Digital Tools to Improve Access to Care for Rural Populations

individual trying to find the closest hospital in a rural area

By nearly every objective measure of health, people who live in rural areas are doing worse than those who live in urban and suburban areas.

This health gap between rural and non-rural has persisted for many years. It’s an area of focus for many hospitals and health systems, who are leveraging every digital and analog tool at their disposal to close the gap.

Your digital customer-facing platform can be one of those tools.

In fact, digital investments can help healthcare providers advance health equity by improving access to care for many underserved populations, including rural communities.

But first, you have to understand who your customers are. With hospital consolidation, patient populations are rapidly changing and expanding, and service areas are becoming larger.

In this report, we’ll share some surprising findings about healthcare customers who live in rural communities. And then we’ll help you interpret what these data points might mean for your hospital or health system.

What We Know About Health in Rural Communities

When compared to those who live in less geographically isolated areas, the 61 million Americans who live in Tribal or rural communities are less likely to get the care they need and more likely to have worse health outcomes. They have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and lung disease, and have a higher risk of dying by suicide or having substance use disorder.

61 million Americans who live in tribal or rural communities are less likely to get the care they need and more likely to have worse health outcomes

Too often, rural residents don’t get the care they need, when they need it. In fact, that lack of access to quality healthcare is one of the biggest contributors to the increased risks and poor health outcomes for rural Americans.

Shortages of doctors and hospitals in rural areas only widen the gap, with two-thirds of hospital closures in the last decade happening in rural areas. Not only that, just 12% of physicians practice in rural communities, where there are also shortages of nurse practitioners, dentists, and social workers.  

just 12% of physicians practice in rural communities

Hospitals and health systems want to solve this problem. From sponsoring public health initiatives to applying for Critical Access Hospital status, these organizations are leveraging various tools to help address health inequities in rural areas.

However, as a health system or hospital, you have another very powerful tool: Your website and mobile experience.

The Data in This Report

Our clients—which include local, regional, and multi-state health systems—often cite improving access to care as one of the reasons they are investing in digital. But what does digital access look like for people who live in rural areas?

To answer that question, among others, we recently conducted independent research, surveying more than 1,200 individuals across the U.S. We wanted to learn more about how they access care, and what keeps them from accessing care. We also combed through other research on healthcare access for rural Americans.

What we gleaned can help hospitals who are seeking to better serve those who live in geographically isolated areas.

The Big Idea

Investing in and improving customer-facing digital tools can increase access to care for many underserved populations, including rural communities.

investing in and improving customer-facing digital tools can increase access to care for many underserved populations

Key Finding #1: Rural Users More Likely to Rely on Smartphone, Less Likely to Have Computer

In our survey, about 90% of respondents living in rural areas reported having a smartphone.

smartphone ownership graph of rural, urban, and suburban populations

Surprisingly, smartphones were more common among rural individuals (90.1% ownership) than urban (80.7%) or suburban (about 85.4%).

Individuals living in rural communities were the least likely to have either a desktop computer or a laptop computer (while 79.8% reported owning one or the other, only 45.8% of rural Americans reported owning a desktop computer). A 2021 Pew Research Center survey confirmed this, finding that while smartphone ownership had increased significantly over the last 3 years, ownership of desktop or laptop computers stayed flat. 

These two points together mean that rural users are most likely to use their smartphone when searching for care, and least likely to use a computer

For this reason, the healthcare websites most accessible to rural users are those built to be mobile first. This means that the design and function of the website is built thinking of mobile first, and desktop second. 

Key Finding #2: People Living in Rural Areas Are Less Likely to Have Broadband Access

people living in rural areas are less likely to have broadband access

Compared to those living in urban or suburban areas, rural individuals are nearly two times more likely to lack broadband access.

A Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation report found that, in 2019, 13% of people in nonmetropolitan areas lacked internet access at home (compared to 7% of people in metropolitan areas).

Not only does this finding underscore the point that mobile-first matters for rural users, it also is a reminder that not all users with a smartphone have internet access. This is another reason why they tend to be smartphone-dependent. 

Furthermore, if they are leveraging a cellular network to connect, their page load times will be longer. The longer the page load time, the higher the bounce rate tends to be.

This is why it’s important to work with UX designs and web engineers who know how to design and build for optimal page load time.

It’s also an important consideration for telehealth, in that you have to understand how your users will connect and what types of technology are most accessible over cellular networks.

Key Finding #3: Rural Users Are Willing to Drive

When we asked about barriers to care, rural respondents were slightly more likely to cite issues with work and childcare than urban and suburban ones. But surprisingly, they were less likely to flag transportation or distance as barriers, compared to urban individuals.

graph of barriers to receiving care from individuals in urban, suburban, and rural areas

One explanation is that people living in urban areas may be less likely to have a car, and if the subway or bus line isn’t near where they go for care, it limits them.

We do have to acknowledge that much research has focused on the travel burden for people living in rural areas, with one study finding that rural residents traveled more than twice the distance (nearly 18 miles) as urban residents (about 8 miles) for healthcare. In that same study, more than 55% of rural residents identified the cost of gas and the financial expense of travel as barriers, compared to 45% of urban residents.

But what our data suggests is that a hospital’s service area may be larger than they think. This is especially true with hospital acquisition and consolidation. People living in rural areas may be willing to drive further—even to the next hospital over—if they think the care is better or if booking an appointment from their phone is easier. 

Hospitals must be aware that their competitive set is becoming broader, which has strong marketing implications. Are you really reaching your full demographic?

Key Finding #4: Rural Users Most Likely to Use Family for Finding Care, But Also More Likely Than Other Cohorts to Use App

We asked respondents a series of questions about how they prefer to research a condition and how they prefer to find care.

Rural residents are the most likely to want to talk directly to their doctor, both to find care and to research care. They are also the most likely to turn to family for both things. This suggests they put their faith in people over technology, which makes sense if we think about rural individuals living in small, tightly knit communities. They value personal connection when making healthcare decisions.

graph of how do urban/suburban/rural survey respondents research and find care

However, they are almost as willing as other cohorts to use Google or a hospital website for researching care. And most interesting, rural users were more likely than either urban or suburban users to use an app to find care. That said, they are less likely to use an app to research care, preferring to turn to people for help making decisions. In essence, they are the happiest of all the cohorts to use an app to make an appointment – or to leverage technology to get in front of a provider as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

graph of comfort using mobile app to find care

Building a proprietary hospital app is a significant digital investment, but it gives hospitals complete control over the digital experience, allowing them to customize for their customers. 

We know from previous research on customer preferences regarding hospital apps that convenience and ease of use are the top factors. And the way to ensure your customers can do the key tasks they care most about is for your hospital to own the app, just like any other digital property.

