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In Healthcare, Readability Is Key to Creating a First-Class Customer Experience for Everyone

6 min read

As a customer experience (CX) professional in the healthcare space, you are obsessed with creating the best possible interactions for your customers. It’s what motivates and energizes you — and it’s also what keeps you up at night.

When it comes to optimizing your digital experiences, you already know to consider how user interfaces are structured and visually designed. But there’s another, lesser-known element that can make or break your site’s user experience (UX) — and your healthcare consumer experience. And that is the readability of your customer-facing content.

Readability isn’t just an accessibility requirement to be crossed off your WCAG 2.1 checklist. It’s an under-the-radar powerhouse when it comes to crafting engaging and meaningful customer experiences.

Interested in increasing the readability and accessibility of your healthcare company’s content? Here’s what you need to know to get started.

 

Why Readability Is Key to a First-Rate Customer Experience

Put simply, readability is the extent to which your content is written with your particular audience’s needs in mind. This begins with your audience’s literal reading level, but it doesn’t stop there. You must also write to your audience’s existing mental models and level of understanding related to the services you provide.

Readability is often framed as an accessibility issue — one that is mandated as part of WCAG 2.1. At the same time, readability is baked into the accepted playbook of UX best practices. Specifically, readability plays a role in eight of Nielsen Norman’s ten general guidelines for interactive design, also called usability heuristics.

Your healthcare company should embrace readability on the basis of both accessibility and UX concerns. But it’s critical to acknowledge that readability is also a CX challenge.

After all, the whole world is rapidly moving toward an increasingly digital-first approach to engaging and doing business. Your own business model probably reflects this. More and more of your customers’ interactions with your organization take place in a digital format. And in this context, your written content plays an increasingly starring role in your CX.

You can see proof of this in the negative CX fallout that inevitably results from poor readability. In particular, if your healthcare organization’s digital content isn’t appropriately readable, you can expect:

  • Increased customer frustration and confusion
  • Reduced engagement with your digital interfaces
  • Lower overall customer satisfaction rates
  • A higher volume of customer care calls


Use Our Readability Tool to Check Your Content

Use Our Readability Tool to Check Your Content

Our tool provides a quick and easy way to test the readability of your content using Flesch Kinkaid metrics and more!

Try the Readability Tool

Readability is an Opportunity to Differentiate Your Healthcare Company

Readability is of special concern in the healthcare space. It is ethically imperative that customers of all backgrounds and abilities are able to access healthcare services. Yet readability is an area in which many healthcare companies currently drop the ball.

For example, health insurance companies are notorious for using a laundry list of industry lingo, acronyms and labels. While these terms make perfect sense to industry professionals, they are more likely to leave your customers scratching their heads.

This tendency is all the more damaging when you consider the relationship consumers have with health insurance companies. Health insurance customers are usually locked into a long-term contract with their particular payer. Because this is true, your consumers must interact with you as long as they are locked into one of your plans.

How does this relate to readability? Unlike a consumer goods website, your customers can’t just leave and go to a competitor’s site the moment the experience starts to feel challenging. If your content is difficult to read and understand — yet your customer is forced to navigate it in order to solve their problem — you have an automatic recipe for frustration.

Ask a friend (someone outside the industry) to take a look at the content on your website or member portal. Does it read more like a professional journal than a customer-facing asset? If so, you are effectively forcing your customers to do all the work. In order to make sense of your content and take the right actions, your customers must first learn your way of talking and thinking.

Of course, UX and CX principles and best practices demand the exact opposite approach. They dictate that your organization’s digital experiences should be tailored to your customers’ needs, mental models, and level of understanding. Not the other way around.

In an industry that is especially prone to “businessese,” readability represents an easy opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition — and make your customers happier in the process.

 

How to Optimize Your Healthcare Company’s Digital Readability in 3 Easy Steps

Take the following steps to ensure that your digital content is optimized for maximum readability.

  1. Identify the right reading level for your customers. Creating a high-quality customer experience always starts by knowing — and cultivating empathy for — your customers. You’ve probably already developed personas for your core users. Now, revisit them with an eye to readability. Who are your customers? What is their average level of education? What are their mental models related to the services you provide? What are their main goals when they consume your content? What problems are they trying to solve? By conducting this sort of persona research and development, you can identify the appropriate reading level for your customers. Not just that, but you can learn how to present information so that it is highly consumable, understandable, and actionable. Finally, you’ll also want to consider the tone of your writing to ensure that it meshes with and reflects your brand characteristics. With care, this can be achieved at any reading level.
  2. Audit your existing content. Once you’ve landed on a target reading level, it’s time to audit your existing customer-facing copy to see where it currently stands. You can do this using a simple reading level checker. What’s not so simple is that you’ll need to test all of your content across multiple channels. If your target is, say, a 9th-grade reading level, but your existing content is written to a 12th-grade reading level, you have work to do.
  3. Create content that is reading-level appropriate. Take the time to create content that is reading-level appropriate. As part of that, be sure to clearly define industry terms and acronyms. In addition, use metaphors and analogies your consumers can relate to. Finally, consider hiring a professional writer. If your internal team writes your content, you will be much more likely to default to industry-speak and assume your audience understands more than they do. An external writer can help you go beyond organizational shorthand and craft content that meets your users where they are.

Improving the readability of your healthcare organization’s content isn’t complicated, but it does require an intentional effort. By making the commitment to readable content, you take a critical step toward creating the best-in-class user experience your customers deserve.

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