The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Finding a Healthcare Provider – Part 2

Find a Provider Search Results

More Americans now have medical insurance coverage than ever before, and likely will look for doctors for their medical needs. In Part 1 of “Finding a Medical Provider,” we discussed best practices of medical insurer site search functionality found during June 2014 on 3 sites: Aetna, United Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. In this installment, we cover best practices of search results. After users search for the type of provider they need on a medical insurance plan site, their next step is to evaluate the search results. It’s a best practice to display the user’s search criteria where it is easy to notice, and to provide ways to change or remove criteria, as well as a link to start a new search. Both the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) and United Healthcare sites follow these guidelines.

BCBS_SearchResults_Filters-126x300 UHC_SearchFilters-300x177
The search selections and filters on the BCBSTX site (left), and the United Healthcare search results and filters (right)

In a metropolitan area the number of results for a specialist doctor could be in the hundreds; reviewing such a lengthy list is daunting to users. Simplify this task by displaying the number of search results and providing multiple options to narrow the results with filters, such as by location, distance from the location, specialty, plan network, languages spoken, gender, etc. Also offer the ability to sort the results by name, distance from a location specified by the user, etc. In addition, help users with their decision-making by displaying adequate, relevant information in the search results. At a minimum, the search results page should display the doctor’s name, office locations and contact information. The results page should also offer a clear means to view more detailed information about the provider. Some insurers also include links to a map, as well as recognition and certification information, on the search results page. In our review of healthcare sites for this article, United Healthcare is the only insurer site that offers a comparison feature on the search results page. Many people find a comparison feature useful on retail websites; for long lists of results, it can reduce the amount of back-and-forth navigation for users.

United Healthcare search results showing a comparison feature, and links to a map and “Quality & Cost Efficiency” information
United Healthcare provider comparison tool

In this article we showed how to present healthcare provider search results with meaningful and relevant information for users, as well as tools that can assist them in making a knowledgeable choice when selecting a provider.

Best Practices

Some best practices for search results:

  • Display the search criteria at the top of the results page, and make it easy to revise the search terms.
  • Offer additional filter options to narrow the number of results (by gender, languages spoken, distance from ZIP code/city, insurance plan, etc.).
  • Offer ways to sort the results (by name, specialty, distance, etc.).
  • Display a link to start a new search.
  • Provide a way to see the provider or facility locations on a map.
  • Make it easy for users to view additional detailed information about each provider.

In the final part of this series, we will discuss the provider information users want most, and how to best present it.

 -Judy Kistler-Robinson, Senior User Experience SpecialistUsability Sciences 

-Linda Hwang, Senior User Experience AnalystUsability Sciences


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