Key Finding #5: Telehealth Has Vast Potential for Rural Communities

Telehealth has vast potential for rural populations

The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically increased the number of people using telemedicine. For people living in rural areas, telehealth can be a more accessible way to talk to a provider. A 2022 study showed that people in rural areas have strong interest in telemedicine and mostly positive experiences.

In fact, the CDC is supporting specific telehealth projects in rural areas, including stroke and cardiac rehab, diabetes prevention and management, tobacco cessation, and epilepsy management.

Building a sustainable telehealth platform can involve regulatory and operational challenges for health systems, and it brings up many questions. Do you have providers who will offer video visits? Do you have the security you need to keep visits compliant? And for rural users, a big watchout is making sure the platform is set up in a way that allows them to access from mobile only. 

For hospitals and health systems reaching rural America, telehealth should always be part of the digital discussion. In other words, if you’re investing in your digital platform and you’re not even talking about how to integrate telehealth, you’ll find yourself behind the curve. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

At Modea, we believe in the power of a terrific digital customer experience. We work toward creating these experiences for our hospital and health system clients because we believe digital can improve the consumer experience and make healthcare more human and personal. 

But we also believe Americans need better access to healthcare. And building great digital tools that improve access is the difference we can make.  

This is why we want to make sure that hospitals and health systems know the opportunity they have to reach people in rural areas. 

Not sure where to start? We recommend that hospitals work to gain clarity on these 3 things.

  1. Know your customers. Has your service area expanded in the last few years? We see this with our health system clients who are buying hospitals or consolidating. If it’s been a while since you’ve done Voice of the Customer research or mapped your customer journey, now is the time. (Learn more about what digital roadmapping looks like.) 
  1. Know what your data is telling you. Do you understand how customers in different zip codes are interacting with your digital properties? Do you know what devices they are using to access your website? Do you know where they are getting lost in the process and where they are converting? Your data tells a powerful story, if you know where to look. (Learn more about the analytics and BI work we do.)
  1. Know where the gaps are in your digital tools. If you haven’t audited your digital tools with an eye toward access to care, particularly for historically underserved populations, you likely don’t know what you don’t know. Talk to us today about a Digital Equity Audit. 


ViVE ’23 Recap

ViVE conference

Recently the Modea team had the opportunity to attend ViVE, a digital health conference, in Nashville. In addition to connecting with clients and colleagues, we got to hear from some of the most innovative and influential minds and brands in healthcare. 

ViVE aligned closely to our Modea vision of making healthcare more human and personal. We learned how players ranging in size from new startups through technology giants are investing in the digital healthcare space, with collective missions to improve the patient and provider experiences. 

Here are the major themes we heard for how innovators are looking to disrupt and improve healthcare.

Theme 1: Interoperability

Interoperability refers to how disparate systems, technologies, applications, and other tools speak to one another to provide a better, more seamless experience for the patient, provider, or health system. As the industry is witnessing a deluge of new technology solutions, the movement towards interoperability will remain critical to ensure different devices and applications can communicate and exchange data.

Interoperability means that patient health information (PHI) can be effectively shared between the electronic health record (EHR) and other tools. And because PHI is involved, maintaining patient privacy is paramount. However, to achieve the required privacy, some patient data must be deidentified, which may remove key data diversity or information about individuals’ Social Determinants of Health, or SDOH (see Theme 2). How can we achieve interoperability of patient data while still obtaining a holistic view of the patient population? It’s a complex challenge that many are tackling. 

Finally, while retail health options are good for the consumer – lowering costs and bringing more of a consumer mindset to health – they also lead to more fragmentation. When a consumer’s health data is disjointed or fragmented across systems, it can lead to more care redundancy, inefficiency, and frustration. With the consumerization of healthcare, therefore, interoperability remains imperative for patient engagement in their care.

healthcare digital solutions

Modea’s takeaway: Invest in digital solutions that fit into your existing workflows and systems to promote, rather than hinder, interoperability.

Theme 2: Health Equity/Social Determinants of Health

There was a lot of discussion around making healthcare delivery more equitable. Social Determinants of Health are the social, environmental, and economic factors that people are born into that affect their health outcomes. An individual’s zip code, for instance, is one of the most important determinants of health outcomes. So, when zip code data is de-identified/removed from patient data, we’re missing critical aspects of health data.

Reimbursements, and particularly Medicaid reimbursements, are a critical part of the health equity conversation. If certain healthcare services are not reimbursed, these services or treatment options will not be accessible by lower-income or underserved individuals. For instance, if healthcare services rendered at a community clinic are not reimbursable by Medicaid, and if that community clinic serves a low-income patient population, that patient population will be less able to access the care they need.  

There are a ton of startups using predictive analytics to create more equitable care experiences, and we’re interested to see how hospitals and health systems leverage these tools in the future.

Two of these startups we heard from:

alvee logo
pear suite logo

Modea’s takeaway: There are countless angles from which to address health equity and healthcare disparities. Understanding your patient population is a great place to start.

health equity

Theme 3: Physician Burnout

If you’re a physician and you’re reading this, we’re not about to tell you anything new. Physicians are burnt out, which was only exacerbated by the extra burdens placed on them throughout the pandemic. 

Part of the cause of physician burnout is administrative burden. Unfortunately, the introduction of new digital solutions doesn’t always reduce administrative burden; sometimes, it increases it. This is why it’s so critical that new innovations fit into or drive efficiencies in existing physician workflows. 

As physicians burnout and retire early, health systems are having to hire contract workers to fill these gaps – at a much higher cost. These contract labor costs are one of the largest factors driving down health system margins. Reducing physician burnout not only improves physician retention and the bottom line, it helps ensure that physicians and clinical staff can provide the best care to patients.

The most promising category of solutions to combat physician burnout? Generative AI, as Theme 4 below details. However, generally speaking, tools that promote physician productivity without introducing additional complexities will improve both the provider and patient experiences.

Modea’s takeaway: Treat your physicians and other staff as you would any customer segment. Their loyalty, engagement, and happiness are key to your health system’s success.

image of physician multitasking

Theme 4: AI

Not surprisingly, AI was the most common theme of the conference. Apart from the word “leverage” (what’s a business conference without it?), “ChatGPT” was the phrase we heard most.

Physicians are excited about the possibilities for generative AI in the realms of: personalized treatment planning, diagnostics/clinical decision-making, clinical productivity, combing through the extent of EHR data to reduce error/inform decisions, and more.

