John Muir Health logo

Health care: optimize online scheduling

John Muir Hospital

10 min read


The John Muir Physician Network is a not-for-profit health care organization. While I was looking for a new health care provider, I met several UX issues using their website. These issues were interesting enough to leverage them into a study case. 

The challenge was to use mixed-methods research methodology to support recommendations.

Through findings of qualitative and quantitative researches, I presented recommendations that could improve revenues and user experience of health care practice websites through the perspective of JMH website.

Both qualitative and quantitative researches revealed that online scheduling is a key criteria when participants are in the process to select a new doctor or healthcare conglomerate. My main recommendation was to deploy the feature to the entire John Muir Hospital network, and  also redesign their “Find a doctor” search engine based on the geolocation.

Project type: Health Care organization website
Industry: Health Care

This project was completed as part of a UC Berkeley Extension course.

My Role

  • UX Researcher
  • UX Designer
  • Prototyper

What I did

  • Business Analysis

  • Ethnography

  • Interviews

  • Usability testing

  • Surveys

  • Recommendations
  • Prototyping

UX Challenge

Ad for the new JMH hospital in Downtown Berkeley, CA

Ad for the new Berkeley John Muir Health center.
2019, Downton Berkeley - CA
Photo by Stephanie Lesperance

Why John Muir Hospital Website?

While I was looking for a new health care provider, I met several UX issues using the John Muir Hospital (JMH) website, such as booking an online appointment.

These issues were interesting to leverage them into a study case about Health Care

UX Challenge

The UX challenge was to use mixed-methods research methodology to support recommendations implying funding an appropriate operating budget.

Interesting Data

44% of healthcare practices are not fully booked

According to a PatientPop study, that represents a loss of $118,000 per provider per year*. 

These numbers were significant enough to keep them in mind while doing my researches. 

Healthcare in California

Being native from Western Europe, I needed to understand better how people apprehend Healthcare and what could be their special needs in a State - California - where about 40% of residents speak another language than English** (or in addition to English) at home!

*Survey shows 44% of healthcare practices aren’t fully booked most days - Patient Pop, 2018

** United Census Bureau - California languages, 2013 

Dad and sister meet the new baby for the first time

Photo by Jonathan Borba

Qualitative metrics

Homepage of John Muir Health

Usability Tests

To identify issues new patients could meet while visiting for the first time John Muir Health website, I asked to 4 participants (who never have visited JMH website before) to perform few tasks such as find if the conglomerate accepts their insurance plan, use the filter and find a practitioner, and schedule online a first appointment with a practitioner.

Then I probed for additional information so that I could fully understand their thoughts and opinions about the current JMH website.


The Usability Test was the first step to identify several issues new patients could encounter that would likely affect the JMH website conversion:

UX + Information Architecture

  1. Health plan: all participants struggled to find if their health plan is accepted the conglomarate. 
  2. Search Engine: the participants had issues filtering the search and most of them didn't use the filters to refine results. 
  3. Choose a doctor: participants spend several minutes to choose a doctor: they all look for doctors having a photo profile in their contact card, while very few have one displayed.

 UX Writing

  • Same-day appointment: the label "urgent care" was not understood by the participants - “I don’t know where to go if I’d need to see someone this afternoon.

These slides regroup the detailed findings. 

I would stick with Sutter. I want to be sure John Muir doctors accept my insurance before taking a first appointment.” 

— Steve


Participant profiles

1:1 Interviews

I organized a round of four interviews to understand participants' motivations, behaviors, and needs.


  • Their most important criteria in their decision process is to looking for if a practice accepts their health plan
  • 75% already use online scheduling (app or website)
  • 50% told the service they prefer is their doctor's website and/or App
  • 50% consult reviews website when searching for information about a practitioner (Yelp or Google Reviews). They all notified they don't necessarily trust everything they read!

🧐 In our "Yelp World," it was interesting to hear that participants still prefer to refer first to family, friends or, co-workers when choosing a new practitioner.

Prioritizing issues


From those tests and interviews, I was able to prioritize issues:

  • The information architecture of the health care plan page
  • Urgent care labeling
  • Search Page Redesign
  • Generalize online scheduling

Short term projects

While the two first issues (Health care plan page and urgent care labeling) could be implemented on a short term schedule, with a minimal budget...

