It’s Not Just The Tech: Does Your Digital Front Door Say “Welcome”?

When Polonius asked Hamlet, “What do you read, my lord?” Hamlet replied simply, “Words, words, words.” The implication was that the words were irrelevant, meaningless, and perhaps difficult to understand. In the language of the digital front door, Hamlet was having a poor user experience.

What does the language used in your digital front door do for the patient? Does it describe accurately and succinctly the meaning of the task at hand, using well-written and carefully edited prose that is easily understood? Or is it, in the words of Hamlet, just “words, words, words?”

The Center for Connected Medicine’s 20221“Top of Mind for Top Health Systems” notes that 99 percent of healthcare executives rank “improving the patient experience” as a high priority. How then do we go about achieving that improved experience? The first and most obvious path is to create amazing technology to integrate previously siloed information and then present it with interface design strategies that make it easy to access and navigate. The third path – but by no means the least important – lies in those all-important words.

The last mile of patient experience

Customers of healthcare providers and payers have made it clear: they want a better user experience. They want easy, intuitive access through their desktop and mobile, with all their information in one place, and they want their questions answered immediately in a language they can understand.

The concept of the digital front door, driven in part by an increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy audience and in part by government mandate, is a concept that improves patient access by providing easy access points to a wide variety of information and healthcare-related services, information, and automated tasks.

The concept of digital simplicity and unified access is driven by the success of such initiatives in consumer retail as well as Industry 4.0 manufacturing. Healthcare may be last on the table, but not for lack of trying. A heavily regulated industry with enormously complicated data, it’s naturally a lot more difficult to implement than a retailer who wants to give customers access to their order histories. But today’s healthcare customers are informed by what they encounter in other sectors. There is a growing expectation of immediate access to everything they want to know about their healthcare, all in one place, and with good answers, too. “How much is that gallbladder surgery going to cost me?” should not be answered with “Well, it depends…” followed by lengthy tables and incomprehensible language filled with qualifiers.

Everyone needs an editor

The mandate is clear, and despite the complexity and breadth of data required to accomplish it, the technology is not rocket science and can certainly be accomplished satisfactorily. But the entire reason for a digital front door strategy is to provide a better customer experience, and that should never be considered a purely technological solution.

Some projects suffer from “shiny thing syndrome,” and we get lost in the slick programming, functionality, and genius of integrating all those moving parts under the hood. But while we may delight in the project’s functional brilliance, the actual words used on the front end may get neglected. Yes, it works – but are we communicating to the non-technical audience just how it works from their perspective? Are we able to answer their questions in natural and intuitive language and in well-written prose, without sounding like an IKEA instruction manual?

The fallacy of bullet point brevity

“Keep it brief” is always good advice when creating an interface, but it must be balanced with good writing. The fallacy of bullet point brevity – all too common in user interface content development – presents the austerity of word conservation at the expense of (1) being understood and (2) keeping the interface language itself friendly and personal.

The messages, descriptions, hover text, and pop-ups are not PowerPoint bullets. They are meant to be self-contained bits of prose that explain something in simple and easy-to-understand language, yet that digital front door too often may contain pop-up or hover text, instructions, descriptions, and other content that was written with the primary goal of simply fitting into a space of predetermined size, often making assumptions about what knowledge the reader may have, rather than writing with the goal of presenting self-contained, easily-understood, and well-written information. Professional writers and editors are the last steps in taking the digital front door project home.



Danny (Dan) Blacharski

Danny (Dan) Blacharski

Principal Content Analyst Digital Experience Practice - UX/UI


#digital front door
#patient experience
#virtual assistance
#consumer engagement
#customer experience

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