Our client, the American Medical Association, hosted an event spotlighting physician innovators and startups who can connect online (or IRL, as was the case at ViVE) via the Physician Innovation Network. During that spotlight we heard several physicians express excitement about the potential of generative AI, so long as the right guardrails are in place.

image of digital health with AI

Modea’s takeaway: AI isn’t going anywhere, and is getting more advanced all the time. While its implications remain to be seen, it’s important to educate yourself on its applications and potential.

Theme 5: Consumerization of Healthcare

This theme is nothing new for us at Modea, and it’s clear it’s not going away anytime soon. The consumerization experience, and the critical understanding of patients as consumers, continue to be a big topic across startups, providers, and big tech companies. 

The shift to retail health (think traditional retailers getting into the healthcare game, such as Dollar General and Amazon) is changing consumer expectations of healthcare. Consumers are seeking convenience, transparency, and lower costs, and they’re finding it more easily with these nontraditional “providers.” 

One big item we hear a lot about when it comes to consumerism in healthcare is the personalization of the patient experience. Patients are seeking out personalized care on their own terms, taking advantage of tools such as at-home diagnostic kits and wearables. As part of that, patients are becoming more comfortable sharing their health data, especially when it promises quicker access to knowledge about a condition or even a treatment. When healthcare systems offer personalized digital experiences, patient engagement increases thanks to streamlined access to care and information.

Modea’s takeaway: Care and health are increasingly happening outside the walls of the hospital. We need to meet consumers where they are, through a combination of digital and analog care solutions.

mobile app images

The future of healthcare is constantly evolving, as many organizations scramble to tackle top priority initiatives while addressing shrinking margins. However, we believe there is a bright future ahead when it comes to the technology, innovation, and tools that will deliver better and more timely care to patients. As part of that evolution, we expect staff shortages and burnout to level out and patient journeys to become more personalized and concise. 

We look forward to being a part of this future and working to help organizations establish and nurture better relationships with their consumers and patients. 

Children’s Wisconsin App Makes Access to Care Easier for Families

Children's Wisconsin Epic MyChart app images

When your kid is sick, you need a quick and easy way to get information about what to do. Should you go to the ER? Or is a virtual visit appropriate? Is urgent care the best option, or an office visit with your pediatrician?

Children’s Wisconsin recognized the need for an accessible solution that provides information and guidance to families during these moments of uncertainty. The goal was not just to meet these informational needs, but to also seamlessly integrate with Epic MyChart, a technology already familiar to and frequently used by families.

Collaborating with Modea, Children’s Wisconsin embarked on the journey to create a mobile app that would serve as a go-to resource for parents seeking advice on their child’s health. The resulting app not only retains the user-friendly features of Epic MyChart that families are accustomed to but also introduces an array of additional functionalities to enhance the overall user experience.

Now, parents can navigate through a wealth of information effortlessly, gaining insights into whether a trip to the emergency room, a virtual visit, an urgent care facility, or a traditional office visit with their pediatrician is the most suitable option for their child’s specific situation. This innovative app not only provides peace of mind but also empowers families with the knowledge and tools to make informed healthcare decisions for their little ones.

Modea and Children’s Wisconsin created the app not just as a tool for urgent health-related decisions, but as a holistic companion throughout the parenting journey. By combining practical features with a user-friendly interface, the app becomes an invaluable resource, reinforcing the health system’s commitment to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to the families it serves.

Modea and Children’s Wisconsin are proud to offer a solution that goes beyond the ordinary, catering to the unique needs of families during challenging times.

Read the full article via eHealthcare Strategy & Trends.

10 Digital Front Door Stats We Think You Should Know

Modea mobile app work

Our team put together a quick list of 10 digital stats we think your organization should know in order to drive the right digital choices for your consumers

#1. Mobile usage is continually on the rise

Mobile usage by consumers continues to increase. Their expectations to use healthcare apps and tools in the same ways they are accustomed to (think Facebook, Marriot, or banking apps) also continues to grow and is putting much-needed pressure on the healthcare industry. A study by IDC predicted that by 2023, 65% of patients will have accessed care through a healthcare digital front door entry point.

Over the past five years, the number of smartphone users has increased by nearly 74%. And it’s not just the younger population who is using digital, older segments (50-64 and 65+) are quickly catching up and have shortened that gap over the past decade.

smartphone ownership graph

Modea’s advice: Hospitals must understand that more people than ever are using mobile apps and there is no longer the age separation there once was. This also means that these age demographics are using digital tools in different ways, with their own unique needs. Organizations should be designing and building tools, like mobile apps, that take these needs into account and deliver a fantastic experience, regardless of age, gender, or demographic.

Read our recent report, There’s An App for That: 8 Things Hospitals Need to Know, to learn more about today’s healthcare consumer mobile usage. 

#2. 90% of the US population is located within 10 miles of your next biggest competitor

This is alarming and just a few years ago would not have even sparked concern. But if you haven’t guessed it yet, Walmart is making huge leaps in the healthcare space and their geographic locations make them a competitor to almost any existing system. It’s not just Walmart making healthcare headlines either. CVS, Dollar General, and even Best Buy are making waves by entering into healthcare and driving change.

MedCity News shares that “CVS has nearly 10,000 stores nationwide, with about 4.5 million consumers visiting those stores each day. Most Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart and 65% of Dollar General stores are in health deserts, areas where access to local health care is limited for many consumers.”

If your team isn’t already preparing a strategic plan on how to engage and retain consumers then there is no better time to start.

Modea’s advice: Start making forward progress today by strategically improving every touchpoint along your customer experience. Work to optimize their experience with your organization and build loyalty by making their lives easier. If you don’t, you could lose business to another hospital system, or even worse, one of the many non-traditional competitors out there who are now providing healthcare services.

Interested in learning what your organization should be thinking about and planning for?  We’re here to help. Contact us and we’ll set up a time to chat. We’re happy to share how our clients are connecting their patient experiences at large.

#3. Hospitals are not prioritizing what consumers want

From our in-house research, we found that more than half of the respondents in our survey said they frequently want to use a mobile device to manage healthcare needs.

Yet, the percentage of healthcare systems offering a mobile app for consumers has remained the same, at just 49% compared to the previous year. If this doesn’t shine a glaring light on the growing disconnect between what consumers want and what healthcare organizations are prioritizing, then what would?

desire to use phone graph

Modea’s advice: Don’t just build a mobile app to have something in the marketplace. Take the time to understand what your consumers want and their unique needs. When was the last time your organization carried out a customer journey mapping exercise to better align and understand your evolving patient needs?  We recommend re-visiting customer journey mapping every 2-3 years.

