Recently I had the privilege of attending An Event Apart in Chicago. After every conference I walk away with amazing ideas and new things to try, but Eric Meyer’s presentation “Designing for Crisis” hit home, hard.
Imagine you’re a parent. Your son or daughter is in a terrible accident on their way home from a school football game. You get a phone call saying your son or daughter is being transported to the nearest hospital (which you may or may not be familiar with) and that’s about all you know.
You’re in complete shock. You can hardly focus, tears streaming down your face as you imagine the worst. You have no idea where to go or what to do. All you want is to get to your child as fast as possible, but it’s late at night and everything in the hospital is closed. Where do you turn for answers?
Naturally, most of us would turn to the hospital’s website.
A Desperate Search for Answers
You pull out your smartphone and frantically start searching the hospital’s homepage. The first thing you see is a giant image that takes too long to download on your smartphone. When it finally downloads, you realize it’s an image of the latest award the hospital has won. Helpful, right?
Next you might see news or events – not at all relevant to you in this situation. You may see a link to pay your bill or make a donation, but how do I get to my child?
You aren’t trying to find a doctor, or make an appointment. If you’re lucky you might see urgent care wait times, but again, that doesn’t tell you how to get to your child. Patients and Visitors might be a good place to look, but once you click into that section, you realize it’s just cafeteria menus, visiting hours and how to send a cheer card.
Eventually, you might stumble across an Emergency Department page that’s filled with info about how many patients were seen last year and how the physicians are board certified. You might see medical language about inpatient, outpatient, surgery, a triage nurse, and a list of things that are considered an “emergency”. Even if you were in a stable state of mind, this would be hard to comprehend.
The entire time you’re searching, you’re holding a phone in your hand, and never once does the thought of calling the hospital cross your mind. Why? Because we forget these high dollar devices in our hands are phones. Even if you could think clearly enough to realize you should call, would you even find the right phone number on the website or would you call an office that is closed?
Improving the User Experience
As managers of healthcare websites, this type of experience is unacceptable.
Yes it’s true this particular scenario is not your primary audience. But your website should accommodate both every-day patients and those in panic mode who aren’t able to think clearly.
Imagine again that something traumatic happened in your community (another 9/11 attack, a school shooting, earthquake, hurricane, tornado). Would family members be able to navigate your site quickly to find the type of information they’re looking for?
During his speech, Meyers suggested that every organization develops several personas and situations that could relate to your organization. Write these personas and situations down, and try to navigate your website in their shoes. Could you quickly find the information you need or would you be stopped by a wall of pages that exist to satisfy internal politics?
The above situation could have been avoided if the website included a small section about what to do during a crisis. A part of your homepage should be dedicated to this section and the section should include things like:
- Who to contact and how
- Where to go for assistance finding your loved one
- A map to the hospital
- Where to park
- Which door to use
- Where to go after normal hours
- What to expect
- What to bring with you (insurance cards, medicines, paperwork etc.)
- Crisis hotline information
- Counseling information
As designers and marketers, it’s important to put ourselves in others’ shoes. Thinking through different real-life crisis scenarios can help us design the best overall experience for patients and their loved ones.
It’s our responsibility — perhaps just as much as the emergency department’s — to help family members by telling them where to go, what to expect and easing their stressful situation.