Telehealth is rapidly expanding due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the increased need for social distancing measures. As telehealth becomes more prevalent, patients are discovering new needs in their digital healthcare interactions. To properly serve telehealth patients, healthcare organizations must have a website that effectively connects patients with their desired resources. When building those connections for telehealth patients, it’s crucial for healthcare organizations to consider who users are, what their goals may be, and what barriers stand in the way of achieving those goals.
As a healthcare provider, assessing which usability benchmarks your website meets (or doesn’t) is the first step in connecting as many telehealth patients as possible with the resources they need. The next step is to configure mechanisms for gathering insights about this specific audience’s behavior. Strategically investing in telehealth patient behavior will help you better provide these patients with the resources they need, but it will also help your organization build more useful and efficient experiences moving forward. With that in mind, we offer the following tips for improving your telehealth patient experience:
1. Consider Your Telehealth Audiences
Repeat users of your telehealth platform are individuals that are already ahead of the game. They have already accessed your telehealth resources before and know exactly how it works. They likely bring legacy knowledge of the platform to each interaction.
New users have never accessed your telehealth resources before. They could be a completely new patient trying to access care for the first time from your organization or they could be a lifelong patient of the practice who has always come in person for their visits. They could be a tech-savvy individual or someone who does not typically use a computer and has never been to your website before. It’s also possible they could be a chronically ill person who has coordinated care among multiple departments and facilities, or a patient who only comes in to see the primary care provider they are comfortable with for their annual checkup.
2. Identify Your User Group Needs
There are universal needs that both new and existing users have. These needs should be the baseline for your website:
- Your website needs to meet accessibility requirements to ensure that all patients can access resources regardless of any visual, physical, or mental impairments. There are basic standards that every site needs to meet in order to maintain compliance with established guidelines, such as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). These guidelines provide specific attributes to include for each piece of natural information (text, images, and sounds) as well as code or markup that defines structure and presentation. These are the crucial attributes that make it possible for patients to navigate your website with assistive technologies like screen readers.
- Make it obvious where patients can connect to telehealth. Utilize global visual indicators to communicate an unmistakable pathway. Place the link to your telehealth resources in your global navigation so that it can be accessed regardless of which page users are on. Make the link stand out by using a primary color from your organization’s color scheme to indicate the importance of the component or utilize a Call-To-Action button treatment to differentiate the link from other content on the page.
- Use consistent language when referring to telehealth. In an audit of one of the nation’s leading healthcare providers, all of the following terms for telehealth were used by the organization: telehealth, teleconferencing, telemedicine, video visit, on-demand health, e-visits, and online visual face-to-face conferencing. Pick one term and stick with it. Make sure each department uses that label when speaking to patients. Use the same word for billing purposes as well so that patients can properly identify associated costs with ease.
Repeat users of telehealth already know what to expect. All they need is that highly visible pathway to where they can schedule their appointment. These users want a frictionless process that allows them to navigate to telehealth without having to dig into the content on your website.
First-time users of telehealth have content needs that go beyond those of the repeat users, and they may need additional content. Depending on your website’s structure, this content could live in several different places. In today’s world, where an influx of patients suddenly needs telehealth access, you should consider cross-promoting to this content on your homepage. Telehealth content should answer some basic questions like:
- What is telehealth?
- What does it cost?
- Is telehealth covered by my insurance?
- How can I schedule an appointment?
- What kind of device do I need to use telehealth?
- Will I meet with my regular care provider?
If there are other nuances about your healthcare’s organization telehealth configuration, you should include that information too. Additionally, a form or phone number should be listed on this page to triage patients who may have additional needs or concerns.
3. Keep Growth in Mind
Document pain points that your organization experiences. Gather feedback from care providers, call centers, post-appointment questionnaires, and observe user behavior from your site’s analytics. As your remote healthcare practice matures and becomes more accessible to wider audiences, you must plan for obstacles that arise. Primary care visits may be well-served with a video chat, but a dermatologist may need higher-resolution images to diagnose a patient than video conferencing can handle. Perhaps video conferencing is an ineffective strategy for a rheumatology examination but is surprisingly sufficient for an oncology consultation. To gather insights specific to your organization, you can act now by initiating these systems and collect this crucial data as it emerges.
As more and more users utilize telehealth for new appointment types, your “repeat users” group will expand and break off into sub-groups who have different needs and goals. As your data set inevitably grows, it can become a full-time job to sift through all the information you collect. Seeking a partner (like Velir) to translate that data into quantitative and qualitative insights about patients can provide the support to build upon your remote healthcare practice so that your patients can access the critical information that has become so important to them.