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Using Patient Journey Mapping to Design In-Person Experience and New Medical App

Any time a child has an injury or illness serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, the experience can be an emotional and psychological journey rife with opportunities for anxiety and confusion. When making a decision that impacts their child’s health, parents need to clearly know when and where to seek out the best healthcare options. 

Children's Wisconsin (Children’s), a nationally ranked pediatric hospital, wanted to improve the hospital experience for children and their loved ones, and they looked to Highland for help. Together we embarked on a journey to understand and map out parent behavior when seeking healthcare for their children, both in-person and digitally.

  1. Ear icon Research
A detailed journey map for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin CHW Journey map,

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.

“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, Children's Wisconsin
Using Patient Journey Mapping to Design In-Person Experience and New Medical App

Our Approach to Solving Children’s Challenges:
Conducting user research to understand the patient point of view

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.

  • 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.

  • Initial 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.

  • Continued Exploration: After our first round of work, Children’s needed help on a new project: conduct research and testing to inform a new healthcare app development strategy and digital front door experience. As they looked to build a mobile health app, they wanted to explore two different types of scenarios:

    1. Urgency: When a sick or injured child needs immediate health attention, will a parent open a mobile application on their smartphone as the first place for information seeking?
    2. Long-Term Relevancy: If a child isn’t sick, but needs preventive care like a physical or check up, will parents use an app as a source of continued health and wellness engagement via telemedicine, medical records, communication with medical professionals, and more?

  • Wireframing Prototyping, and Testing: With these questions in mind, we constructed two separate wireframes with the Children’s team. The two wireframes aimed to explore individual user experiences for the Urgency vs Long-Term Relevancy scenarios. We worked alongside their  internal marketing team to narrow down language, messaging, and align before building a higher fidelity final product. Once our teams reached a consensus of what we wanted to create, we developed the prototypes.

    We showed both prototype app designs to parents and observed, learned, and gathered intel as we collected insights on how they used the app or apps like the prototype in front of them on their mobile devices. This informed the next iteration of the medical application.

  • Building an MVP: All findings pointed us to one solution – combine both scenarios and experiences into one medical mobile app. We created a singular prototype to test and confirm user behavior across multiple use cases were solved for in one mhealth app design. The final included:

    • Push notifications for age and stage! ie “What to expect when your child turns 5”

    • Easily accessible chat functionality, bringing through “warm competency” with quick, human interaction 

    • User-friendly UX/UI design to help parents make sense of their children’s symptoms with a simple “I need help deciding what to do” option and assessment flow 

    • Myriad telehealth options like urgent care video appointments, localized text and chat functionality, and the ability to log in and update your child’s symptoms before visits

    • Quick scheduling tools for in-person appointments with both their primary care and urgent care

    • Self Help tutorials for first aid

    • A library of content on parenting tips, nutrition, development milestones, and what to do for common illnesses

    • Important lens of HIPAA compliance and protected health information safety and security features, we always recommend our clients follow data protection requirements and including multi-factor authentication on smartphones before moving further down the medical app development process

“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, Children's Wisconsin
Using Patient Journey Mapping to Design In-Person Experience and New Medical App

Services Offered:

  • User Research

  • Design Research

  • Experience Design

  • Customer Journey Mapping

  • Prototyping

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. Our customer journey map is used as a training tool by the patient experience team when onboarding staff at all levels, from medical leadership to administrators fielding calls at the intake desk. 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. 

Through their additional work with Highland, Children’s received a more nuanced understanding of what parents are thinking about when going through the digital front door experience. By understanding how parents interacted with the prototypes and multiple user journeys, Children’s is now able to make more informed decisions on what medical information to include and how to strategically better connect with parents. They will utilize these insights to have a strategy-informed lens when working with their software development team to make their digital dreams into reality. 

“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, Children's Wisconsin
Using Patient Journey Mapping to Design In-Person Experience and New Medical App