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Leading Health System

A Digital Approach to Addressing Health Equity

What if... a more inclusive consumer experience could improve access to care and reduce health disparities? 

Our client is a not-for-profit healthcare organization headquartered in the Midwest. It delivers care across several hospitals and 200+ locations throughout the area. 

A Laptop with healthcare symbols and a healthcare worker.

Repairing Health Disparities Means Better Care for All

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted healthcare consumers' desires and expectations. They don't just want a more targeted and personalized digital experience – they expect it. In addition, the pandemic exposed long-term, unresolved health disparities and access to care in certain at-risk populations, triggering self-reflection across industries, but especially in healthcare, to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) a priority. 

Our client wanted to take a proactive approach to ensure marginalized groups were being reached adequately and equitably by its virtual care services. The organization partnered with us to develop a strategy, analysis, and new digital approach to make its future-state experience more inclusive for all its patients and their loved ones.

Doctor with a mother and child.

Understanding How to Offer More Inclusive Health Options

We conducted a comparative analysis between the health system and similar organizations to assess its current DE&I landscape, focusing on race, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity (SOGI) to identify specific areas that could be made more inclusive. We analyzed the following areas for both content and user experience:

  • Inclusive Culture: Does content throughout the site demonstrate the organization’s commitment to inclusivity?
  • Services Offered: Are pages focused on related healthcare services, such as transgender care?
  • Find-a-Doctor and Doctor Listings: Do physician directories help LGBTQ+ individuals find care using LGBTQ+ clinical subspecialty search filters?
  • Substantiating Content: Are there external resources, patient stories, and testimonials?
  • Content Messaging & Placement: Is there intuitive navigation to inclusive content?
  • Pragmatic Considerations: Are actions being taken to make for an inclusive patient experience, such as including pronouns on forms and profile pages?

Our analysis identified standards, expectations, common pitfalls, and best practices that informed recommendations for improvements in site experience, content, and functionality to guide the health system on its journey to inclusive care.

We determined the organization’s strengths and weaknesses in providing an equitable user experience and found that it was successfully reaching many marginalized groups. However, we identified a gap in the inclusion of LGBTQ+ patients who were not adequately being reached by the client’s virtual care services. This sparked an initiative for in-person and digital LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Pride Flag and tiny red hearts with a stethoscope.

Building an Inclusive Patient Experience

With analysis-driven recommendations in hand, we began work on implementing them.

First, we updated the website to lead by example by showcasing the organization’s diverse senior leadership. We added inclusive imagery across the site that features people of different races, ages, body types, genders, and abilities while being careful to avoid potential stereotyping, outdated images,or depictions that could be misinterpreted.

    We added inclusive content to the homepage and a section to the site’s culture page about the client’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We placed LGBTQ+ information two clicks from the homepage, updated the pages to include inclusive language, and added comprehensive external resources around care for marginalized groups.

    Other new pages included:

  • A landing page outlining all health services available to LGBTQ+ patients
  • A page that outlines the benefits of PrEP for HIV prevention
  •  A page for SOGI in conjunction with the upgrades made to an electronic medical record

 To make the Find-a-Doctor experience more equitable, we updated site content and added LGBTQ+ clinical subspecialty tags to its provider search filter. This tag identifies physicians with specific training and/or experience working with the LGBTQ+ community, and is visible in search results and on the physician’s profile to help patients identify providers that could assist them in making their care journey more comfortable.

A well-planned and executed strategy for addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion creates a healthier and more welcoming environment for team members to build patient trust, elevate consumer satisfaction, and drive higher-quality care.


A group of healthcare workers.

Improving Access to Inclusive Care

Patients from all backgrounds deserve equal representation, respect, and understanding from their healthcare providers – a vision and belief that our client is putting into action.

Adding inclusive functionality to the user experience makes the health systems’ patients more comfortable seeking care which, in turn, reduces health disparities.

Results from adding the LGBTQ+ clinical subspecialty tags to physician search filters:

  • Appointment requests increased by 314%
  • Open scheduling increased by 425%
  • Provider searches that included “LGBTQ” increased by 7,000% 

Based on our recommendations, the client added inclusive language to all forms and electronic medical record submissions that asked patients to identify with a particular group, not limiting gender to the binary male or female, and using the terms partner or spouse instead of husband or wife.

The health system was able to organically navigate users to the diverse content they expect based on analysis-driven best practices.

A well-planned and executed strategy for addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion creates a healthier and more welcoming environment for team members to build patient trust, elevate consumer satisfaction, and drive higher-quality care.


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