The Problem

In short: Help the patient find a doctor at a different hospital through referral.

Detailed explanation: Direct Messaging is a feature that is part of an effort to make a referral coordinators life easy as well as stay ahead of the market in one of the health care application I was working for. The feature was never built before but the technical capabilities if needed existed. The product management needed help in understanding how and where to position this feature for the users and the best way to approach this to build it.

          I"We want to make the user (referral co-ordinators) life easy, but how?

My Role
  • Lead at the forefront of the feature design until development.

  • Understand all the business aspects attached to the requirement.

  • Conduct an in-depth analysis of the feature, foresee the problems and guide the team towards solution approach.

  • Use design & research methodologies effectively to propose the feature with user experience solution.


How do users solve this problem today? The user can accomplish these goals but they must navigate to different screens and make specific selections that might not be necessary to their mental model.

Who are the users? Front office staff. Referral Coordinators. They operate on behalf of the provider.

Who are the buyers? Bought at the corporate level, deployed to various practices.

Who are the stakeholders? Lead Engineer, Product Manager, Users

 I"Telling creates resistance. Asking creates relationships"

                                                                                            -  Andrew Sobel


Why should anyone care?


Direct helps to cut costs and deliver improved quality of care. On the clinical side, Direct Messaging addresses gaps in transitions of care which have been identified as a significant patient safety issue. Incomplete exchange of patient health information among providers when transitioning from one care environment to another is a point of vulnerability that can compromise the overall quality of care a patient receives. On the business side, Direct Messaging can reduce or eliminate the costs associated with fax workflows by transitioning relatively expensive fax communication to less expensive email workflows.



How can our application/ feature can help?


Our application has created the capability within the application to send a referral as a Direct message. This will enable providers to integrate our application with Direct Message clients which includes EMR's.


  • Communicate referrals bi-directionally, using Direct.

  • Send and receive a transfer of care documents.

  • Send and receive lab results, clinical summary between Our app and EMR.

 I"Out of clutter find simplicity" 


The current process of referral happens such that the RC creates a referral and chooses from a list of providers, specifically hits on a search a provider and a search page appears

Step 1: Click on Search for a provider   

Step 2: Search results

Step 3: Hits out of network if he can't find a provider in the network

Step 4: Hits on “Enter a provider” - a popup to fill info if the provider can’t find even out of network. 

Step 5: The form then populates in the first screen after hitting select above

Solution1: Just give him a field to fill! 

Solution 1 made us question the fact why should an RC go through the list in the first place and can't we make it much more easier for the RC to send a message? We then tried to see if we can simplify it.

Solution 2: Just tell him right away!

This approach was straight forward and the team thought that if we are asking the user to send a message, why not do it right away in the Step1? This is how this solution looked. 

However, after some brainstorming this raised concerns in the team and we started wondering over a few questions like; 

- Will we be giving RC too much of flexibility without letting them choose from the list first?

- Are we merging the choosing and sending as they are different and independent actions?

- Are we encouraging the RC to use more fax and direct address rather than using online, which will be questioning the existence of the product?

These questions helped us re-evaluate the design thought and we came up with a much simpler solution that will enhance the referral coordinators work with a new design approach. We diverged our design solution. we brainstormed as a team and came up with some more approaches until the team agreed on one approach.

Solution 3: Let's make it simple and easy!

Search provider, NPI , Phone number, Zip. 

Use the search bar to search for a provider (Ex: Sandra in the screen below) 

Select from the available mediums to send the referral. ​


The questions in the brainstorm became much more in-depth after the first design review. Few of  the concerns raised from the engineering and product team were:


1. How will we differentiate between in-network and out of network?


2. We will still encourage the RC to send a referral to whomever he wants to instead of letting the RC chose from inside of network providers.


3. What happens when the RC simply wants to send a direct message without searching from the list as the current design doesn't allow him to send a direct or fax without searching.


4. According to PM, RC may or may not know whom to send the referral to. The current design serves the purpose when the RC knows the provider whereas the conversation usually between the patient and RC happens in such a way that the patient wants specifics such as the zip code, language,


In order to address these concerns and user journey points, we started upgrading the design, more of converging in on the design process.


We started converging and did some more iterations to the design which will cater to all the needs of the stakeholders; the client, provider as well as the referral coordinator.

We designed interaction in such a way that the user should be able to quickly look things up and make a quick decision to make a choice from the available or to get into the detailed/advanced search if she can’t find anything. The reason for this choice was to make it simpler to see instead of getting diverted to the search results page (as seen in the image above in the defined process). 


Using a human-centred approach we simplified the user's life to make a complicated search, make a selection and perform an action. By empathizing and understanding the user and using divergent and convergent styles of thinking we achieved something which most enterprise applications fail to achieve. 

I"Computers are helpful but they can only give you answers"                                                                                              - Pablo Picasso 

Impact: We saw a significant improvement in efficiency of sending a direct message which was visible from the way we got feedback about this feature. 

My Learnings: 

Complications should be handled by the system and let the user do what he is wanting to do simply and swiftly. Build features at the same time solve the pain points associated with it.

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