users firsthand. 
Nothing beats a quick, pointed yet meaningful discussion with real users. And if you haven’t surveyed or interviewed your audiences in a while (or ever), it’s understandable that you would want to ask them everything you can think of. Instead, focus on understanding what one (or just a few) major change(s) would have a positive impact on their experience. 

Qualitative discussions allow you to get to the heart of why certain aspects of your digital experience are such a source of frustration for them. This kind of information just can’t be found in analytics data alone. And yes, oftentimes users can’t articulate what they actually want. But they are pretty good at identifying what they don’t want and why. 

Experiment to find an appropriate methodology for gathering patient feedback that makes the user comfortable to share (and is feasible for your team).
Healthcare can be more challenging than other industries in getting willing participants to share their thoughts. Users are weary that they might need to share personal information. Or they are in such a state of distress, it’s not an appropriate time to be asking them to take a survey.

We have found that our most meaningful conversations with patients take place when we ensure they have time and are in the right state of mind. Some of our most successful one-on-one interviews were recruited from hospital waiting rooms. Offering patients an incentive to give anonymous, non-invasive feedback when already waiting around in the hospital has proven to be more effective than any website survey. And one or two days is all you need to get quality information. 

Document and disseminate your outcomes to fellow colleagues and departments that can help you create the change your users wish to see.
Whatever kind of user research you or your team can accomplish, you must always remember to share/promote your findings to others in the organization. Keeping your insights in a silo not only keeps others in the dark on what patients are looking for but also makes it unlikely that colleagues will support user research in the future if they’ve never had the opportunity to see the value in it for themselves. 

Sharing your findings could be done in the form of a presentation, but we also like to get multiple teams involved in more interactive user journey mapping workshops that use this research data to start a conversation on what changes need to be made along the user’s experience. It is more likely that other teams buy in to making these changes when they are part of the solution and understand the ideas come from the patients, caregivers or other audiences themselves. 

While it may seem that user needs might not align with marketing or organizational priorities, in the end, helping users do what they are trying to do more easily proves good for business. When you start this effort and move forward in making design changes, make sure to document your goals and how you will measure your success on the website. Once design changes are made and analyzed after a short amount of time, you can share real data proof points from your own website with colleagues and stakeholders.

We’d love to hear about your own successes and challenges with conducting user research and championing user-centered design in your organization. Reach out to us at info@velir.com.