Best practices for optimizing digital healthcare experiences

Posted on August 15, 2023
10 min read

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The healthcare industry has undergone a digital transformation. Patients rely on digital platforms more than ever to manage many aspects of healthcare, including booking appointments, accessing medical records, and getting teleconsultations. Whether you're building a health app, a patient portal, or remote monitoring solutions, optimizing digital healthcare experiences for your patients will enhance their satisfaction, engagement, and overall well-being.

Why should you optimize digital healthcare experiences?

Today, patients want flexibility in managing their health, engaging with providers, and accessing care. That's why people expect seamless omnichannel healthcare delivery. This approach provides communication at different touchpoints throughout the medical journey. 

Optimizing the digital healthcare experiences allows you to maximize what you and your patients can get from omnichannel communications and tools. Some of the main benefits you can get from optimization include:

  • Attracting new patients: A seamless, user-friendly experience makes your healthcare solutions more appealing to potential users.
  • Retaining existing patients: Offering convenient and personalized solutions strengthens relationships with current users. In turn, you can encourage them to stay with your organization.
  • Improved patient engagement: Enhanced digital tools promote understanding between healthcare providers and patients. As a result, users can get more out of the digital platforms you provide, making them more engaged.
  • Increased efficiency and reduced costs: Streamlining digital processes allows healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks. More efficient processes can bring you cost savings.
  • Expanded reach and accessibility: Effective digital solutions enable you to expand your reach to more people, even in remote or underserved areas.
  • Enhanced personalized care: Through tailored online experiences, you can cater to individual patient needs and preferences. Doing so will improve a patient’s engagement with their health and overall satisfaction with your services.
  • Improved health outcomes: A better digital experience means better healthcare delivery and improved patient health and satisfaction.

Digital health solutions have incredible potential to reduce disparities and democratize healthcare. Enhancing these technologies brings quality care directly into patients' daily lives, meeting their needs with convenience, personalization, and accessibility. 

Key components and features of an optimized digital healthcare experience

The key components and features of an optimized digital healthcare experience are as follows:

  • Convenient access: Patients should be able to manage their healthcare needs efficiently, at any time, and from anywhere. Swift and instant access to healthcare services and health data, such as electronic health records (EHR), are essential in the digital age.
  • Communication: Technology that encourages regular communication throughout the healthcare journey benefits and reassures patients. Smooth interactions with healthcare providers allow patients to voice their concerns, ask questions, and receive quick responses. 
  • Personalization: Every individual has distinct healthcare needs, and today's digital healthcare platforms include features and resources tailored to different patients. For instance, reminders for prescription refills and educational content related to a patient's diagnosis can add a personal touch and provide more efficient care. 
  • User experience and design: The look and feel of your digital platform impact patient satisfaction. An intuitive, easy-to-navigate, and visually pleasing system can enhance users' willingness to interact with the platform more frequently and engage more in their care.
  • Actionable health insights: Apps and patient portals should monitor health metrics and provide actionable insights. Customized feedback and guidance based on these metrics can empower patients and enable better-informed decisions about their care.
  • Security and privacy: Guaranteeing the safety and confidentiality of patient data is paramount in all your digital solutions. This ensures compliance with legal requirements and builds an atmosphere of trust.

Challenges in digital healthcare experiences

When it comes to integrating digital healthcare solutions, there are also challenges to be aware of. Understanding the following common problems can help you better prepare and work proactively toward solutions:

  • Lack of mobile optimization: Most patient portals primarily cater to desktop use. This lack of mobile optimization for mobile devices makes it challenging for patients who primarily use phones or tablets to engage with and benefit from digital healthcare services.
  • Poor usability and user experience: It's common for patients, especially the elderly and people with limited digital literacy skills, to have difficulties finding necessary information online. For example, complex interfaces and confusing terminology can be difficult barriers. 
  • Privacy concerns and data security: Given the ever-increasing number of data breaches and cyber threats, patients are concerned about sharing their personal health information online. This wariness can make patients hesitant to engage with digital healthcare services.
  • Interoperability and integration: The healthcare industry operates with multiple systems, devices, and software applications that must seamlessly integrate to provide comprehensive care. However, achieving interoperability and integrating these systems remains a significant challenge. This lack of interoperability leads to fragmented care and hampers the effectiveness of digital solutions.
  • Difficulties building human connection and trust: Patients value meaningful interactions and personal connections with healthcare providers. However, replicating this level of human connection and trust in digital healthcare experiences is challenging. The absence of face-to-face interactions can make patients feel distant, impersonal, and disconnected. addressing this challenge requires innovative ways to foster a sense of empathy, trust, and personalized care through digital solutions.