#4. Only 18% of hospitals have recently completed a customer journey map exercise

That’s right. Our team recently surveyed nationally ranked children’s hospitals and 2 out of the 11 indicated that they had completed a full, cross-functional journey map. All participants, however, understood the importance of this and are working towards capturing consumer data and needs, whether in-house or by partnering with an external resource.

Modea process

Modea’s advice: Do you know the very basics of how your patients engage with you on the web? This guide is full of questions, exercises, free tools, and more. Download the guide to help make the most out of your web analytics platform and learn how your website stacks up against your competition.

#5. Appointment scheduling is crucial

Modea mobile app examples

Our team ran a survey to better understand the mobile usage of today’s healthcare consumers and asked the open-ended question “If I could change one thing about my doctor’s patient portal it would be …” 

The number one answer is? Scheduling appointments.

We’ve heard this request time and time again. Most organizations do not have full open scheduling capabilities implemented, although they have the technology and systems to allow for it. Revamping your scheduling process so a patient can easily authenticate one time and find their specialty, choose their doctor, see available time slots, and book that appointment quickly is key to optimizing patient flow.

Modea’s advice: Think back to the new entrants in the healthcare space who will be providing a benchmark level of digital experience and personalization. If hospitals don’t start offering more of what consumers need, there’s a greater chance that consumers will go elsewhere for care. Healthcare organizations, both large and small, can save time and increase revenue by prioritizing the right digital experiences and appointment scheduling should be at the top.

#6. A poor digital tool ruins the entire patient’s experience

It’s true and should light a fire under the organization to begin if not already investing in the proper data-based tools to launch intuitive digital patient experiences. 

Accenture reports that more than a quarter of respondents are willing to switch to a different provider for high-quality digital services. In addition, half agreed that a poor digital patient experience with a healthcare provider “ruins the entire experience with that provider”.

Modea’s advice: Work to align internal departments and stakeholders on the need and importance of creating the right digital tools. This means looking at your patient demographics and understanding what they need and how best to deliver on that. Start with a plan and work to develop your “Digital North Star” which is what we refer to as a 3-5 year plan for how you’ll embark on digital transformation. Establish clear and measurable goals to present to leadership and don’t forget to research your competitors.

#7. Consumers want personalized, convenient, and connected healthcare

CVS recently published a report that illustrates how important personalization and connected healthcare experiences are for patients. A personalized experience could look like a public website that allows a consumer to have a logged-in experience that:

  • suggests physicians and locations based on a consumer’s prior searches
  • offers an intuitive telemedicine platform and experience
  • curated content based on consumer patient portal activity

85% surveyed said that personalized care is essential. The data also shows that consumers expect integrated care experiences that feature easy-to-use technology and 59% of respondents want access to virtual and telehealth services. 

Spartanburg site

In this study, more than 90% say convenience is a necessary factor when choosing a primary care provider, with more than one-third having scheduled a virtual visit to save money or time.

Modea’s advice: Explore your CMS and web platform to see what is possible out-of-the-box with personalization. Many hosting platforms come with great features you can implement and explore phases of personalizing the customer experience. Look into how many times a user has to authenticate throughout their journey to pay a bill or schedule an appointment. We can help you decide what to prioritize and how to get it built and working so that your patients feel like they matter and are not just a number in your system.

#8. Consumers will increasingly choose medical providers who offer digital capabilities

In stat #6 above we touch on the importance of a good digital experience. Now we begin to look at the results of a poor one. Fierce Healthcare shares that “41% of patients said they would stop going to their healthcare provider over a poor digital experience”. Not surprisingly, 1 in 5 patients has already switched providers due to a poor digital experience.

In addition, the survey found that poor digital experiences are a big reason why consumers write negative reviews online and those reviews are highly influential.

About 1 in 5 patients have given a negative review of a provider because of a poor digital experience.

Modea’s advice: Start with competitor research on organizations that your target market could also visit. See what they are offering and make a comparison document showing where you stack up. If you’re unsure about how to best accomplish this, Modea offers a free digital impact analysis that you should take a look at.

#9. Online ratings and reviews influence provider selection

25% of consumers said online ratings and reviews influence their choice of provider.

The interconnection between the consumers’ want for physicians with digital capabilities and how poor digital tools completely impact the patient’s experience is crucial to note. Consumers are more inclined to write a negative review compared to a positive one. So if you’re digital tools are not chalking up to your competitors, it’s likely that you’ll receive less-than-ideal reviews which in turn could very well begin to impact your physician appointment scheduling.

Modea’s advice: While 25% say it influences their choice, a higher percentage of people will book appointments with a doctor who has honest and up-to-date reviews. Starting with your provider profile pages and working out other online listings for the doctors, having reviews is a critical piece of trust and bringing patients in.

#10. Telehealth is here to stay

Healthcare Innovation reports that within the first two months of 2022 75% of respondents said that they conduct primary care visits via telehealth. And a McKinsey survey found that about 40% of consumers said they plan to continue using telehealth moving forward, up from 11% prior to COVID-19.

Although not growing at COVID-fueled rates, the continued use of telehealth is consistent across the board.

Modea’s advice: Offering telehealth is somewhat of a standard now in healthcare and it won’t be going away any time soon. If a patient books a telehealth appointment, make sure to send them instructions for setup ahead of time so they have the right software downloaded (or updated) and know how to use it. And don’t forget to educate the providers on how to use the software and tools available as well. It’s very common for them to also be having trouble conducting virtual visits mainly due to the technology.

Ending note

We hope you learned something here and can share these stats with other members of your team and organization. If you have questions about how to plan for or implement, any of what you’ve read above, contact Modea today for a chat

Why Your Hospital Needs an Accessible Website

healthcare icons

On a daily basis, we complete a variety of digital tasks in a matter of seconds or minutes without thinking twice about the complexity. Thoughtful design makes these experiences easy to navigate for the majority of the population. But, what about the 61 million Americans with disabilities? Do they have the same easy-to-use experiences for navigating digital? In this article, we’ll share why your hospital needs an accessible website as well as offer a complimentary, custom impact analysis of where your healthcare organization stands today.

What is accessibility for healthcare?

Digital accessibility is an inclusive act of removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from engaging with healthcare digital tools and technologies.

An accessible hospital website could include customer experience functions such as:

  • The ability for a website to offer the same functionality when on a mobile device and in a landscape mode
  • A well-designed customer experience that allows users to navigate through features by using only a keyboard.
  • Thoughtful colors and contrasts for all design elements and copy.

The goal of launching an accessible tool is to create thoughtful digital products for ALL. Ultimately, these digital experiences should allow users to navigate essential features and functions without obstacles.

A couple of questions for your team to think about: 

  • Did your team properly implement ARIA labels in your site’s HTML?
  • Do you use color throughout any part of your website or mobile app to convey any visual messaging?
  • Do all forms have clear visual label tags so that screen readers can process them?

