You know, the patient journey always seems like a nice thing to do but takes a bunch of time and the question is always; do we really learn anything from it? Can’t we breeze through it and get to the action?
Absolutely–and if our insights are incorrect, there won’t be an end to the work in sight!
In this article, we’ll dive into three real-world patient journey maps and by the end, you can copy the template I’ve used if you’d like. First, let’s make sure we are on the same page.
What is the patient journey?
The patient journey often shows the patient’s experience from the first symptoms through potential treatment and until the patient is well again. It can also span across multiple visits depending on what the chart is focused on.
The journey is usually shown visually via a chart that follows each step the patient takes such as researching symptoms, best clinics, and recommending the clinic to family.
We’ll get into specific examples later in this article.
Why is patient journey important?
It helps us get an overview of the patient’s entire experience and potential holes or bottlenecks that we can fill to persuade them to book or stay loyal to us. With so many steps, it’s easy to forget a few things that break the experience like a patient not being able to track their pharmacy delivery in the app after the doctor has forwarded the prescription to them.
It also helps us get in the patient’s head and visualize where we can help them in the first place, and what to tell them to attract them since that will be different depending on the platform. For example, with Facebook ads, we will need to send a different message than with a search ad but leads coming from both channels can eventually be merged into the same funnel down the road. It also gives us ideas for new care services or patient experiences to develop as an extension of the business to increase revenue.
To put it simply, it is so much easier to figure that out with a patient journey map than trying to piece it together in our heads–especially, if we are trying to make a point to a colleague.
I’m excited, let’s dive in!
How to use the patient journey to help grow your startup
An incorrect patient journey can quickly lead us down the wrong path and make us waste months of valuable time. The difference is in whether we make assumptions about the patient journey or personas or if we use real-world insights from our customers.
How do you do a patient journey?
The first thing we have to do is decide what this patient journey is for and how much we should include.
Is it only for bringing new patients in the door? Is it for deepening the monetization? Or is it an entire journey across products, marketing, etc. Because we don’t know where the problem with the biggest impact is yet?
When we’ve decided, the next step is to write down every single step the patient has to take from the starting and endpoint we’ve decided. That includes every button they would click, every person they would talk to, and anything else they do. I like to add screenshots or video recordings of each step so it’s easier to follow the flow and spot opportunities or problems.
For example, if you have a startup with an app and this journey map is only for marketing about acquiring new patients, it might start with someone searching on Google and end with an in-app booking confirmation page.
What is a patient flow chart?
A patient flow is displayed on a chart how a patient flows through our different experiences e.g. first by talking with a doctor via telemedicine followed by an in-person examination, and so on. Later in this article, we’ll dive into three different examples of patient flow charts.
The digital patient journey
The digital patient journey is a little different than the non-digital one as it requires us to build more trust with the patient since we don’t have the luxury of the trust we normally build in-person offline when a patient meets a doctor.
In exchange for the uphill battle in gaining trust, we get access to a huge volume of potential patients. The best benefit we can gain from the digital patient journey is to use it as an extension to the traditional journey rather than as a replacement. An in person consultation with a physician feels like a more trustworthy experience than a digital one via telemedicine for many patients for example.
The digital patient journey shines in most things outside of the consultation or examination itself and is often an affordable way to offer an extra nice service experience. That could for example be with reminders before a consultation with documents the patient needs to bring, or a patient journal automatically updated by the physician and pharmacist directly in the app.
It could also be a digital help desk to help answer common questions so the patient doesn’t have to call to get the answer.
3 real-world patient journey mapping examples
We’ve talked about what patient journey mapping is and now it’s time to create our own using the template below, but first let’s map out a patient persona.
- A mom with a daughter having a chronic disease
- A 30-year old male with a old dad getting sick
- A guy with a yearly checkup discovering he needs glasses or has an ear infection
Even if we are targeting a mass market, segmenting patients into subgroups and making different personas makes the marketing performance much better because the message is less watered down and more clear.
Patient personas simply describe in-depth details about a target type of patient such as what their day-to-day is like, demographics, and how they think of getting care. We could draw these insights from imagination but a better way is to survey and interview customers to make sure it is accurate since we will be drawing insights and conclusions from the personas for our patient journey and our campaigns. That will all be sending us down the wrong path if the insights aren’t accurate.
It’s an expensive place to make assumptions and save time but the good news is that this is a mistake we only make once. If something isn’t working, this is usually why.
Persona example: Tanya the teacher
As an example, let’s do a persona for a typical middle-class wife who’s the center of the family. Our business and service in this example will be a tech startup offering care consultations and exams on-demand. Similar to heal.com.
An example could be a housewife in her mid-40s with a husband, two children, and working as a teacher in economics. Let’s call her Tanya.
Tanya lives near Paris in a middle-class house and usually takes the metro 30 minutes to work every day.
Background and career path
She has a PhD in economics from the Paris school of economics and grew up in the area in a middle-class family. Her path was traditional, passed school with good grades, and did a gap year abroad traveling South Asia before studying at university.
Tanya is the lead economics teacher at a local, private, high school specializing in business topics. The school isn’t that big and carries around 500 students across different grades and classes.
