Despite significant spend and a sizable global patient portal market, healthcare companies consistently struggle to drive usage of their portals.
While overall portal adoption is up to 92%, a 2018 study indicates that only 30% of patients actively use their portal.
It’s not hard to understand why this is the case. Consider the last time you logged into your member portal, assuming you ever got around to setting up the account. Were you able to log in easily? Once you reset your password, did you quickly find the information you needed, or was the experience somewhat painful to navigate?
We believe the member portal experience doesn’t have to be frustrating. Particularly now, as COVID-19 moved more and more healthcare interactions online, we see an opportunity for healthcare companies and their Chief Digital Officers to prioritize their member portal experience and achieve their business goals in the process.
Achieving Your Portal – and Business – Goals
The first step to improving your user’s portal experience starts long before your agile development team starts writing code for the next feature “everyone needs,” but few members will use. It begins with your company goals and an understanding of the portal-related metrics that will drive business value. These two components jointly create a starting point for conversations that will move the needle for your company through the improvement of your portal. Business value should guide every decision you make – from what you highlight on the front page to the activities you want to encourage or discourage.
Armed with that information, you can proceed to step two – serving as a unifying force for your team. As the leader in charge of your company’s member portal, it’s critical to cast clear vision and goals and unite the various groups of designers, developers, architects, and managers who can make them a reality. Historically, the tension between technology and business leaders is common – often due to opposing measures of success. Aligning to shared goals and clear metrics for success works wonders for overcoming competing priorities and agendas.
By taking a balanced approach to your member portal and aligning the concerns of the various team members across the company to clear goals, you will be in a position to place the needs of the business over any one particular team, perspective, or voice.
With these two crucial pieces in place – a clear understanding of the metrics that drive business value and a united team front – your organization is ready to move to tactics to prioritize the member portal experience.
Prioritize the Member Portal Experience
Experience is paramount to increasing usage of your member portal. The best member portals display three key characteristics – findability, simplicity, and consistency.
Whether or not your portal has the information your users need, if they can’t find it quickly and easily, they often abandon their search and resort to a phone call or other means to get the information they require.
What are the most commonly used sections or features on your portal? How many clicks does it take the average user to get to that feature? Once they discover it, is it easy to find related information or complete common activities? Do navigation elements and headings use ‘industry language’ rather than familiar terms?
Specific events and tasks drive most member portal interactions. Unlike in e-commerce settings, where the time a user spends on a site is typically a positive indicator, the most satisfied healthcare portal users prefer to complete their objective and be on their way.
Many healthcare companies fall victim to a lack of empathy for their users in terms of healthcare language. Employee familiarity with the terms and processes make it easy to assume users will likewise understand. However, the average portal user doesn’t have a background in the healthcare field, which, unfortunately, feels like a prerequisite to successfully navigating the site.
By using clear language and presenting information in a way that your users will readily understand, rather than how your business labels and categorizes, you go a long way towards increasing adoption and creating an enjoyable experience.
Don’t be fooled; simplicity isn’t easy to get right. Getting there requires your team to commit to streamlining the experience for users – internal politics and competing business goals are just a few of the factors that often trump the ‘simplicity’ of a site.
A consistent experience across your member portal is critical to ease of use. Yet, consistency can be a tall order even when all of your portal functionality is provided and maintained internally. Many healthcare payers and providers contract out portions of their site or utilize third-party vendors to provide part of a feature, like wellness content, supplemental benefits, provider search, or other integrations.
These integrations make providing a consistent experience even more challenging. The best way to handle third-party vendors will vary based on individual goals and budget. In some cases, it may make more sense to indicate clearly that your user will be changing experiences and redirect to view third-party content. Other times, it might be worth the additional investment and development to keep users on your portal and integrate with vendor APIs or Single Sign-on (SSO) solutions.
An Overhaul or a First Step?
No matter where you are in your member portal’s maturity now is the right time to make a move – whether that’s a first step towards addressing user feedback or a full-blown redesign. Granted, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You certainly don’t have to fully re-platform your portal to make progress in any of these areas. Especially now, amid COVID-19, there are incremental steps to improve your portal’s simplicity, findability, and consistency.
We urge you to identify your business goals, tie that value to your portal, and work towards whatever progress you can manage to improve the portal experience for your customers.