Children's Wisconsin Hospital Using journey-based research to reduce ER visits & improve the experience of children & families

  • Research
  • Design
  • Client challenge

    Children's Wisconsin (Children’s), a nationally ranked pediatric hospital, wanted to improve the hospital experience for children and their loved ones.

  • Project outcome

    Children’s received a more nuanced understanding of what parents are thinking about when going through the digital front door experience.

  • Impact

    Children’s is now able to make more informed decisions on what medical information to include and how to strategically better connect with parents

Digital Innovation

Project Overview

  • Client

    Children's Wisconsin Hospital

  • Industry

    Childern’s Hospital

  • Timeline

    10 weeks for research, and 4 weeks for design sprints

Client challenge

Understanding how to minimize unnecessary ER vists

Initially, Children's wanted to understand how they could better educate parents about ER alternatives and minimize unnecessary visits, ultimately reducing added stress and trauma that families endure and reducing costs to the ER. To do this, Highland initiated a patient journey mapping project to understand  key motivators and thought processes that drive a parent’s decision to take their child to the ER.

After our first round of work, Children’s saw that there was an opportunity to define a new digital health experience for their patients: an integrated healthcare app. They came to Highland to further look into the potential for a digital front door healthcare application that would serve as a parent’s convenient first response platform to all health-related care questions and also help build meaningful long-term engagement. Through both of these projects, we sought out to gain insights to help us understand and map out what parents behavior looked like when seeking healthcare for their child.

Our Approach

To truly understand the patient experience for families seeking healthcare at Children’s, we needed to understand parents' behaviors when in certain situations - from normal everyday life to when their child is dealing with illness or injury. After the initial research and findings, Children’s came back to us to further explore how parents might use a dedicated, on-demand healthcare mobile app when looking to access medical information.

“Had we not done this process we likely would have invested money in the wrong sort of technology. The journey mapping process helped dramatically decrease our risk in technology selection and got us pointed in the right direction as a new team.”

– Christopher Neuharth, Director of Digital Health & Experience at Children's Wisconsin

Initial Research & Analysis:

Highland facilitated a kick-off meeting with key stakeholders across Children’s to align business goals, challenges, and priorities. This group included the hospital’s President of Primary Care, Chief Marketing Officer, and healthcare providers like physicians and nurses.

After kickoff, Highland conducted in-person discovery interviews with parents to incorporate their point of view into the customer journey map. Using the guided storytelling interviewing technique, we understood specific needs, pain points, and expectations of each parent and their unique touchpoints with Children's.

Once research had concluded, we analyzed all data, captured insights, and key takeaways to plot parents’ journeys to the ER, while focusing on emotional and functional needs including thoughts, feelings, and actions throughout that experience.

Inital insights

Our developed patient journey maps pinpointed a powerful feeling of warm competency–a touchpoint in the patient journey where a health practitioners’ empathy and expertise threaded together to reduce parents’ stress and anxiety.

This feeling typically arose almost ¾ of the way into the patient’s visit to the ER, when they were finally in front of a physician who possessed this particular set of skills. This meant Children’s needed to introduce this feeling earlier in the patient journey. Highland worked with Children's to illustrate where and when they needed to give this feeling and provided recommended training so staff could learn warm competency skills moving forward.

“We had an idea that we wanted to build an app, but the process with Highland allowed us to explore a lot of different concepts. This process helped us feel confident that technology would be a solution to improving patient experience. It provided momentum and a foundation to build the strategy for the app experience.”

– Jeremy White, Senior User Experience Strategist at Children's Wisconsin


Using Research Insights to Shift Organizational Strategy & Inform Mobile App Development Approach

Children's has already begun building warm competency into the everyday experiences of their patients. They have implemented warm competency into multiple aspects of their digital and in-person patient experience.

Children’s has also used the findings to inform changes on their website by introducing warm competency even earlier on and are building a system that incorporates writing for the web that keeps warm competency central. The patient experience mapping process helped Children's identify, build, and deploy a new digital product: a medical app that would Integrate all of the digital touchpoints parents have in their care journey, including a tool for checking symptoms for common injuries and illnesses to help parents decide how and where to seek help, texting features, and ability to schedule virtual visits.

“This process was totally useful. It was amazing to get everybody talking, to see all these interviews come together. It changed peoples’ perspectives and led us to some real ‘a-ha’ moments we wouldn’t have reached otherwise.”

– Jeremy White, Senior User Experience Strategist at Children's Wisconsin

How can we help?