Why should my hospital have an accessible website?

Simply put, it’s the right thing to do. 

1 in every 4 adults in the U.S. has some type of functional disability. 

“Disability” is an umbrella term that describes four main groups of impairments which can be broken down into:

  1. Motor
  2. Cognitive
  3. Hearing
  4. Visual
graph of adults with disability types

It’s important to remember that some disabilities develop throughout a lifespan while others are present at birth. There is no discrimination against age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Therefore, when designing a website we have to be prepared to tackle all.

In addition, there is a slew of other benefits that are worthwhile to note. 

Social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is a critical factor that ties into the brand perspective. If you treat your customers right and fair they will continue to support you, but the relationship has to start on mutual grounds.

You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about how hospitals have been sued for compliance issues. In addition, there was a big out-of-industry case where Domino’s Pizza was sued for its inaccessible website that did not allow for online ordering for those with vision impairments.

In 2020 alone, approximately 11,000 ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in federal courts. While ADA Title III lawsuits have traditionally focused on physical accessibility elements (handicap parking, restroom accessibility, etc.), website and mobile applications are now a prime target for accessibility claims. 

Search engine optimization

This is a win-win! Not only does implementing superb search engine optimization practices help your customers with disabilities, but it also indirectly improves your quality score which will impact your ranking against competitors.

In short, by making your web pages more accessible you’re increasing your chances of being found on search engines.

Why is accessibility overlooked in healthcare?

For the majority of organizations, cost is the highest factor.

Surely, involving a separate quality assurance team to test all implementations takes time and possibly various iterations, but in the end, your team will save money by taking the necessary steps to ensure accessibility standards are met.

If your hospital is not preventative and checks accessibility prior to a new launch it could end up costing your team 2 to 3 times the original cost to fix the issues present.

In short, the time is now. Fix your issues before launching.

How does a hospital tackle website accessibility?

Thankfully there are standards that can help guide your hospital’s website or mobile app design and functionality. For example, our quality assurance team uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide criteria for content creators to help ensure all experiences are accessible.

*Tip: WCAG is updating to 2.2 guidelines which are launching in June of 2022!*

Is my hospital’s website accessible?

Is your team able to effectively describe in which ways your website offers a comparable experience to those with visual, auditory, or physical limitations? 

create my impact analysis

Are you able to answer any of the below?

  • Does my hospital’s mobile app allow for landscape orientation? 
  • Can a user navigate through features by using only the keyboard?
  • Does our team follow WCAG’s color contrast guidelines?

If you’re unable to answer one or any of these questions, it’s time your hospital revisits website accessibility.

Certainly, your team can run all the free accessibility “checkers” to get a pretty okay understanding of major red flags. But having a dedicated team to ensure that you’re covering all bases is much more reliable.

Have Modea complete a custom digital impact analysis to understand where your healthcare organization stands today and how to propel your customer experience for the future.

Google Analytics for Healthcare: 3 Helpful UX Reports

powerful insights with GA

We work with a variety of healthcare clients who use a plethora of advanced tools to collect big data. Often times the goal is to get advanced analytics on their various digital platforms and campaigns. Hootsuite, Sprinkler, Google Campaign Manager, and of course, the big one: Google Analytics.

No tool is quite so ubiquitous, powerful, or anywhere near as intimidating as Google Analytics. But many users struggle to get as much out of this tool as it offers. In this article, we’ll share a few examples of how your healthcare organization can quickly get powerful insights out of Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is tricky, especially for healthcare

Google Analytics is free and easy to install via a Content Management System interface. The tool collects so much out of the box and therefore you’ll begin collecting helpful data off from the start.

So it’s just easy and low-risk enough that often the marketing department sets up a Google Analytics account. And the installer then becomes the resident “Google Analytics expert”. This is, usually, not a position they have signed up for. However, while the initial setup and installation of this tool are low in difficulty, the learning curve is high

The initial dashboard you’re presented with is easy to navigate.

Google Analytics dashboard

But doing anything deeper and clicking around, let’s say for a custom report is anything but clear

Custom report

This can feel very complicated. The data itself isn’t always the most welcoming. For example, check out this report in Google Analytics.

Landing page report in Google Analytics

What do all these fields mean? How do I tell the difference between a page and a landing page? What about bounce rate and exit %? Are any of these metrics good or bad? 

Google Analytics does not offer us context for any of these metrics and is therefore very difficult to interpret.

We often see healthcare teams start with the reporting infrastructure but get lost, or worse, overwhelmed, and simply stop.

Google Analytics is incredibly powerful and easy to set up but is hard to utilize without proper context. In practical terms, many hospitals have Google Analytics but can only get a fraction of the insight that they should be able to get from it.

So, here are a few real-world examples of how to get this UX information and how to use it.

Helpful UX Google Analytics reports to pull for your healthcare organization

There are a wealth of ways you can cut and slice this data. If you’re overwhelmed, I have good news for you: there are a bunch of very simple ways to access and view this data without a ton of effort. Small wins can make the tool less overwhelming!

Below are three common scenarios that will be meaningful to a healthcare system like yours. In addition to quick-and-dirty data, you can pull to have a meaningful, data-informed conversation.

Scenario 1: Our health system’s homepage is super important and we must add this feature to it!

There’s a consistent theme that we run into when designing a website: somebody important (usually a VP or equivalent) comes to a meeting with an idea-request-demand. 

“Hey, we just got a big grant for our excellent cardiology research,” they say. “We should promote this and make cardiology more prominent on our website’s homepage!”

Now, your initial thought may be “Okay how can we add this feature or content? But I don’t want to disrupt the homepage”. Or even “No, we can’t just redesign the homepage to account for your whims.”

But there’s a deeper issue we need to unpack first.

The homepage isn’t your patients’ front door

The assumption is that the homepage is the place where most people will see that information is not accurate.

Here’s what I mean. Go to your Google Analytics account right now and see how many people ENTER the site on the homepage. You can do in Universal Analytics via this report:

Landing page report in Google Analytics

And the report you’ll look at will look something like this:

Page path report in Google Analytics

What do we see here? First of all, yes, there are a ton of entrances on the homepage. If we look at the helpful percentage beside the homepage indicator, we can see that it’s still less than a quarter of the total entrances.

Keep that in mind: roughly 8 out of 10 people enter healthcare sites on a page other than the homepage

We find this is broadly true across basically every client we work with in the healthcare space. Most consumers enter the site on a ‘detail’ page (provider, location, or service-line specific pages on your website).

Why does this matter for your conversation with your C-Suite person? How could or should we better use our data? 