Long term and projects

...Redesigning the Search page and expand the online scheduling system to the entire JMH network would be a larger project implying working across departments and likely extra funding.


Screen copies of the surveys

Results of the Surveys (Survey Monkey)

Study results: I didn't expect that about 25% of the participants need to speak their mother tongue with their doctor!

The importance of quantitative data

On a field, to convince stakeholders launching such project, I would need quantitative data to support my recommendations. I conducted then two external online surveys (Survey Monkey) to understand:

  • Patients' decision process when choosing a new care provider (sample size = 22)
  • Patients habits and opinions regarding online scheduling (sample size = 20) 

🧐 Ideally, on the field, I would also conduct interviews and surveys with JMH doctors - half already using the online scheduling tool, the other half no. 

Key results


Prefer to schedule online their next appointment


Proximity with the doctor’s office in their main decision factor


Find important to speak another language than English with their doctor


What people say...

In the survey, on a scale to 0 to 10, the presence of a profile photo on a doctor's website/page was marked 2.8 (between not important to somewhat important). 

Which doesn't fit with my observations during the usability tests!

... might be different from what they do!

Once on the SERP - which is a long list of doctor profiles - all participants scrolled down - or patiently browsed several pages, and only then, they selected a contact card with a profile photo

I asked why: participants answered that profile photo gave them a good first impression. A participant specified he found "suspicious" the doctors who don't publish their profile photo!

First Impression matters

Profile photos engage users and help building trust. They grant more credibility while users are seeking critical information.

🧐 Another possible interpretation: participants of the survey might not want to admit they give importance to profile photos by fear of being judged or they simply don't have conscience they do it!

Search page result: most profile photo of doctors are empty

The participant visited several pages before having a look further on doctors' pages: he only picked doctors with profile photos available! 


Several recommendations I did:  some are an "easy fix", some are more important and long-term projects, demanding further researches, extra-fundings and working across departments.

Online booking: a socially adopted tool

Deploying this feature to all JMH doctor network should be a top priority.

  • Qualitative and quantitative researches confirmed that participants have already adopted online scheduling for its convenience (avoid wait time on the phone, real-time availability, schedule an appointment after office hours
  • For 60% of the participants of the survey, online scheduling is a key factor in their decision process when they have to choose a new doctor. 

Other interesting data to leverage

  • The first information participants are looking for on a doctor's website is the location of the medical office
  • About 25% of the participants would appreciate speaking their mother tongue with their doctor. I recommended this information be visible on the doctors contact cards and pages. 


What I learned

This project was the opportunity to get a better overview of the Health Care Industry, and understand how UX searchers and designers might improve the way that people interact with health care. Nothing is more important - especially in Health Care - than creating efficient and consistent interactions between humans and systems.

UX writers often point out the importance of using plain language and avoid vague jargon when creating content. I could realize how this rule is crucial in the health care industry: during the usability tests with the example of "urgent care" label that most participants  (both native and non-native English speakers)  interpreted it as "911 urgent care level". Originally, that label was created to schedule non-urgent appointments! 

The challenge

From the angle of John Muir Hospital website, I used different search methods to understand patients needs and habits. 

I used qualitative searches (user testing, interviews, observation) to detect a pattern (participants seem to be familiar with online scheduling). This pattern was confirmed with the two quantitative searches (participants already use online scheduling, why they use it and how they feel about it). 

On the field, combining the results of the different searches would help to convince stakeholders to improve the SERP and doctor pages - a long term project requiring funding.

What would I do differently today?

If I had to work on this project again and have access to JMH doctors network and patients:

  •  Online scheduling: understand doctors’ perspective. To collect various feedback, I would include in my searches JMH doctors: 50% would use online scheduling tool, 50% don't.
    Goal: understand JMH doctors' needs and adapt marketing strategy accordingly.
  • “Find my insurance” - Information Architecture: I would use an open card sorting to test the actual navigation with participant members of JMH conglomerate, some who are not.
    Goal: adapt the navigation accordingly to users' needs.



More projects I've delivered

More projects I've delivered

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