Five ways to optimize the digital patient experience

It takes a multi-pronged approach to provide all the key components and address common challenges of the digital patient experience. Here are a few best practices for optimizing the patient experience across web, mobile, and telehealth touchpoints.

1. Ensure mobile-friendliness

The future of healthcare is mobile. Patients and providers expect to be able to interact not just on their computers but also on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. But what does it take to ensure mobile-friendliness? There are several actions you can take:

  • Understand your mobile users' expectations: Mobile users favor convenience and simplicity. They use their devices for many healthcare-related tasks, from booking appointments to viewing test results. So, learning what users expect from your platform through feedback is a good idea. Then, you can adapt your digital experiences to offer your patients the right tools and functionalities.
  • Implement core principles of mobile-friendly design: A seamless mobile experience includes more than just responsive design adapted to multiple screen sizes. It must also feature seamless navigation, quick loading times, and easy-to-view and read content. Your platform should require minimal scrolling or typing, making it user-friendly even for people who may not be tech-savvy. Also, the font size should be easy to read while accommodating text on limited screen space.
  • Strategically place buttons and links: This is critical to a mobile-friendly platform: size buttons and links correctly for easy, comfortable thumb navigation. Also, put essential buttons in prominent screen areas, such as those to schedule appointments and view lab results. Links should be near the content they're associated with—for example, a link to a results report should be next to its summary.
  • Refine and improve: Keeping your platform mobile-friendly is an ongoing journey rather than a one-off task. That's why you must regularly evaluate and update your platform. Continuous improvements based on new insights, technologies, and user feedback will help you exceed your users' evolving expectations.

2. Design for digital accessibility

Digital accessibility in healthcare helps you reach more patients, enhance the user experience, and increase the quality of your care. Here are a few things to implement as part of your digital healthcare product design:

  • Assistive technologies: Some users have visual or hearing impairments or physical disabilities that hinder their use of certain features and content. For instance, they may need to have content read aloud or be unable to use a mouse to navigate a page. Include screen readers, keyboard navigation, speech recognition software, braille reader compatibility, and other accessibility tools in your design.
  • Clear, simple language: Medical accuracy is essential, but you should avoid or define complicated jargon that may confuse or discourage users. Also, keep inclusivity and cultural sensitivity in mind when crafting content.
  • Accessible design: Color contrast and adjustable font size can enhance the usability of your platform. For instance, your text should pop against its background, making it readable for users with color blindness or visual impairments.
  • Easy navigation: Your user interface should be simple. Use predictable patterns and clear labels to help ease patients' navigation, particularly for those with limited digital literacy.

3. Implement strong security and privacy measures

A key aspect of optimizing digital healthcare experiences is the assurance of robust security and privacy measures. Patients entrust their personal health information and medical history to your organization. That's why your digital healthcare platform should provide the highest level of privacy and security. Here are three critical points to keep in mind:

  • Your healthcare platform should have state-of-the-art encryption, robust firewalls, multi-factor authentication, and controlled access. 
  • Compliance with regulatory standards such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is essential to follow best security practices. These laws protect patient data from being exposed or used maliciously.
  • When developing digital health solutions, prioritize data minimization. In other words, only collect and store the data you need to provide quality care. Create clear policies that outline what data is necessary and enforce these measures. These actions enhance privacy, reduce data exposure risks, and strengthen patients' trust in your technology.

