The scope of this project was established by a multi-track audit of the treatment program sites, using three different approaches. Firstly, we surveyed and consulted with various clinical teams about their problems with the current templates. We then conducted a review of all the other top ten cancer centers’ sites, reviewing their feature-sets, information architecture and overall user experience. Lastly, we tested and explored possible improvements internally.
This audit revealed several key pain points for our clients, the clinical teams, and our principal users – patients and their family members.
I developed a charter of work to resolve these issue and offer new functionality. The charter included budget assignment, a staffing resource of 5 team members, and a framework of the project goals. The project’s overall aims were three-fold:
- to create a newly tailored, disease-specific user experience for site visitors to each microsite,
- to promote the pages with greatly improved optimized content, and
- to unify previously disparate information, like clinical trials listings and education materials, within these upgraded sites.
Finally, I created a timeline to allow the roll out of individual features and content improvements in stages.
Despite the constraints of the CMS the center operates within, I was able to establish multiple new features which could be developed and implemented in a rolling set of sprints, to greatly reduce the problems with the Treatment Programs as they stood.
An Overhauled Meet the Team Section
These upgrades included features like engaging medical writers to develop custom patient education materials, thus improving our Google quality score and providing an alternative to previously bought-in (and outdated) content. Greater promotion of team members’ bios, headshots and profile information also improved scoring and presented the teams as more approachable to patients.
To ensure I had support from both leadership and clinical teams around the center, I created an outline of the proposal, which I presented to each of the 26 teams, and also to senior leadership. This established widespread buy-in and sponsorship for the project from the outset.
Once the project scope and feature-set was created, and I had established leadership sponsors, the team began working to build out elements. I maintained daily liaison with the 5 other members of the group: a content manager, a patient education specialist; a medical writer; an SEO analyst; and a contact in each clinical team for content review/approval.
Working with our internal clients presented some challenges, as leadership conceived of new development ideas, which we then needed to roll into subsequent sprints. Time-line management was also sometimes complex, given the number of different (and busy) clinical teams involved. I closely monitored and engaged with each team member, managing and revising expectations as new challenges presented themselves.
Sprints were defined by feature upgrades being added and launched in each of seven groups of the microsites in turn. The project could then launch upgraded sites in stages which were manageable with such a small team. This also allowed for rolling testing of new sites, reducing the risk of major bugs being replicated across all of them.
A new microsite for Leukemia
The Mass General Hospital Cancer Center is one of the most prestigious research and treatment centers in the world, consistently ranked in the top ten in the United States across numerous disease types.
When I started at the Cancer Center, I decided to evaluate perceptions of the institution among visitors to the website. I arranged meetings with the center’s patient and family advisory committee, to discuss users’ perceptions of our online presence.
Despite the Center’s reputation for pre-eminent treatment, it became clear to me during this investigation that it ran the risk of being perceived as so academic and clinical that some patients felt it was rather cold or austere and thus less “caring”. I felt that this potential problem could also lead to a sense of distance between patients and their family members and clinical staff.
I then devised an idea for a community site which would allow patients and their relatives to exchange ideas with other members, both clinical and non-clinical. The topics would be connected to cancer care, but non-clinical in nature, so all visitors could engage with them on an equal footing. This would also then allow the center to present itself as a community of care, rather than a clinical research facility alone.
This microsite was created to streamline the initial information given to new patients at the Mass General Hospital Cancer Center.
The previous version of the site had minimal information, and was positioned largely as a promotional tool for the Cancer Center. The older version was also flash based, so not mobile ready or well scored in SEO terms.
My development plan therefore called for a solution which could act as an elegant and simple working tool so that new and prospective patients could find practically useful information.
It was also important to recognize that visitors to this area of the site might be in a particularly stressed or anxious state, given a recent diagnosis. The more clarity I could add to their experience of this microsite the better, as it might help to alleviate some degree of their stress as they contemplate their first visit.
The Patient Experience
The new Patient Experience microsite which I developed re-imagined the key elements of the needs of patients and family members.
It offers an easy-to-navigate set of elements which I developed employing a “foyer” model, with clearly accessible “doors” to each interior page.
The portal includes pre-appointment checklists and FAQs, integrative therapy services, other support like financial counseling, and patient education resources.
It’s also headed with a welcome video, which includes a tour of the cancer center’s layout, so it would be less intimidating for first time visitors.