Well, people often think of homepages as the front doors of the website, however, that’s wrong.

Google is the “front door” of your website, and it dumps users into the interior of your site with regularity. These detail pages like “” or “”

What report can I pull Google Analytics?

Healthcare websites often have simple, easy-to-filter URL strings that can be used to parse out content types like “locations/” or “/providers/”. A filter for those strings can give you a long, inclusive list of these granular types of content pages. This will allow you to see a clearer picture of exactly where people are arriving on your website.

Page report in Google Analytics

Even with these simple queries, we’ve shifted the conversation to a more interesting place: 12,000 visits began on provider detail pages! If we really want to increase the visibility of our cardiology research then we should increase visibility on the provider pages.

And while we’re at it, how can we increase the connective tissue on those provider, location, and service-line pages so that people can more easily navigate the site?

Looking at entrances and specific groups of URLs, can often be an easy way to figure out the real “front doors”. If it’s not what you expect, that can be a helpful way to redirect either strategy (how do we adjust to this new reality?) or spending (should we invest in better SEO performance for these areas that are underperforming?).

*Our recommendation*

We suggest that rather than add a feature to the homepage highlighting cardiology, we could instead add some content to both highlight the awesome research and make those provider profiles or location pages even better and more appealing. 

Scenario 2: Our online appointment tools aren’t working and we should scrap them!

Here’s another common example:

Southeastern Hospital put a bunch of time, money, and effort into building out online scheduling tools to allow its users to digitally book appointments. That’s great! But so far, it seems like the result is a paltry trickle of actual people coming in for appointments.

The first thing we should recognize is that the big call-to-action button on our website that allows users to “schedule an appointment online” is not the end of the user journey. Rather it’s just one step along the way from deciding I need care” to “physically present in a doctor’s office“.

Here’s how we often think about our digital tools:

User visits site –> user clicks on CTA = Conversion!

And that is, unfortunately, an oversimplification.

An actual user flow

An actual user flow will look something more like this:

  • User Googles “Doctor near me”.
  • Visits site on doctor profile page.
  • Browses 1-5 other pages.
  • Returns to doctor profile page.
  • Clicks on a CTA.
  • Kicked out to internal form on separate site.
  • Fills out a form.
  • Submits request appointment form.
  • Gets to thank you page.

It’s a much more complicated and multistep process. At every step, a user can abandon the process. Often, a surface-level look will simply tell us the end result of our user journey. Rather we need to focus the whittling down what occurs throughout the process.

  • 1000 users google “doctor near me”.
  • 400 visit site on doctor profile page.
  • 320 click on CTA.
  • 315 start filling out the form.
  • 50 submit the request appointment form.
  • 45 actually show up to an appointment.

In this equation, where is the dropoff? Where is the pain point? Is it the design and placement of the button? Or is it in the form that individuals are required to fill out online?

This is an important UX feature.

What report can I pull Google Analytics?

An easy way to find this in Google Analytics is the creative use of custom segments. When logged in to Google Analytics, pull up the segment builder to create a new segment:

Custom segment in Google Analytics

If you hit the ‘preview’ button, you can see exactly what percentage of users accomplished this task. When you update that segment with a subsequent step, you can see the preview changes:

Custom segment in Google Analytics

That’s a quick-and-dirty way to get some identification as to where there’s a bigger-than-expected dropoff in sessions or users, and use that to direct your efforts. You still have to be able to accurately identify the steps and for this, you’re going to want to use either events + pageviews if you have them, or URL string fragments if you don’t. 

*Our recommendation*

Think through what we can do better about that particular stage in the journey? Can…

  • A form be shortened or simplified?
  • Load time be increased?
  • Move elements to more visual prominence to facilitate the user’s journey?

And, if this step is difficult, is it even necessary?

Scenario 3: Our internal search tools aren’t working at all

This is another common issue we run into with our hospital clients: somebody comes storming in and says…

Our internal site search stinks! I’ve been searching my name/specialty/location and no relevant results pop up! We’ve got to reassess how our search results are ranked, it’s all wrong.”

Before we fully revamp our search weighting, let’s figure out a quick way to use Google Analytics to get an answer to that question. 

What do we mean by “successful”?

The first thing you should ask in this situation is not “is our internal search successful?” but rather, “what do we mean bysuccessful?’’

Maybe this is “select a relevant search result from the list displayed.” Maybe you want this to be “clicks on a specific CTA” after that search result. Maybe you want them to end up in a specific location or URL on the website. 

Most of the time, the simplest way to ascertain “success” for an internal search tool is “did the user find a relevant search result?” The good news is that there is a straightforward way of getting that information.

Almost all the time, your search information will be pushed into the URL in the form of parameters. They’ll look something like this, and populate when a user executes a search:

Query string from Google Analytics

This process makes it easy to trace a user through the search journey. It also is why we like using URL parameters rather than or in addition to Google Analytics’s native site search features: this allows us to get information on the filters used as well as the queries used, and most healthcare providers have internal find-a-doc or find-a-location tools that feature filters very heavily.

What report can I pull Google Analytics?

So what do we do here? We look for the search pages with a query parameter attached. The easiest way to do this is by content categorization. We’re looking for two specific steps here: 

  • A user who entered a query into our search tool.
  • A user who subsequently clicked on a relevant result.

In order to do this, we need to run a very simple report: We need to go to the “All Pages” report, located here in the GA interface: 

All pages report in Google Analytics

Once there, we are going to add a secondary dimension called “Previous Page Path” to the report.

Previous page path report in GA

The last piece of this puzzle is to add a custom filter to this report, where we filter the previous page path to only include URLs that include an entered query (that’s the “?” piece of this puzzle. And yes, I have chosen an example that is particularly clear-cut, if you want to choose a messy example well then you should use that in the blog you write). We also filter the page paths to include only those pages with a provider profile page as the next page.

Filter in GA

*Our recommendation*

So what we have here, then, is a helpful little dataset: we know what queries are entered, as well as what pages they subsequently ended up on. 

You can adjust the filter that you use to be more or less specific or more inclusive and see what specific filters or queries led to, or what specific results were clicked on. You could even use either the Google Sheets integration via API or an API call from R or Python and get even more detail there as well, but even without that, these steps would give you a pretty good first look at the data and let you feel more confident and familiar with moving forward! 

An ending note

I hope this has provided you with some helpful first steps towards actually getting MORE out of your Google Analytics implementation in a real, practical, tactical sense. These are all really common, simple versions of analyses and data diving that we do for our clients regularly. 

However, I also want to make a note here: each of these scenarios involves some strategic thinking as a preamble to their execution.

Example #1

We have to redirect from a poorly formed directive to a better research direction and question.

