n 2015, 90% of Americans had health insurance, the highest number on record. This new patient base is more empowered and discerning than ever, but also less versed on health care’s specifics. In this guest post, Derek Nelson, a partner and creative director at a design and engineering company, details best practices for building patient-focused websites.


Hospitals should invest in innovative, easy-to-use digital experiences that focus on patient experience.

Oscar Health, for example, has been described as “primarily a consumer experience company,” and hospitals can draw patient-experience lessons from the brand’s high-quality interactions with consumers. The company markets its ancillary benefits (like gym discounts) and provides members with overviews of their medical histories upon logging into its website. It also places patients first by enabling them to call a doctor anytime while ensuring a trained guide picks up every patient call.

Despite all the challenges in starting a company in an unforgiving landscape like health insurance, Oscar Health has traction, gaining 145,000 members in just four states and being valued at $2.7 billion. When Fast Company asked how Oscar Health differentiates itself, its CEO just demoed the online product.

Positive patient experience like Oscar Health’s relies on sites that are mobile-friendly, use everyday language, incorporate the latest technology and consistent design, and – most important – put the patient at the forefront. Healthcare organizations and hospitals can create positive patient experiences across their digital properties by adhering to the following best practices.

1. Cut jargon

Insurance and health industry jargon is often confusing, and even alienating, for the average patient – particularly for the newly insured. In fact, a study of 19- to 30-year-olds signing up for health insurance revealed that half of the study participants couldn’t define “deductible.” Modern patients want to truly understand what they’re using. They reward hospitals that talk to them like humans and give them a mission to believe in.

To address this, create an online glossary to clearly explain complex terms. Allow for ancillary benefits, such as wellness discounts, to show that your company values an individual’s overall health. And consistency in tone, voice and flow also lead to positive patient experience.

2. Loosen grip on legacy systems

“Legacy systems are killing healthcare organizations,” according to Bruce Johnson, CEO of healthcare supply chain management organization GHX. He said that waste, inefficiency and lack of visibility cost his industry $5 billion annually.

Clinging to old systems or using short-term solutions in digital systems creates a “technical debt” that businesses and hospitals make payments on every day. Instead, be open-minded in understanding technology requirements, users and patient goals. Let these requirements and goals drive what systems you use, not the other way around.

3. Design and test on mobile first, not second

More than 90% of patients have had a deal-breaking digital experience when accessing customer service information with a mobile device. Mobile-only internet use is increasing, with people age 55 and older as the fastest-growing mobile-only user base. This group is also a major user in the healthcare industry.

It’s clear that this change in mobile access is valuable to patient experience, particularly as mobile usage becomes less transactional and more about true engagement. It’s a root expectation that patients can complete in-depth tasks – like checking provider networks, reviewing benefits and claims, and accessing ID cards – on their phones while at work or in transit, so hospitals and other healthcare organizations need to adopt mobile-first strategies.

4. Ditch automated customer service

Companies should extend their customer service strategies to their digital spaces. A good website can serve as a 24-hour customer service representative by preempting calls, increasing efficiency and providing a sense of connection to the company.

This is especially important because surveys show that even though 75% of healthcare patients prefer to speak to a live person, 57% say they get lost in an automated service system. Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel. FAQ pages provide a valuable opportunity to attract patients and head off calls.

5. Create cohesive experience across portals

A 10-second wait for a page to load can make 50% of patients leave a site. Ways to enhance efficiency include enabling compression, improving server response times, leveraging browser caching, optimizing images and CSS delivery, prioritizing visible content, removing render-blocking JavaScript and using asynchronous scripts.

Implementation of single sign-on for various portals can pay dividends as well. Single sign-on solutions allow patients to access and interact with all areas of their accounts, such as viewing benefits or claims, adjusting plans and changing account details. Identify the user-interface patterns and the types of online forms needed, and improve the form’s patient experience with inline validation, autocomplete and auto-advance.

To evaluate new opportunities in the changing marketplace, Fallon Health conducted consumer surveys to inform its member experience. According to Peter Atkins, director of market research and planning, the company learned that people aren’t comparing insurance providers with other insurance providers. Instead, they want to see the speed and personalization of Amazon with healthcare solutions.

Expectations have changed. And like Oscar Health, companies that always let patients lead the experience will chart the path of the next generation of hospitals and insurers.

Derek Nelson is a partner and creative director at Clique Studios, a design and engineering company, where he helps build and introduce solutions for the digital market.

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