Envisioning the Project Scope (Treatment Program Overhaul)

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.

Competitor Analysis

Competitor Analysis

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:

  1. to create a newly tailored, disease-specific user experience for site visitors to each microsite,
  2. to promote the pages with greatly improved optimized content, and
  3. to unify previously disparate information, like clinical trials listings and education materials, within these upgraded sites.
SEO research

SEO research

Finally, I created a timeline to allow the roll out of individual features and content improvements in stages.

Refining the Feature Set (Treatment Program Overhaul)

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

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education materials, thus improving our Google quality score and providing an alternative to previously bought-in (and outdated) content.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.

Working through Development Sprints (Treatment Program Overhaul)

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.

Process Flow

Process Flow

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.

 

The Gap/Need (What we talk about)

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.

Supportive Care Services (The Patient Experience)

Supportive care program listings

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.

The Support Services Calendar

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.

Content Overhaul (Center for Cancer Research)

It was clear from the outset that any fundamental review of the Center for Cancer Research’s (CfCR) online presence must launch from assessing the effectiveness of the 40+ core laboratory micro-sites in engaging site visitors. The audience’s academic level must be considered too — quite distinct from other sites I manage — so it targets established and often very specialized professional researchers, along with post-doctoral fellows.

As such, I developed various new formatting designs for the laboratory sites, for example with small bursts of content available both in its searchable online form and in downloadable PDFs, for those looking to annotate and collate research findings off-line.

Redesigned Research Lab Pages

Redesigned Research Lab Pages

Beyond these developments, I concluded on reflection that this concern for the different type of research audience had been overstated in the site. High-level research content should not mean impenetrable limitations of site access and an austere presentation of this work. With so many laboratories, and several hundred staff, I felt it was would be very difficult for even academically advanced site visitors to really engage with its numerous studies and publications.

This conclusion was supported by the site’s analytics, which also reflected a higher than average bounce rate, suggesting that the site had a problem with its stickiness.

Although the core of the CfCR online content is this mass of research data and publications in each of the labs, the site had actually been suffering from this overwhelming quantity of valuable information.

Since so much of the research work carried on at the CfCR is very engaging to a research audience, my solution was to develop a new central news and events portal, intended to create a truly dynamic space with which researchers could engage.

CfCR News Page

CfCR News Page

This news portal includes a newly created welcome video by the center’s director, to show the center as approachable as well as studious, and a rotating spotlighted “Featured Lab” section, giving a foothold as a site visitor explored the site. There is also a large format recent publications slideshow, accompanied by informal images of relevant researchers.

This development allowed the center to be presented as a place attracting the highest quality of research work, and also humming with professional activity.