Healthcare Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey maps often expose pain points and opportunities for improvement in many other areas along the entire user journey – not just as it relates to software applications, but the process and overall customer service issues as well.

Part of creating a ‘sticky’ digital health application that becomes a part of the user’s professional and/or personal life on a daily basis is truly understanding what their daily journey looks like. What do they experience emotionally? What are their highs and lows? When are they busy? When are they unmotivated or uncertain about what to do?

The emotional state of end users has a profound impact on their ability to use technology. If a product hasn’t been designed with this in mind, it will lead to frustration, mistrust, and poor rates of adoption. For example, consider a patient being released from the hospital after a heart attack. The patient faces a long recovery period guided by dietary restrictions, medications, exercise regimes, and a host of warning signs to watch for that could spark a quick return to the emergency room. Typically, upon discharge, patients are briefed by nursing staff, given recovery related reference material, and left to manage their own recovery. This initial period after release is a time of great stress and uncertainty for the patient.

TIP: Three Steps to Success

Here are three well-tested steps to gaining insight into an existing process during the early requirements phase:

  1. Model your understanding of the existing process
  2. Present the model to all those involved in the process. Update the model according to the feedback received. Repeat (as many times as possible).
  3. Pass the model back to the software designers.

Illustrating the key points and journey of your user in a clear and simple map or storyboard shifts the focus from operations and technology to the customer and explains the emotions behind each one of the actions they take.

What is a customer journey map?

A journey map provides a holistic and graphical overview of the various touch points a customer has with a product or service. It pinpoints potential user experience, security and reliability issues; in addition to identifying the factors at each touch point that may lead to a positive or negative experience. Journey maps help to minimize the odds of these issues occurring during design. They help software designers and their clients understand their user’s experience at each step along the process and shift focus from operations to the user and explain the emotions behind each one of the actions they take.

What value do customer journey maps provide?

Customer journey maps often expose pain points and opportunities for improvement in many other areas along the entire user journey – not just as it relates to software applications, but the process and overall customer service issues as well.

They spark discussions to help close knowledge gaps and provide a point of reference to help fill in information that may be missing in the process. They also help inform valuable design decisions and can act as a catalyst for idea sharing and generation between teams and clients.

What role does UX research and design play in customer journey map development?

Customer journey maps are created by conducting research on one or multiple end-user personas. This research answers questions like who is your user, what are their motivations, what tools or artifacts do they use, what are the biggest influences on their experience, and what are their social interactions influencing tasks?

Collaborating with your designers at this point is great so that the experience map can clearly show insights, such as pain points and opportunities for improvement. You can also include a few complementary statistics to bring awareness of the users’ experience. With all of these elements clearly illustrated on the map, it provides something for teams to rally behind to help drive product decisions.

How do customer journey maps differ from other or more traditional forms of UX deliverables?

When done right, customer journey maps combine and visually connect research from multiple areas (like surveys, customer support calls, observations, etc.). Rather than looking at the user in a vacuum, a customer journey map provides a better way to understand a user and the life factors that influence them at any given moment. Customer journey maps are highly actionable documents that highlight insights, pain points, and pinpoint opportunities for improvement.

Four Steps to Building A Customer Journey Map

As you might have guessed, customer journey maps are not a “thought experiment”. You shouldn’t rely on your memory or imagination alone. It’s easy to assume you know what happens, especially if you have prior experience, but you may be missing key insights. If you haven’t yet done so, you’ll want to review our article on UX framework for healthcare apps, where we outline a few research methods that you can use to inform your customer journey map. If you’ve reviewed the research dimensions and have a good sense of what you want to do, follow our four steps to building your customer journey map. These steps will help you pull together the research elements into a cohesive visual representation of your customers’ experience.

Step One: Map Your Initial Scenario

The first step of a customer journey map is to set down the high- level processes a user goes through. These need to be fairly large chunks in the journey, to give you space to dig deeper into each section. Perhaps thinking of them as blocks in a flowchart, can help you break it down into the large sections required, then plot them on a large piece of paper, whiteboard, or use a modeling program. Also, consider at this point the high-level stakeholders that your customer interacts with on their journey. Plot these below and leave space for building on their touch points with the customer.

To help you visualize this, we’re going to work through the example of a woman undergoing doctor-assisted labor and delivery in a hospital.

In this particular scenario, we will assume that it is an uncomplicated labor/delivery which is supported by her partner throughout and involves only a brief stay at hospital post-birth. In the initial map outline, we have drawn a timeline outlining some of the high-level stages of labor and associated events and activities. We’ve added in our key stakeholders (partner, clinicians) below and given space to add in further information about them and their relationship with the woman in labor throughout her journey.

Once we have the high-level stages added, we’re ready to delve into our research and understanding of the process.

Step Two: Add Qualitative Data

Typically most designers and developers of applications have some initial understanding of how a user works their way through the application. They’ve either observed the scenario themselves or received documentation of the typical path a user takes from documentation or initial reporting. Adding in additional information from qualitative research, such as from an observational or contextual inquiry study, can give more points along the timeline and highlight some critical events.

As you can see we’ve added some repetitive loops into our map, showing that what we initially plotted as static activities on the map, actually can be highly repetitive steps. This can impact data collection, as you will have to allow for multiple recordings of the same data within your application. Observation exercises can also give us an idea of the touch points that our user has with a partner, clinicians, and friends and family. Above, we’d forgotten to add friends and family, but as we’ve moved through our research in the field, we’ve seen how their interactions impact the user. We’ve also decided to conduct interviews with our persona to gather more information on the emotional highs and lows they are experiencing and better incorporate their experience into our map.

Once we’ve conducted our interviews, our additional research can be plotted. We’ve added friends and family and their touch points and colored the map to represent the user’s highs and lows. Typically pain levels are gauged at different intervals and they can provide good insight into what a woman is experiencing, these are mapped in grey.

Interviews can provide additional insights, such as adding the loop at the beginning to show how an expectant woman might be sent home from the hospital if her labor is not advanced enough. You can also get access to insights on her thoughts, questions, and opinions about her birth experiences. Because this research technique is semi-structured or unstructured it gives the interviewer the opportunity to probe for additional information that may be relevant. This can help you refine your phases and milestones.

Remember: While contextual inquiry and interviews offer great insight into the process, it is not always appropriate. In our scenario, tracking our user in context and conducting interviews during the process is probably not the best idea. Consider your scenarios and choose an appropriate research technique that can deliver the data you need while respecting the user.

Step Three: Add Quantitative Data

Quantitative research is great for adding in relevant supporting statistics and analytical data, also, it allows you to move past one or two observations/interviews and conduct broader research to get a sense of how the experience of your persona translates on a larger scale. A survey may give us the related information we need to answer the questions: How many? How much?

At this point, we’ve added some related survey statistics to the bottom of our map – e.g. how many children the mother has had.

Step Four: Final Review and Clean Up

Once you have conducted all of your research and fleshed out your map with the relevant details and information, you may find that the map is overwhelming and not really highlighting a particular solution. It may look nothing like ours. Particularly if your journey map has a large number of touch points, it becomes hard to highlight every touch point on the map. The map can become too cluttered and lose focus and meaning.

Take some time to carefully decide what you’d like your map to highlight. Then consider what is irrelevant to that journey and remove it from your map. Get feedback, review, re-map, and review again.

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