How to Create a Customer Journey Map for Your Healthcare Practice

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Chances are, you honestly believe that nobody on the planet knows your healthcare practice better than you do — especially if you found it or run its marketing department. It’s also likely that you’ve spent months, if not years, creating and refining statements that communicate who we are, what we do, why it matters, why it’s better, as well as a general understanding of who your target and secondary patients are and what they need from you.

Congratulations. If you can talk to a family member or neighbor about those things and no one walks away from the conversation with a puzzled look on their face, you’ve done a great job of explaining why your healthcare practice is different from all the others. But even if you think you possess that skillset, you’re most likely among most practice owners who think they know their business and their patients better than anyone else.

Here’s the thing. Unless you thoroughly understand the journey that a prospective patient takes in order to become the type of patient that delivers on your LTV (lifetime value) aspirations, you actually know little about who your practice is, what it does, why it matters, and why it’s better than other healthcare providers with whom you compete.

Introducing Customer Journey Mapping

One way to truly know your healthcare practice better — better than anyone else on the planet — is to plot and continually update your patient’s journey. Known as customer journey mapping (or for the purpose of this write-up, patient journey mapping), it’s where you track and describe all the experiences patients have as they encounter an opportunity to choose you as their primary care physician, or access your treatments, diagnostics, and the products you sell (e.g., supplements). It takes into account not only what happens to them as they journey toward becoming a patient, but also responses to their experiences along the way.

This enables you to discover opportunities for understanding, improving, and innovating the patient experience. And this, in turn, improves the chance that each and every interaction with prospective and repeat patients is as successful as it can be. Of course, you must keep in mind that both you and the patient have a role to play in defining success, especially when it comes to successful health outcomes.

And while customer journey mapping sounds simple enough, the process is fraught with multiple frustrations, including:

  • Gaining access to data that represents reality
  • Understanding format and scope
  • Securing journey mapping skills and resources
  • Obtaining buy-in from others at your company

So, what then are the specific benefits of committing to patient journey mapping at your healthcare practice? Well, creating and maintaining journey maps enable your practice to do a number of things, including:

Shift to a patient-centric focus: Creating journey maps allows you to move beyond discussions about treatments, diagnostics, and products and into the realm of truly understanding your prospective patient’s objectives and expectations.

Create shared objectives throughout your practice: When you understand your patients’ expectations and desired outcomes from engaging with your healthcare organization, you have an opportunity to express that information to everyone within your practice, explaining along the way what their exact role is in helping the patient achieve the best possible outcome for themselves, which also happens to be the best possible outcome for your business.

Identify and prioritize problems: Knowing which or how many obstacles patients must contend with when attempting to do business with you allows you to prioritize which problems to fix and in what order to address them.

Uncovering hidden truths: Most healthcare practices operate with some level of delusion. Journey maps highlight circumstances that no one at your company ever considered or thought to address.

To be sure, engaging in an initial journey mapping exercise is hard work, but in this Factoreal blog post, we aim to simplify the process by helping you understand how to create a patient journey map for your healthcare marketing.

The Four Kinds of Journey Maps

Journey maps — the literal document that’s created by engaging in a journey map exercise — come in various shapes and sizes. The main distinguishing factors between them include:

  • Relationship journeys: This type of journey map examines a patient’s relationship with your practice over time.
  • Emotional journeys: This type of journey map emphasizes the emotional journey of the patient.
  • Discrete action journeys: This type of journey map focuses on revealing the discrete action people take along the way toward becoming a patient.
  • Task and behavior journeys: This type of journey map focuses on the behaviors that patients possess, and the tasks they take when becoming and remaining customers.

