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education materials, thus improving our Google quality score and providing an alternative to previously bought-in (and outdated) content.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.
Supportive Care Program Listings
Online coverage of the Cancer Center’s many supportive care programs was both sporadic and siloed. Broadening the scope of the Patient Experience project’s initial goal, to improve online information about our location and new patient induction process, I devised and built out a new section of the micro-site which integrated these disparate elements of supportive care into a directory of programs in integrative therapies and support groups.
There was also a major operational challenge to keep an up-to-date calendar of these many programs. Prior to my arrival, only PDF print pieces had been available, updated on a bi-monthly basis.
Embedded Support Services Calendar
I created a new operational process to feed group listings into a shared Gcal, which I then embedded onto the Cancer Center’s main site. This allowed group leaders to record and amend their own schedule in a dynamic form, without the delays of assembling a print listing, while also adding the Gcal’s many access, sharing and printing features to the online experience.
As our online “front door”, the Patient Experience microsite is the key portal for new and prospective patients at the Cancer Center. It was developed to be a crucial element of our patient accessibility features, and, as a means to communicate an approachable message about the Center’s mission, it is closely aligned with our social media activities.
Over the last 18 month, employing both traditional posts and a campaign of promoted posts, I have grown the Mass General Cancer Center’s Facebook page more than five fold. I also launched our Twitter channel to match the kick-off of our wider national awareness campaign, and it has gained a significant and accelerating following within the cancer care social media community.
This growth has been led by campaign and community blog posts and tweets, which are timed to match high traffic periods, with calls for follower engagement in response to prompts like “Tell us what’s everyday amazing in your life”. A post like this always runs with YouTube channel responses embedded on a dedicated the blog channel devoted to our Everyday Amazing national awareness marketing campaign.
To avoid fatigue from saturating our social media community with these postings, they have been interspersed with a wide variety of other content, which I have created to fit a schedule which covers multiple internal teams’ promotional needs. These include fundraising events, staff awards and achievements, and cancer related news from around the center and beyond.
By diversifying our social media offerings, I have been able to allow the Center to break down the barrier between its traditional website and its inbound marketing channels.
As I assessed the Center for Cancer Research’s (CfCR) online needs, it became clear to me that there was a significant challenge surrounding the research arm’s online relationship to the affiliated Cancer Center. From a web standpoint the CfCR seemed siloed, and although its audience of professional researchers was certainly distinct from the more patient-facing Cancer Center site, I felt that it was still important to indicate the real-world value of its research as part of such a prestigious organization.
The problem was compounded by a technical limitation within the wider hospital’s content management system, which wouldn’t allow the full merging of the two sites’ content under one branded top nav. Still, I strongly felt that both sites would benefit from highlighting their connections and shared mission.
My solution was three fold.
New Co-Branding Insignia
First, a new insignia was developed, which underlined that the CfCR (along with a number of other previously disparate linked groups and affiliates) was “An integral part of the Mass General Cancer Center”. Co-branding the Center for Cancer Research in this way allowed visitors to remain conscious of the connections between the two centers, and to perceive the main Cancer Center site as the online (and by extension operational) “home” for all visitors.
I also applied a tactic of establishing more patient-to-physician online content linking. For example, I brought several researchers on as contributors to the “What we talk about (when we talk about cancer)” community blog site, so that as they engaged on the site there would be overt links between these different constituencies.
Cross-linking of research news and events in the main site was also made much more robust, for example with a calendar for both researcher events and physician continuing medical education, mapped to display on both the CfCR site and the education and training section of the Cancer Center’s site.