Testing your patient portal UX

Posted on August 15, 2023
4 min read


Patient portals have become crucial in the healthcare industry and patient experience. They allow patients to access their personal health information, communicate with their healthcare providers, and manage their care online. As a result, patient portal adoption has increased in recent years. More than 90% of healthcare organizations now offer patient portal access. This shift underscores the need for an optimized user experience (UX) that drives patient engagement. Testing your patient portal UX and the omnichannel experience before and after using a patient portal can help you identify how to attract and retain users.

UX refers to how your portal looks, feels, and functions from the patient's perspective. It encompasses all of a patient’s interactions with your portal and shapes their perception of your tool. A thoughtful UX strategy is key to delivering a personalized and streamlined digital experience amid rising patient expectations.

Using your patient portal as an engagement tool

The patient portal is a vital engagement channel. It empowers patients to participate in their care actively. Key ways patients engage with portals include:

  • Accessing health records and test results
  • Messaging doctors
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Requesting prescription refills
  • Completing digital paperwork 

These conveniences help boost engagement. User-friendly portals also encourage patients to communicate with their providers. However, realizing this potential requires optimizing your UX. A portal with a confusing user interface or unreliable performance will discourage patients from using it. Rigorous testing and refinement are necessary to delight patients. This leads to higher utilization rates, patient retention, and referrals

Understanding your patient portal UX

The patient portal user experience includes visual design and functional elements. On the visual side, UX refers to your portal's aesthetics, layout, and ease of navigation. Users should be able to find what they need intuitively. The functional side of UX includes features like booking appointments, messaging providers, accessing records, and viewing test results.

UX also involves the portal's reliability and security. Patients will abandon a portal that feels unstable or insecure. It’s equally important to test security, load times, and features under different usage conditions. When testing your functional UX, ensure that the features comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements for handling sensitive patient information. 

Benchmarking your patient portal experience

Before optimizing your portal's UX, benchmark it against competitors and industry standards. Benchmarking reveals your portal's strengths and weaknesses. It also helps you identify experience gaps you can close through testing and iteration.

Areas to benchmark include:

  • Ease of navigation: How intuitive is it for patients to find key features and information?
  • Visual UX design: Is the aesthetic clean, modern, and mobile-friendly?
  • Task completion: How easily can patients complete key tasks like booking appointments?
  • Load times: How quickly do pages load under different usage conditions?
  • Reliability: Does the portal function consistently across devices without crashing?
  • Patient satisfaction: How do your portal's usage, satisfaction scores, and reviews compare?

Regular benchmarking ensures you offer an experience that’s competitive with that of the industry leaders. If your portal falls behind, users may switch providers. Leverage user testing data to inform your refinements.

Benefits of testing your patient portal UX

While benchmarking reveals experience gaps, hands-on user testing shows you precisely how you can improve. Patient portal UX testing delivers many benefits:

  • Improves patient engagement: Testing your patient portal from the log-in experience to messaging the doctor helps teams make continuous improvements to the digital healthcare experience. The easier and more intuitive your patient portal experience is, the more engaged your patients will be. 
  • Pinpoints usability issues: Watching patients complete tasks reveals pain points. You see where they struggle and why. For example, patients may have difficulty locating lab results due to unclear navigation.
  • Identifies confusing interfaces: Testing reveals any confusing menus, buttons, or workflows. You can iterate to optimize navigation and interactions.
  • Improves completion rates: By testing key tasks like appointment booking, you can diagnose and eliminate barriers to completion.
  • Provides design feedback: Patients can provide feedback on the portal's visual design. You learn what aesthetics appeal most to your audience.
  • Fixes reliability problems: Load testing under simulated usage conditions uncovers performance issues and bugs. You can then fix these issues before launch.
  • Informs personalization: Testing with diverse patients inspires new ways to tailor the UX to different demographics and needs.

Investing in rigorous UX testing pays dividends through increased patient satisfaction and portal utilization.

Strategies for improving your patient portal user experience

Optimizing your UX requires understanding patient workflows and pain points. Testing can reveal where users struggle to complete tasks or feel confused. For example, patients may have difficulty locating the scheduling tool or requesting medication refills. A cluttered interface and unclear navigation often undermine the experience.

Here are some UX optimization strategies that can elevate your patient portal:

  • Conduct usability testing to identify pain points
  • Analyze usage metrics to optimize features
  • Implement user feedback loops
  • Prioritize mobile optimization
  • Test with diverse users to uncover gaps
  • Monitor satisfaction metrics over time
  • Simplify navigation and workflows
  • Communicate new features to promote adoption

Enhance your patient portal with UserTesting

Optimizing your patient portal UX is essential to driving engagement. Testing your portal's UX and benchmarking it against your competitors reveals areas for improvement. Conducting ongoing user tests while integrating feedback ensures your portal is user-friendly and offers the features users need and want.

With UserTesting, you can quickly diagnose UX issues through firsthand patient feedback, helping you identify barriers to task completion and eliminate frustrations. UserTesting makes it easy to continuously test your patient portal with real patients and turn human insights into impactful portal enhancements. 

Frequently asked questions

Which information can be accessed through a patient portal test results?

Users can access their lab reports, imaging results, and other medical test results through a patient portal.

Why is the patient portal a good tool for patient engagement?

Patient portals are a good tool for patient engagement because they empower patients to take an active role in their healthcare. They facilitate easy communication with healthcare providers and access to personal health information, fostering greater participation in health management.

How do you increase patient portal engagement?

To increase patient portal engagement, you must optimize the user experience by ensuring the portal is user-friendly, intuitive, and reliable. Better features and functionality help attract and retain users.

How can patient portals be improved?

You can improve patient portals by simplifying navigation, ensuring reliability and speed, optimizing for mobile usage, and incorporating feedback from diverse user testing.

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