Developing the Personas Taking the Healthcare Customer Journey

One of the fundamental components to understanding your healthcare customers - what motivates them and most importantly, how you can remove barriers and create a logical, enjoyable user experience so they find, learn or understand how your company is best suited to serve them – is to develop customer journey maps.

We use customer journey maps for a variety of clients in a number of industries, but let’s focus on healthcare and our work for Samaritan Health Services, a not-for-profit network of hospitals, clinics and health services for 250,000 residents in the mid-Willamette Valley and central Oregon coast.

Samaritan Health Services provides patients with medical and health services, but like many healthcare companies, their customer journeys were complex because one person could have multiple journeys. For example, one persona could be a caregiver, not the patient, yet s/he is still actively involved in research, office visits, prescribed care and ongoing care plans.

But customer journey maps are not created in isolation. Instead, it’s a three-part process with each component playing a pivotal role in increasing conversions and improving user experience:

  1. Personas
  2. Customer Journeys
  3. Optimizing/Testing

Let’s first focus on personas.

Many clients know personas are instrumental to our understanding of who currently visits and who they want to have visit their websites because we include them in our Foundational Strategies.

While it’s similar to key audiences, personas are different. Personas are a subset of key audiences and provide more details and nuisances about the users. It allows us to give a name and personality to visitors so it’s easier to think about that person when we’re creating messaging, creative/design, user experience, etc. Meanwhile, key audiences are more general and cover a wider type of visitors.

Personas help us categorize these types of people to better understand:

  • Demographics, such as age, income, education, location;

  • Motivations, such as why they decide they need something or why they decide to buy/learn/engage on a product, service or issue; and

Conversions, such as finding a doctor, learning about a disease/illness, paying a bill or accessing medical chart.

We caution clients against developing personas for every single current and potential future visitor type, but focus only on those that are the most important. It’s the same when we think about conversions. We need to look at what is the most important for each client, which could include increasing the number of people who schedule appointments online (instead of phone calls), increasing online prescription refills, etc. Another way to think about it is - what conversions (or actions) will deem this project a success? Those are the ones we want to initially focus on, and if time permits, we can move down the priority list.

We develop personas based on conversations with clients, insights and analysis of competitor and/or similar types of companies and analytics.

Typically, persona development takes 1-2 weeks. The best personas are the ones developed in close consultation with clients to ensure we’re thinking about all of the conversions, both ones that exist now and ones that they want to have exist in the future.

Once the personas are finalized and approved, we move on to the customer journeys.

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