We worked with Island Health to design and develop a modern, public-facing website that would enable them to share information about their services and provide ways for patients to engage with the organization.
Island Health is one of seven provincial health authorities in British Columbia, providing healthcare to people on Vancouver Island, the islands of the Salish Sea, and in mainland communities north of Powell River and south of Rivers Inlet. Their services range from hospital to community and home care, as well as environmental and public health services that include education and prevention.
Our user experience, visual design, and development teams worked together to produce a website that is patient-centred, accessible, and responsive.
Island Health was ready for change
The technology was outdated and inefficient.
In 2005 Island Health underwent a large content management system (CMS) replatforming project. Shortly after their project was complete, their newly adopted CMS was discontinued. For 12 years the Island Health team used a CMS that wasn’t being updated. Their site wasn’t mobile-friendly and content creation was frustratingly inefficient for their internal teams. However, given the size of their site—more than 2,000 pages—they were understandably reluctant to replatform.
Organization-centred content was confusing for patients.
Island Health’s information architecture reflected their organization’s internal structure. While this is a pattern large organizations in healthcare adopt because it is intuitive and convenient for employees, patients found it cold and confusing. Usability testing revealed that patients didn’t know what much of the facilities-based terminology meant, that further explanation was required, and that this made the site a challenge to navigate. Instead, they looked for information based on their needs or tasks they were looking to complete.
Helping Island Health deliver a better user experience
Talk to patients and care providers.
Our first task was understanding user needs. We saw quickly that while both care providers and patients used the website, their needs were very different. Our findings would then inform our content strategy and information architecture design.
Prioritize inclusivity and accessibility.
For the website to be truly patient-centred, it had to consider all users. Island Health prioritized cultural humility for Indigenous patients and accessibility across cognitive or physical abilities, literacy levels, and cultural backgrounds.
Conduct a CMS evaluation.
It was clear from the onset that Island Health would need to replatform their content management system. After conducting an extensive CMS evaluation, we chose Drupal 8—a content management system that is both open-source and stable.
Our development team customized the content authoring interface, making it similar to the legacy CMS. These changes to the default Drupal admin made it easier for Island Health’s team to migrate and transition content into their new CMS.
Consult with patient advisors regularly.
Getting feedback early and often was a priority for this redesign. We worked closely with Island Health's team of patient advisors to improve their service delivery.
What it means for a website to be patient-centred
Offers cultural humility.
Island Health recognized the legacies of Canada’s colonial history explicitly on every page, acknowledging the connection to health disparities that persist with a region-wide territorial acknowledgement. They also sought to demonstrate cultural humility through intentional use of geography. The Island Health website integrates First Nation and Metis communities by providing the option to filter by Indigenous place names. By incorporating images of the landscape and coastlines in the website’s design, Island Health rooted the experience in an important aspect of Indigenous culture: land.
WCAG 2.0 AA compliant by default.
We customized the content authoring interface to include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This meant all new content would be navigable and understandable regardless of a person’s visual, auditory, cognitive or motor abilities, by default. Our development team then provided accessibility training and documentation that would empower Island Health’s team to maintain the website’s accessibility.
Puts the patient first.
Instead of reflecting the internal structure of the organization, the site’s structure was built around the user or patient’s expectations and experiences. Content was reorganized and improved using insights from previous rounds of usability testing. To manage this shift we created a medical staff sub-site.
Is location aware.
The Island Health website is location responsive with options that enable users to auto-filter certain content, showing services closest to where they are through IP recognition. Their goal was to move away from centring service information around the big city, in this case Victoria. To accomplish this we integrated HTML5 geolocation into Drupal 8.
Empowers healthcare providers to maintain the website.
Our UX team worked closely with Island Health during usability testing and provided their team with training, empowering them to maintain and continuously improve the website moving forward. For their initial tests we offered support, answering questions as they came up.