How do we create a telemedicine experience that allows providers to focus on building a relationship with patients?
A friend of mine who's a doctor for a telemedicine company was asked to advise on the update of her team's patient-provider tool. She wanted to better understand the UX process, and more generally, the software development cycle. As we met, I realized it was was a great opportunity to put together a concept.
Telemedicine meets our modern expectations for service and reduces costs for patients, providers, and payers. By connecting patients with medical providers via video calls, telemedicine helps patients:
- Reduce travel
- Reduce wait times
- Reduce exposure to disease (flu season)
- Increase availability outside traditional clinic hours
- Expand access to specialists in underserved areas
- Expand access to assisted living facilities caregivers and medical staff
A survey of 20 Seattle residents ages 23 to 86, helped me narrow the focus to three patient populations for whom Telemedicine was a good care fit.
- Young people navigating healthcare independent of their parents
- Older adult patients with a chronic condition
- Patients in rural and low-income areas where specialists are scarce
I chose focused on young people setting up their own healthcare and patients with chronic diseases. (I didn't have access to a rural community). My approach was to create a user journey for both. From there, I could create a unified experience that worked for both groups.
A telemedicine solution succeeds when it offers faster, reliable access to an expert provider. Our goal is to help patients receive more lasting and relationship-based care founded on the trust and history necessary to accurately diagnose and maintain health. It needs to feel like a personal relationship, even if it's not in person.
Concept and sketches
It was fun to think through the needs of these different audiences and translate them into features of a unified solution. After an initial set of sketches and brainstorming, I came up with 5 key areas (onboarding, patient account area, provider selection and the video screen experience) to solve for — guided by an experience blueprint for navigation and user journeys.
Refining patient onboarding
New services need to make a good first impression to earn trust. Helping people understand telemedicine was crucial and deserved extra attention. My user research indicated it would be critical to articulate the benefit of telemedicine versus an in-person visit, as well as how the two are related, and to be transparent about why personal and medical information was necessary for sign-up.
Accessibility & Modular UI
Special considerations had to be taken to make sure the design was accessible for older adults and those with seeing, hearing and learning challenges.
- Underline text to indicate link
- Clear labels of links and navigation elements
- No horizontal scrolling
- Ample white space
- No blues or yellows
- No jargon and consideration for non-native English speakers
- Minimum text size: 16px
- No thin or light styles
- Left align text
- Line width = font size x line height
My initial flow proved cumbersome for users who wanted to quickly schedule an appointment. I went back to the designs and split the how-to steps into separate advancing screens. I removed form fields that would be required to schedule an appointment, opting to collect missing information through a follow-up email or in-app messages. I also had to explicitly include conditions telemedicine can't accommodate to set user expectations — those that require cultures, blood work, and physical exams in-person at a clinic.
I also heard from test users about the ambiguity of who is responsible for initiating the appointment. Users preferred the doctor to start the appointment with a direct video call. Initially, I considered a waiting room area, but a direct call by the doctor was simpler. I applied this feedback by removing unnecessary interactions and adjusted the language to guide the patient.
For follow-up communication and confirmations, users preferred text and email over in-app messages. They admitted to ignoring app notifications or outright turning them off.
This experience is agnostic to care types: urgent care, primary care or specialist care. Today the dominant use case for telemedicine is for urgent care. That's also the primary use case for my friend. We talked a lot about how this type of solution could flex to accommodate the differences in other types of care. (i.e. triage for home care, remote lab testing, remote monitoring and more)
It's easy to forget that a doctor is not just a fixer, but an educator. A lot of what happens during these calls — just an in-personal appointment — is the doctor empowering patients to understand their bodies and health needs. That is where the virtual model has great potential to leverage AI, voice and chat solutions.