Research Uncovers User Trends

It seems our industry talks a lot about developing products with the end user in mind at all times, but that isn’t always the case.  In fact, some functionality that was intended to be user-friendly is anything but.  It’s important to us at Geonetric that the user experience is always at the forefront of our development process, and we’ve taken steps to ensure that’s the case. As we release the next generation of our VitalSite software we’re in a perfect situation to perform user experience research and have uncovered some really interesting information.

Most recently, we focused on the Physician Directory. Too often we find that hospitals deploy physician directory applications designed primarily for internal use. For example, the data is often a simple export of credentialing data without detail to help visitors make decisions about providers, the bios lack photos, and the search criteria are complex and require familiarity with medical terminology.

In contrast, our approach is to build a module that focuses entirely on the user experience.

Simple search

In our research, we found a striking correlation between the complexity of the search and the failure rate. Too many search options makes things complicated. So, we dramatically simplified the search: we mimicked Google’s approach with one search box. You can type specialties, keywords, names or ZIP codes into the search box, and VitalSite intelligently returns the best matches. It even corrects many spelling errors and can automatically connect keywords to specialties (e.g. “heart” to “cardiologist”).

Searching by gender

We found that searches by gender weren’t being done in isolation – it was almost always in combination with a specialty or location. We also noted that users searching by gender seemed to browse the results lists. The implication is that users, in some cases, were including other characteristics to make choices about which doctor to select – perhaps using age or other factors – in addition to gender. This was less prevalent in certain kinds of specialties, such as oncology, and more common in family practice areas.

So, in VitalSite, we created a “best of both worlds” approach: you begin your search by specialty or location, and the search results include photos (or gender-specific silhouettes for those without photos), to allow quick visual filtering.

Drive decisions

Ultimately, our research showed that most patients are looking to take an action once they’ve found the provider they want. VitalSite provides a link directly to make an online appointment, if it’s available for that provider, as well as contact information. If the provider practices at multiple locations, all are shown, and are visible on an integrated Google map.

We also learned that the patients want much more than basic name, education and address, so we built VitalSite to allow as much information as you’d like to provide – including references to publications, CVs, personal interest stories, videos, podcasts or any other information or materials to help patients make informed decisions.

For such a seemingly simple application, our research pointed out lots of ways to improve the way we presented our providers to the public to drive consumer decision-making and ultimately revenue. This same thought process can be applied to many other types of functionality, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.  User research has become an integral part of how we’re building our software, and how we’re revolutionizing eHealth.

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This entry was posted in Best Practices, User Experience by Eric Engelmann. Bookmark the permalink.
Eric Engelmann

About Eric Engelmann

Eric gets people excited. About healthcare. About technology. About Geonetric. It only takes a few moments of being in his presence to feel his passion and see his vision. A healthcare reform junkie, Eric can usually be found uncovering new ways to show healthcare executives how to leverage technology investments and develop patient portals that will improve care delivery. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, he began his career in technology, founding Geonetric and never looking back. Through his leadership, Geonetric continuously receives honors and recognitions, including being named a Best Place to Work by Modern Healthcare, Software Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa, and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five years running. When he’s not sharing his vision for the future of healthcare or accepting awards on behalf of his company, he can be found having lunch with his daughter at a local elementary school or donning lederhosen and entertaining his team at the Annual Engelmann Oktoberfest.

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