The Six or Seven Elements of Customer Journey Maps

In each of the journey map types listed above, the patient engages in at least six major experiences in a fairly common order:

  1. Awareness: Identifying their own needs
  2. Search: Research and discovery
  3. Evaluation: Comparison and choice reduction
  4. Purchase: Decision to purchase
  5. Usage: Implementation of a solution
  6. Maintenance: Service and support

And if you’re really good at helping the patient achieve success at each step along their journey, you’ll find that you can add a seventh experience to your journey map:

  1. Advocacy: Patient retention and referrals

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

While the best way to learn how to create a customer journey map may be taking a course online, attending a day-long workshop, or hiring someone with journey mapping experience within the healthcare sector to work with you and your team on creating one, here’s a crash course in creating customer journey maps on your own.

Step One — Gather your data

While you already know that customer journey maps come in all shapes and sizes, regardless of which map you create, you’ll need five elements in order to get started:

Personas: You can think of your patient personas as your healthcare practice’s fictitious “every patient” — a profile of patients that represent specific target audiences showing interest in your healthcare services. For each patient persona, you would ideally have a unique journey map.

Scenarios: The specific journey that is being mapped is referred to as a scenario — a simple storyline that explains the patient’s objective and helps focus journey maps on specific sets of interactions along the way to becoming an enrolled patient. Typical scenarios include prospective patients who want to save money, find a practice that accepts a specific health insurance plan, or is fed up with the typical seven to a 15-minute doctor visit and want a more in-depth experience with their healthcare provider. Or maybe a current patient who needs answers on how to prepare for a diagnostic or procedure.

Phases: In order to create a customer journey map, you have to know the phases your patients go through (i.e., the meaningful chunks of activities that, together, define the overall patient journey and all points of interaction). As mentioned above, phases may include awareness, search, and evaluation, as well as patient enrollment, diagnosis, and treatment. The most effective customer journey maps base and presents their phases at a high level of organization, based on real patient behaviors and data.

Actions, Mindsets, and Emotions: The behaviors and tasks your personas take throughout their journey — as well as what the personas think, experience, and feel throughout the journey — is what makes up this element of a typical customer journey map.

Insights: This element refers to the opportunities, ownership, and metrics displayed on the customer journey map itself. Areas, where there are possibilities to extend or enhance customer experience, would be considered opportunities. An assignment of who is in charge of the specific points within the customer’s journey is what ownership refers to. And measurements that ensure that a specific part of the journey is heightened is what metrics refer to.

As you can see, customer journey mapping involves having access to both quantitative data and the accurate interpretation of qualitative research. That means in order for you to create and maintain accurate patent journey maps, you have to engage in both statistical analysis and gathering, exploring, and interpreting anecdotal information. This is another reason why the creating of journey maps is easier said than done.

Journey mapping also requires the ability to accurately display the data you gathered in Step One. This leads us to the next step — design and visual presentation.

Step Two — Design and visual presentation

At the end of the day, everything you’ve learned about and collected is presented as a visualization of the series of interactions that a prospective or current patient has while attempting to accomplish a highly specific objective related to their health. The visualization part requires that you have access to a graphic design and layout professional who knows how to accurately display the information you gathered in Step One.

For demonstration purposes only, a typical patient journey map might look similar to this:

Customer Journey map

Pro Tip: While it may appear that your patient journey map needs to adhere to a very specific format, we suggest that you not get hung up on the look and feel. We’ve been intentional about leaving this write-up’s sole patient journey map until now, and that’s because you have to be diligent about focusing first and foremost on the process and data required to create the map. If you choose to gather data based on a design that you like, you’ll be placing the cart before the horse, and that never works in marketing.

Patient journey maps work best when your organization has a shared vision for their end-use. Whether that’s crafting a shared point of view of your prospective and current patient’s needs and the prioritization of how you address them, or you’re interested in identifying and assigning ownership of important touchpoints to specific departments or staff members, patient journey maps work best when you put them to work.

And in order for them to work — regardless of the type of medical practice you’re in — the monumental effort associated with patient journeying will pay off if your effort is clearly defined ahead of time, focused on objectives that matter to your patients, is collaborative from the standpoint of who at your medical practice is involved, and leads to actionable opportunities that produce results for which both you and your patients will have an appreciation.

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