How User-Centered Design Creates a More Holistic Patient Experience

Anyone familiar with VisitPay knows it’s a company dedicated to creating a better end-to-end patient experience. The key? Looking at the entire journey through the eyes of those who use it. And that’s what Scott Houle does best. 

Scott, the Manager of User Experience Design & Research at VisitPay, is an expert in UX, UI, and human-centered design. To him, it all comes down to focusing on the user and their needs, putting them at the center of everything we do. Whatever task the user is trying to do, they need to have the right tools available, and the experience should be as intuitive and helpful as possible. Scott recently shared some insights on how his team takes a user-centered design approach, and what that means for health systems—now and in the future.

The Voice of the User

Scott says his job is to put the patient’s needs first. This is critical as he hones the user experience while working with other teams during development, who may be approaching things from a technology, time, or business perspective, which are all important views. It is a fine line to balance development effort with business goals with user experience goals. “I see myself as the voice of the user,” he says. “And these three priorities need to work together. You can’t have one overpowering the others.”

Scott looks at every point in the patient journey with a simple question: how can we improve this experience for the patient? That can range from working on a specific web page, software application, or even a call center flow. His goal is to fine-tune the experience until it matches the user’s mental model.

A Partner to Health Systems

“I always like to think of this as a partnership,” says Scott. He works with health systems to help improve their user experience so they can more effectively serve their patients. When that happens, everyone wins.

It’s a truly constructive process. Scott and his team offer opportunities where the health system could make improvements, such as taking away redundant buttons or clarifying the steps to view a bill. He looks for ways to minimize and streamline the patients’ process, meanwhile understanding and keeping in mind health system business goals. “It’s just kind of a symphonic harmony,” he says.

Measuring Success

The road to a better user experience is not built on subjective design considerations. It’s built on measurements and data—both quantitative and qualitative.

For quantitative data, Scott and his team use a variety of tools, one of those being surveys. Surveys are used to measure a variety of variables. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) tell them how likely a user is to recommend a service to a friend. Customer Effort Score reveals whether a task was easier or harder than users expected. Scott can compare these scores, and other ways of measuring patient satisfaction in VisitPay, across clients and see the specific areas where a certain health system has the biggest opportunities for improvement. 

Qualitative data is just as important. Scott stresses the value of reviewing survey comments to identify trends. This helps him recognize common pain points for users.

After this data is collected, the user experience design team can have a conversation with the client. They’ll work with the health system to refine interfaces and copy, creating the best possible experience for both patient and provider.

The Digital Transformation of Healthcare

Healthcare was slow to embrace digital solutions, but the industry transformation is finally here—and it’s happening with urgency. A big part of the recent push to change was the pandemic. Both patients and health systems had to adapt to digital communication wherever possible, and Scott believes that this was the catalyst the industry needed to evolve into a digital-first environment that is more user-focused.

“I think that self-service is the key for health systems going forward,” he says. “Patients can be given different payment options based on our machine learning algorithms then choose the plan that is best for them.” Automating this functionality is one of the key offerings of VisitPay for health systems. Of course, Scott sees this from the patients’ view. “Self-service better fits the user’s needs, not locking the user into certain times of day or having to wait in lines.”

An Even More Holistic Future

At VisitPay, we talk about how the financial experience and the clinical one are connected. How a patient feels about one side will influence—favorably or otherwise—their view of the entire health system. Scott believes that, in the future, the entire health system experience will become even more holistic. As technology becomes more seamless, the opportunity for comments and feedback—and, thus, UX optimization—will also increase.

Scott says he’s seeing more health systems request patient feedback regarding all parts of the experience—from doctors to parking to wait times and so on. “Health systems are requesting patient survey comments from us—which is great—in an effort to address some of these things,” he says. 

His vision is one of true end-to-end user-centered healthcare where health systems are receiving information on their patient billing experience regularly. This feedback allows improvements to be made not only to the patient’s financial experience but also their overall healthcare experience. As VisitPay provides feedback on all points of the patient journey, they’ll be able to consistently identify areas that need improvement—and act accordingly.

That’s what a holistic, user-centered patient experience is all about.

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