She’s had this job for a couple of years after being promoted to leading the economics teachers. Before she was a teacher fresh out of school when she landed the job. She reports to the head principal and has two other, younger, teachers in her team.
A typical day in her life
A typical day for her starts at 6am when she wakes up to go for a short jog, which also serves as a workout, to the bakery to buy breakfast for her family before they wake up. Her children are 12 and 14, and go to primary school nearby where they bike there, which means Tanya has more flexibility in the mornings.
After having breakfast with her family, she has to be at the school for the first class at 8.45 and she usually finishes classes by 2 in the afternoon, sometimes with class breaks in between. She then goes to a cafe or at home where she prepares lesson plans or grades homework often until 6pm, where she goes home to prepare dinner for her family.
What does she read?
She likes modern novels but doesn’t have as much reading time as she’d like as her work also includes plenty of reading of papers or homework assignments but she likes audiobooks and podcasts during workouts.
How she interacts with doctors
She doesn’t like to self-diagnose with online articles if she has symptoms because she knows that it will likely be incorrect and stress her out. She prefers consulting with a physician to get peace of mind.
She has a general care physician her family usually goes to and between him and friends, she’ll get recommendations in the rare case that she needs a specialist. Only if that doesn’t work, will she search online for the best care specialist in her area.
What are her biggest (medical) challenges
Tanya is lucky that her family is generally a healthy bunch without any chronic diseases. She spends time thinking about her children and husband’s wellbeing but both she and her husband’s parents are getting older and the signs are starting to show.
The parents are old school and tend to avoid seeing a doctor unless limbs are falling off, with the excuse that things have always worked just fine even though one doesn’t walk as well as he used to and another doesn’t hear that well. In some ways, it’s a polite fight with her trying to get them to do general examinations in order to catch bad symptoms of old age early, but it usually doesn’t amount to anything. It’s the same situation with her husband.
In all of this, she often forgets to take care of herself as she is focused on the rest of the family.
Now that we have a better understanding of a person in one of our segments, we can work to create patient journey maps. I suggest creating patient journey maps for each segment if you think they might be different. I’ve found it to be better to create two that are similar and focus on the one than only create one and miss out if it turns out the second one was vastly different.
Patient journey mapping: a real-world example
The next step is to map out each step they take, whether digital or not, from having a problem or symptom to having their consultation, in as much detail as possible.
In this hypothetical situation focused specifically on customer acquisition, Tanya is looking for a care specialist.
Tanya’s patient journey map
- A friend of Tanya told her about a new disease found in women of their age
- Tanya searches online to learn more. She decides it’s probably best to get an examination
- She asks friends and her doctor for a clinic recommendation but she can’t find what she’s looking for
- Searches for clinics online
- Finds a few clinics but doesn’t know which to pick as they look the same. She looks at reviews and books an exam online with the one closest to her house
- She shows up at the clinic the next day and completes her exam
- She gets the results a few days later and compares the experience with her friend
- About a month later, her colleague mentions the same thing and wonders whether she should get an examination too. Tanya shares her experience
- A few days later, Tanya’s colleague talks to her and they compare experiences as the colleague has completed the exam too
In patient journey mapping, that might look like the screenshot below. Keep in mind that this is simplified with text and I suggest adding specific screenshots and recordings where possible, for example where she is searching on Google. That way we can better visualize what she is experiencing throughout each step.
You might want to dive deeper and have the operations team create a patient journey map for the steps when a patient enters the clinic (e.g. going to the counter, waiting…, goes to the examination room, back to the counter, etc.) if that’s a part of what you are looking to focus on. It can be easier for them to make it than us as they look at how patients behave within the clinic every day.
If you suspect there might be a problem with retention, you could also create a patient journey map for the behavior and process between visits including if you send them any marketing material like email.
The patient journey template (and more examples)
If you want to get a head start, you can copy my patient journey mapping template here (click FILE > make a copy).
The example above has too much text to make for an exciting presentation, so for the steps where you don’t have any screen recordings, I suggest adding relevant stock images.
Patient journey mapping example
Since the example above is for patient acquisition, we can duplicate the slide and use the same formatting for retention.
I like to consolidate everything into one simple overview before diving deeper into each section.
How to use the patient journey template: recap
- I suggest recording the entire experience to get into the mind of the potential patient having symptoms and looking for a solution
- Ideally, we’d do one for each type of care or service but since that can be a lot of work, I suggest starting with those where we know that optimizing the patient journey will lead to a meaningful impact on growth – for example by starting with the most popular service
- Do a journey map of your top competitor(s) and compare them with your own – did they have some ideas you could implement or are you ahead?
- A patient journey map is a helpful way to spot bottlenecks in growth
- It makes sense to both create an overview of the patient journey from discovering the clinic and having the first visit through several products and even compare those with competitors to get ideas
- Make the patient journey mapping as close to a real life scenario as possible by using real world personas (perhaps of someone you know as an example) and screenshots or recordings. It will help you anticipate how the patient might feel as they go through each step in the experience
- If you are looking to learn more about Google ads for doctors or healthcare lead generation read this