The online care domain: five pitfalls and how to avoid them

The online care domain: five p...

Municipalities are responsible for setting up the care domain. Most municipalities choose to make the information accessible via a website. Some go further and choose to set up an online portal. One step further is to facilitate a secure 'my environment' in which citizens can keep their own care records and obtain insight into the progress of their applications. With all of these developments, it is interesting to learn from each other and to see what works and what doesn't. What are the pitfalls of using a secure portal? What are the pitfalls to avoid? From our experience with the healthcare domain, and with designing from a user perspective, we would like to share five points with you. These points come from real cases, and from actual research conducted with citizens.

Pitfall 1: old existing content

Open door: everything depends on being able to find the right information. The problem is that you often don't start from scratch when it comes to the information that is available from the Municipality. Texts have usually already been written and are often already online. The pitfall is that you start from what you already have, and then try to fit this information into your new website. That seems efficient, because you recycle what you already have. Yet there is a pitfall lurking here. It could limit you from setting up your new website with a fresh perspective. Our tips:

  1. Begin the design process with an open mind. In doing so, pay extra attention to the needs of your citizens. What do they want to be able to find? What information is essential for them? In the second instance, you can look at what information you yourself want to share as a Municipality. We dive into this, for example, by interviewing your site's intended visitors and stakeholders within your organization.

  2. Look closely at the information architecture. That lays the foundation for how your visitors can click through the site. You want people to be able to find the information when they are browsing, and when they are using a search function. You also want people on your site to know where they are, and how they can get somewhere else. Early on, you can test the design with prototypes to get quick feedback and improve the design. In addition, you utilise techniques to find out what people consider to be logical categories and menu items. Further analysis of click behaviour is also immensely helpful in acquiring insights.

  3. In this regard, the behind-the-scenes design is also very important. What search engine and algorithm are you using? Does it include a thesaurus and is it set up properly? What labels do you give your information 'underwater'? What should citizens be able to filter? Teaming up with a party that can help you do this is one of the keys to success.


Pitfall 2: continuing to make decisions based on target groups instead of customer journeys

Traditionally, when a website had to be created, target groups were assumed.However, this is a lot less feasible if your target audience is basically every citizen.And especially when it comes to the healthcare domain.The standard classifications such as age and level of education have been found to not say enough about the actual needs of the people you want to reach. 

There are increasingly more differences among individuals. If it is simply no longer sufficient to classify citizens according to age or education level, then what is to be done? Because anyone, regardless of demographics, may be looking for information about a wheelchair, or want to request home assistance.

So how do you make sure that you're addressing the people that you want to reach? One way to do this is to plug into 'life events', such as getting married, changing residence, and the birth of a child. Working with 'top tasks' on municipal websites is also common now. These include applying for a driver's license, reporting a change in residence, and making an appointment.

Visitors of a municipal healthcare domain website all go there with a goal in mind. The goals may vary more than is the case with top tasks. They involve more customer journeys with sub-goals. Uncover these customer journeys and their sub-goals by conducting user research and interviews. The findings will lead to a design that you can use to be at the citizens' beck and call. This helps your website visitors find the information that they are looking for without any effort. In addition, it gives them context-related actions that they can execute themselves, such as submitting an application or viewing a healthcare provider.


Pitfall 3: Customer ratings — zero to five stars

It can be informative to add a customer rating to the care being offered, but our surveys show that citizens have reservations about displayed customer ratings. Especially when it comes to the well-known 'star system', where everyone can give their rating in the form of a number of stars, with five stars often being the maximum.

What is the issue here? These days, people are quite aware that there are a lot of fake ratings on the Internet. For example, when someone wants to unfairly harm an organisation's reputation and gives them a bad rating. Another example: when a company calls on all the employees in its entire network to give it a favourable rating. Internet users are getting better at seeing through these tricks. So don't underestimate your citizens.

Customer ratings do become valid in the form of a fully written review, with the customer's own name and surname. If the review specifically shows what an organisation is good at, citizens can decide for themselves if this is an appropriate match for them. In doing so, it is important to have at least four to five reviews. Visitors find a lower amount to be too insignificant.


Pitfall 4: listing too many health care providers

When you're thinking about creating a social map, you quickly run into the question of how far you should go.Which healthcare providers do we list? What if the best specialist in the Netherlands is not located in your region?Based on our research , it appears that citizens also expect municipal information from a municipal site.They are sometimes even surprised when a provider from outside the region comes up in the search results.

While we're on the subject of healthcare providers, ask your citizens again about there needs.While the trend is to emphasise the voluntary sector field, that is not necessarily the best fit for someone seeking help.

When you put too much emphasis on zero care it can sometimes be very irritating, especially if it is done in a patronising way.Citizens want to make their own decisions about whether they will pay for professional help, or prefer to seek a volunteer. 

On the other hand, you should also make sure that the search results for professional providers do not look too much like an advertisement. Citizens get an ominous feeling when it seems like the Municipality is recommending certain companies.


Pitfall 5  : 'now we direct all citizens to the site.' Offline and telephone accessibility

Keep in mind that there are citizens, and with them interest groups, who are not initially thrilled when we talk about a website.And they have a point.

Especially in the healthcare domain, there are citizens who would be better served by a phone number and a person they can speak to in person.

You'll save yourself and the public a lot of frustration if you recognise this point beforehand, position your website as a complementary source of information, and communicate its purpose. On the other hand, for those citizens who want to look up information on their own time, the appreciation for a well-designed website has been found to be very high.

Wondering what else we can do in addition to these tips on the online healthcare domain? Then contact us using the button below.


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Iwan Cuijpers