Example #2

First, we have to better identify and layout our user funnel and identify the steps involved.

Example #3

We have to identify and align on how we’re defining “success.”  That part of the puzzle is, of course, every bit as important as the analysis itself (I argue it’s more important, but this is a blog post trying to give you tactical stuff to do and get some cool use out of a tool you probably already have!).

We hope these tactics can be used to get some real use out of your free tools! Good luck, and don’t be afraid to break things.

What You Need to Know: Digital Front Door

The buzzword “digital front door” has been used in healthcare circles since 2017. The concept itself is by no means “new” and is actually the reason why Modea exists.

In this article, we will explain what a digital front door is, why it’s crucial for the future success of your healthcare organization, and 3 principles to get your team started.

What is a “digital front door”?

Over the years, we’ve seen retail giants pave the way for what user experience should look and feel like. As e-commerce grows and competition is at an all-time high, organizations must craft and launch award-winning, omnichannel experiences for consumers. Often with a goal of allowing the user to seamlessly engage with the brand through connected experiences

Healthcare should be no different. And good news! We’ve seen a huge shift in how healthcare providers are prioritizing digital investments over the past few years.

These investments are providing impactful forward movement. Unfortunately, much of this work in healthcare is siloed and can still create pain points for the consumer. If providers want to win more customers in today’s digital landscape, they need to stop seeing digital as a collection of features. Rather, see digital as the way to build a better and more connected customer experience.

“Digital front door” is a strategy that guides healthcare providers to do just this.

“Digital front door is a strategy that leverages the use of technology to create a better and more connected customer experience.”

Often, a digitally connected customer experience in healthcare will include tools such as:

  • Public websites that provide clear information, search tools, and easy access to scheduling.
  • Mobile apps that allow for easy access to the patient portal and provide tools such as symptom checkers or wayfinding.
  • A well-integrated patient portal that provides broad account management.
  • Well-designed and transparent appointment scheduling.
  • Access to scheduled or on-demand telehealth visits.
  • Digital service channels via live and AI-based chat.

Spartanburg and Carilion websites

To be clear, this strategy is not about spinning up new and confusing technologies. Instead, it’s taking the time to truly understand what your customers need most. Remember, you should be making it easier to interact with your brand on a daily basis across platforms. If that means creating something new, then great! Remember, having the right plan and roadmap is the next critical step you would need to take to be successful.

Why should my organization care?

It’s simple. If your healthcare organization doesn’t provide an easy-to-use omnichannel experience, from initial appointment scheduling through the final bill, your patients might go elsewhere, even if the care isn’t as good.

It’s never been easier for a consumer to:

If you don’t invest in the future of your healthcare system now and use your connected digital experiences as a differentiator, not only will your regional competition take away your customers, but so will disruptive new entrants.

3 principles for creating a strong digital front door

So, how should your healthcare system get started? Our team suggests following these 3 simple principles in order to create a strong digital front door.

#1 Connect your customer data and use it well

Every healthcare system has a lot of data, whether or not they are analyzing and consuming that data. A common issue is that data is inherently messy and often housed in silos. This makes it difficult to connect and use it to inform better personalization and digital optimization strategies.

Think about how your local grocery store chain uses your consumer data. They provide relevant and timely coupons based on previous purchases.

Healthcare should be no different

If a customer receives a CRM-generated email and clicks through to a website, the health system could already know plenty of marketing data about the patient. Such as recent searches, what appointments they’ve had, which vaccinations they’ve recently received, etc. If this type of data is being joined and consumed, then the customer can have a more rich, personalized experience.

If your healthcare system is not doing this yet, answering these questions can help your team understand where to start. 

  • Where and how are we capturing customer data?
  • Where and how are we connecting this data?
  • Is our team analyzing and consuming this data to drive initiatives?
  • Do we make data-based decisions?

Free resources:

#2 Create an omnichannel customer experience that works well across all touchpoints

Today you can book a room through Marriott’s mobile app in ways you never could before. When a guest walks into Marriott’s hotel the mobile app will prompt the guest to digitally check in. The guest can now use their phone as a digital key to get into their room and enjoy their stay. All is done without interacting with a single person or waiting in long lines. The experience is simple, easy to use, and leaves the guest happy. Overall, guests engage with the brand in the manner that is most comfortable for them. The key is that they have a unified, on-brand experience throughout each touchpoint.

This example provides inspiration for healthcare by showing how a digital front door strategy can infuse digital tools into an experience to provide frictionless access and thoughtful touchpoints.

The goal is to ensure that your organization creates experiences that make your customers’ lives easier and more convenient.

mobile experiences

What does this look like for healthcare?

For healthcare, this could start with having a patient book an appointment online. When the patient arrives at the physical building the system’s mobile app sends a notification to check-in at a kiosk. The patient does so and is then prompted to sit and wait to be called by the physician. This would provide an experience that minimizes friction and maximizes convenience.

The problem is that historically healthcare has not been at the forefront of creating these beautiful, seamless experiences. We’ve seen healthcare systems spin up mobile apps without a purposeful strategy time and time again. The reasoning, more often than not is, “but our competitors have a mobile app”. 

This thought of “but they have it” is dangerous. Your organization needs to be focused on digitizing healthcare but it is critical to do so with purpose. Don’t fall into the trap of creating and building a bunch of products that are not integrated into your brand’s experience at large. This can even cause more frustration and confusion for your customers.

We suggest starting with a customer journey mapping exercise to find clarity on what’s most important. A journey map is an in-depth process that shows you and your organization how consumers are interacting with your brand. A journey map identifies gaps and opportunities and ultimately gives you a holistic view of what your organization needs.

research image

#3 Honor your brand in the digital front door

With each touchpoint, your customer needs to know that the continuous experience is that of your brand. If your messaging is not consistent with your brand, mission, and values then you’ll be missing the opportunity to create meaningful brand loyalty with customers.

This suggestion may seem obvious, however, it’s essential to the success of your customer experience. All touchpoints need to have consistent messaging across the board. Whether that’s your mobile app, website, paid advertising, a kiosk, print mailers, etc. Moreso, your digital tools should reflect what makes you special as an organization.

Patagonia is the ideal example of this. The company’s mission statement is “we’re in business to save our home planet”. This statement is blatantly obvious to see, feel, hear whenever a consumer engages with their online content. Sees an ad (famously known for their “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign) or buys clothing from a retailer. Even their product pages reinforce that as a brand, Patagonia isn’t just trying to sell you stuff.  

Patagonia image

Tip: Your organization should have a brand voice and kit to help guide consistency across all platforms.

