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.
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.
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.
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 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.
For the development of the “What we talk about (when we talk about cancer)” community site I led a group including a design agency and a web developer through multiple phases of conceptual sketches for IA, wireframing of design and layout, and functional mock-ups and staging server builds.
I managed an aggressive development timeline, which needed to match an upcoming nationwide marketing campaign across the Cancer Center.
A few months after the initial launch we began working on a phase II release, which allowed us to respond to the analytics we were collecting from our initial traffic.
For example, traffic appeared to drop-off somewhat in the early part of each monthly discussion cycle. This indicated to me that the site was perceived as having less content to engage with when only a few perspectives were visible on the homepage. As a result, I re-conceived the site’s overall architecture to work with our developer so we could create a new multi-channel format for the homepage.
WWTA Phase I in Development
Phase II Carousel Development Option
Phase II Masonry Development Option
WWTA Phase II