A few years ago Alicia Jansen, associate vice president at MD Anderson Cancer Center had a problem on her hands. As she explained at the SHSMD Annual Conference, potential patients were having a hard time getting that first appointment. In addition to being scared and emotional with a new cancer diagnosis, they had to jump through a lot of hoops to get something scheduled. There was a lot of back and forth as well as repeated paperwork. So Jansen decided to take on the project and make the experience better.
After analyzing the procedures and talking to the call teams, she decided to create an online experience that would make the process easier on patients and the clinics.
With the new site live and performing well, Jansen shared these keys to engaging and empowering patients online – and provided lessons learned:
- Give the patients what they want: For MD Anderson, patients want to know when they have an appointment pending. Jansen launched functionality that allows patients to see the status of their appointment – so they know where they are in the process. Always give your patients what they want – if they want to be able pre-register or schedule appointments online, allow that type of functionality! She also pointed out if they reach out to you online, they’re telling you their communication preference. They don’t want a call – they want an email with links to online forms.
- Let them know how they can help the process: MD Anderson uses their site to tell patients what steps they are in charge of – such as getting medical records released, etc. Patients can view the process online and see when they’ve completed each step. This enables them to speed up the process.
- Don’t include every internal department: When you’re creating a new online experience, everyone doesn’t deserve a seat at the table. As Jansen put it, “When you have a boatload of people, you can’t move the boat.” She suggests working with an outside vendor to get a fresh perspective. Internal parties only see their own needs, you need someone that can see the bigger picture.
- Don’t let I.T. be in charge: All jokes aside, Jansen said I.T. simply doesn’t know the audience. She suggests involving I.T. from a technical standpoint but don’t assume they know what works best for your patients.
If you’re struggling to give your patients the online experience they want, contact us. As Jansen recommends, sometimes an outside perspective is the only way to break out of your internal silos and really focus on the patient.