Next Steps 

In summary, the time is now.  Start today by strategically improving every touchpoint along your customer experience. If you don’t, you could lose business to another hospital system. Or even worse one of the many non-traditional competitors out there who are now providing healthcare services.

If your team feels overwhelmed by the size of the initiative, start small. Complete a customer journey mapping exercise to learn more about your patients and what they need.

Interested in learning what your organization should be thinking about and planning for? 

We’re here to help

Contact us and we’ll set up a time to chat. We’re happy to share how our clients are connecting their patient experiences at large.

Why Customer Journey Mapping is Critical for Healthcare

Imagine that you have the power to authorize and create anything you want for your organization’s digital front door. Nothing will stand in your way. Enthusiastically you put your plan into action. And, just like that, you have a newly designed website accompanied by a nice mobile app. All that’s left to do now is sit back and watch consumers and patients engage with all of the new content and features you thought they wanted.

Except they don’t. 

Engagement does not increase and traffic even shows a slight decline. Time on page goes down and the number of appointments booked stays where it was prior to all of your work. 

You’re stumped because the site matches exactly what you felt was needed. To make matters worse, now you have to explain to your stakeholders and the entire organization what went wrong and why that investment is not paying off.

You can see where this is going. 

The issue started because your initial direction came from inside the organization, not from the end-user. Your team didn’t base designs and functionality on real research and data. Instead, you made assumptions about what your customers want and need.

In short, you didn’t create a proper customer journey map. A proper journey map would have provided insights to guide pragmatic decision-making and put your team in a better place.

So, where do you start with healthcare customer journey mapping, and what exactly is it? 

A customer journey map is a very in-depth and detailed process that will show you and your organization how consumers’ are interacting with your brand. It will also identify gaps and opportunities you probably are not aware of. The end result is a visual and holistic view of what your organization needs to know. This includes topics your team should think about, from all angles and recommendations on how to implement them.

Journey maps are also a great tool for getting stakeholders and every decision-maker on board to understand what really drives consumers to become your patients. It should also serve as the foundation that will guide every major digital initiative moving forward. 

customer journey mapping

Why do you need a proper customer journey map? 

Healthcare is being challenged in all the right ways, and while it may seem like many are now trying to disrupt the industry, it’s actually been a long time coming. Organizations like CitiBank, Marriott, and American Airlines, were traditional companies that saw a need to adapt to the changing digital consumer landscape and they capitalized. You can pay your bill online, book a hotel in a few swipes, book a flight with the click of your finger, and buy a car completely online. We can guarantee that each of these companies had a detailed customer journey map created before they made any changes.

The new way of interacting with top brands has quickly set expectations for the digital experience consumers expect to find with any organization. Healthcare is no different and your consumers and patients want the same experience they get everywhere else

How do you create the right customer journey map?

It is critical that your journey map is created by the right team to ensure ROI and meaningful next steps. Customer journey maps come in all shapes and sizes and therefore, you should partner with an organization that thoroughly understands the ins and outs of healthcare.

Our UX team members at Modea are not only experts with research and journey mapping development, but also can help your team strategically implement our findings. As well as, use the results to help drive the growth of your consumer base.

We are 100% focused on healthcare and have implemented results for numerous clients like Carilion Clinic, Keck Medicine of USC, and more.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into Modea’s customer journey mapping process.

Our approach and important tips.

Competitive Landscape

1.) We begin the process by examining the competitive landscape. This should include physical location visits to your competitors’ hospitals (COVID permitting), combined with an evaluation of their digital presence.  Overall, we look at healthcare organizations in your region and nationally to identify potential opportunities and any threats your competitors might pose to patient acquisition.

Complete a Heuristic Review

2.) Next, we schedule in-person site visits to your location(s). We’d walk through as a customer would and look at your existing digital properties to complete a heuristic review. Both of these deliverables help us align on the current state, as well as identify challenges and strengths you have.

heuristic review

Stakeholder Interviews

3.) Thirdly, we carry out stakeholder interviews. This is where we complete a series of one-on-one or group interviews with stakeholders, the champions of your patients’ experience. We will also interview stakeholders at the strategic level, to ensure we’re considering organizational as well as consumer goals. This stage is the most “eye-opening” phase. You and your team will be shocked to see how your various departments differ in opinion, necessity, and overall goals.

stakeholder interviews


4.) We then create user archetypes known as personas to help frame discussions and guide recruitment for customer research. These patient personas will align with the demographics in your market and include information related to their motivations, needs, and barriers within the healthcare industry.

Hypothetical Maps

5.) The above items could take several weeks, or longer. It all depends on a variety of factors, especially how long lead times are to get interviews and meetings scheduled.  But once completed, we start creating hypothetical maps that lay the groundwork for a larger journey map to come. In order to create these maps, we will facilitate in-person sessions with internal stakeholders. During, the goal is to build out the different user journey scenarios that would have surfaced in steps 1-3 above.  Again, uncovering additional pain points for the customer as well as helping guide our planning process for customer research.

Modea hypothetical maps

Customer Research

6.) Next, customer research begins; a combination of web-based surveys and one-on-one or group interviews with customers from your key demographics.  At this point, we will be testing any hypotheses we’ve made so far and digging deeper into any key consumer actions and behaviors.

Customer Journey Map

7.) The last and final task is to complete the customer journey map! This will be created by facilitating mapping sessions with actual customers. You can expect to have a variety of audiences produced as a final artifact similar to the below.

modea customer journey map

Artifacts and presentation

8.) The finished product goes well beyond any documentation or presentation we would provide along the way.  When all is said and done, you will be equipped with core audience research, a prioritized list of immediate opportunities and improvements, as well as areas for further exploration. These artifacts will ultimately help support an audience-centric, research-driven approach to the customer experience.

You can see that a proper customer journey is complex. It’s so much more than just writing down what a prospective customer may do or what they are looking for. When we talk about how it’s the foundation for what you build upon, we couldn’t be more serious. If you’re designing a new website, a mobile app, or looking to create a better digital road mapping strategy, an accurate and thorough customer journey map needs to be in place before any of that work begins. Our design team is all trained using the Nielsen Norman Group methodology so you know it will be done right. 

Next steps

Has your organization completed a recent (within the past 3 years) consumer journey mapping exercise? If so, are you able to answer the below questions about your consumers?

  • What are your customer groups and what traits do they possess?
  • Can you provide a quick list of what your customers appreciate about your organization and/or what makes a loyal customer?
  • Do you know of the top 5 customer digital pain points?
  • Are the findings from your last exercise completely implemented?

Unable to answer all of these questions? It could be time to refresh your journey map or start creating one.

Interested in discussing how customer journey mapping can benefit your organization? Contact us to set up a time to chat.