4. Test your digital experiences

Robust and comprehensive testing is key to optimizing your digital healthcare experiences. It ensures that your platform runs smoothly, its features work as intended, and offers a positive user experience. You can run multiple tests:

  • Usability testing: Usability testing ensures the system meets user needs and expectations. To perform usability testing, you may observe patients navigating your platform in real-time. Then, you can assess their ability to use its features effectively and without frustration.
  • Load testing: Many patients should be able to access your digital healthcare services simultaneously. In times of medical urgency, they can't afford delays or system crashes. Load testing evaluates a system by simulating a workload that mimics real-world scenarios. Regular load testing helps assess the stability and responsiveness of your system and whether it can handle peak load conditions. 
  • Security testing: With your platform managing sensitive patient information, rigorous security testing is necessary. Regular vulnerability and penetration tests help you identify and address potential weaknesses cyber threats could exploit.

Testing is not a one-off process and should be part of your ongoing strategy to optimize digital healthcare experiences. Leverage industry-leading tools like UserTesting to gain insights from actual users interacting with your healthcare product, providing a practical perspective on your platform's performance under real-world conditions. This approach highlights unforeseen issues and guides your development team's efforts to remedy them.

5. Build empathy by talking with users

Improving the digital patient experience involves understanding your patients; the best way to do this is through empathetic conversations. Every person's healthcare journey is deeply personal, and they should feel seen and heard at all phases. Understanding your users' needs and feelings can give you a new perspective on improving your digital tools and approaches. You can help your patients feel understood by:

  • Conducting user interviews: Interviews can uncover useful information to help you design digital experiences with care. Ask patients about their needs, wishes, and problems. With these insights, you can get ideas for platform improvements and new features to implement that are valuable to users.
  • Encouraging feedback: Welcome the views of your users, listen to their difficulties, and work on the issues they raise. Enhancing the digital patient experience is a two-way street. You must communicate as much as you listen.
  • Creating community forums: Consider using forums or platforms where patients can interact with one another. Doing so can create community and mutual support, especially between patients with similar illnesses or conditions.

Empathetic exchanges with patients will foster strong relationships and ensure your services are effective, user-friendly, and valued.

Embrace and improve digital healthcare experiences

Digital innovation presents an opportunity to transform healthcare into a more patient-centric experience. To get there, it's essential to focus on designing empathetic products, optimizing patients' experiences, and understanding the human needs behind your technology. But you can do so only through continuous testing, iteration, and listening to patient perspectives.

With UserTesting, optimize experiences by connecting directly with actual patients and users throughout the design and product development process. See your digital healthcare tools through the patient's eyes and provide more empathetic, satisfying experiences that drive better individual and organizational health outcomes. 

Frequently asked questions

What is a digital healthcare experience?

A digital healthcare experience refers to any technology-enabled, online, or mobile touchpoint that patients use to manage health needs, access information, communicate with providers, or facilitate care. These experiences expand the healthcare system beyond the walls of clinics and hospitals into continuous, data-driven relationships with patients. Examples of digital health experiences include the following:

  • Telehealth platforms for video and phone consultations
  • Mobile health apps for online scheduling, bill pay, and administrative tasks
  • Patient portals to message doctors, view test results, refill prescriptions
  • Wearable devices and remote monitoring for chronic conditions
  • Electronic health records and medical history accessibility
  • Digital therapeutics that treat medical conditions
  • Online health education resources

How has digital technology improved healthcare?

Digital technology has significantly improved healthcare in several key ways:

  • It enables remote consultations and easy access to medical information, increasing accessibility and quality of care.
  • By automating tasks and speeding up care, digital technology enhances efficiency.
  • It allows for individual health tracking and tailored care, offering a personalized experience.
  • Digital technology reduces costs through outpatient procedures and more efficient delivery, making healthcare more cost-effective.

How can you effectively test the usability of digital health solutions?

To test the usability of digital healthcare solutions, conduct qualitative or quantitative research with a representative group of end-users. This process includes creating user personas and scenarios, employing specific usability testing tools, and gathering feedback through moderated or unmoderated interviews, surveys, and more. 

How does user testing help optimize digital healthcare experiences?

User testing helps optimize digital healthcare experiences by:

  • Providing an understanding of how patients use and interact with the system
  • Uncovering usability challenges and pain points
  • Suggesting necessary adjustments on areas that need refinement

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