How to Improve Your Patient Portal Experience with A/B Testing

By Mike Fradkin

May 14, 2024


We’ve come a long way technologically from the handwritten appointment cards once commonly used in healthcare settings. While patients today can probably still get one, depending on the practice, online patient portals have since been introduced, making the patient experience quicker, easier, and virtually painless (no pun intended).

With 73% of patients now offered access to a patient portal, simply having an online portal is no longer enough—it’s the quality of the patient portal experience that delivers patient satisfaction. Healthcare organizations need to explore optimization routes, such as A/B testing, to refine the accessibility and navigability of their self-service portals.

As healthcare continues to move away from phone calls and paper statements, modernized organizations seeking to expand their share of the market recognize that competition is fierce and patient satisfaction is critical. Fully online self-service contributes to a positive user experience and directly impacts support center costs, meaning that implementing experimentation strategies to better understand patient preferences could really pay off.

Continue reading to find out how to use experimentation to optimize the patient portal experience and further refine key features with A/B testing.

The Key Features of a Quality Patient Portal Experience

A patient portal is an online platform where patients can view their health information and manage the logistics of their healthcare. In many cases, that includes accessing test results, scheduling appointments, and paying bills.

A well-designed portal will include these essential features:

  • Centralized Health Information: A single location where patients can easily view and manage their health details and navigate to care and coverage increases accessibility and usefulness.
  • 24/7 Communication: Many patients appreciate the opportunity to communicate directly with their provider. Built-in messaging features offer greater convenience, allowing patients to reach out with questions or concerns at the time that works best for them.
  • Prescription Management: Help patients follow their medication plans and stay on top of refills with the option to manage their prescriptions through self-service.
  • Test Results: Having complete medical records and test results in one place helps patients get results faster. Health history also supports patient engagement with treatment plans and medication schedules.
  • Payments and Coverage: Both patients and healthcare organizations benefit from online payments, with many patients preferring it. Make it easier for patients to understand their health coverage and bills with resources in your portal.
  • Scheduling: Patients can schedule appointments themselves and choose to receive reminders through their preferred contact method.
  • Care Support: A cohesive digital experience before, during, and after care interactions can help you engage and connect with patients while also learning more about their preferences.

If your organization already has a portal in place, consider the value of these features as part of the patient portal experience. Weighing whether you need to add one or make another easier to use could help you begin thinking about optimization strategies.

Review Feedback from Current Patients

Your current patients can provide valuable insights into their current portal use, shedding light on the positives and the areas for improvement within your patient portal experience before you begin A/B testing.

Despite the intended accessibility of online portals, they are often plagued by navigation issues, delayed responses to messages, and concerns over privacy.

Whether you address these obstacles by highlighting security measures, sending message notifications, or changing portal layout, acknowledging patient needs and feedback is essential. And although an understanding of more general issues can help you get started, feedback specific to your patient portal experience will have the biggest impact.

As you plan to collect responses, here are several sources of feedback to get you started:

  • Support center tickets
  • Survey results
  • User group sessions
  • Usability testing

To get responses through these channels, you can send follow-up emails, personalized text messages, and offer rewards or incentives for participation.

Collecting as much feedback as possible gives healthcare organizations a clearer view of what patients prioritize, which in turn leads to more relevant upgrades to the user experience. A/B testing presents an opportunity to address these issues, enhancing portal functionality and ultimately improving patient satisfaction.

Implement an A/B Testing Strategy

Choose an A/B Testing Tool

Understanding what your current patients don’t like or want to see more of is a valuable piece of the puzzle, but you might struggle to deliver on those improvements without the resources that make it possible.

To enhance patient engagement, your organization needs the right experimentation solution to set up and run A/B tests. In fact, not having the necessary tools is why 43% of businesses don’t do A/B testing. Testing software makes it much easier to build variations, collect data, and analyze the results, with some tools, like SiteSpect, doing it all in one unified platform.

When evaluating a potential A/B testing solution, be sure to check for these requirements:

  • HIPAA compliance and a signed BAA (Business Associate Agreement)
  • The ability to run client-side and server-side tests in a unified environment
  • Consulting and support services with healthcare expertise

Define Your New Objectives

You can leverage your new patient feedback to define relevant, impactful objectives and improve overall service quality. With visibility into specific pain points, you’ll be able to detail the changes you need to make, set relevant metrics for each test, and build a roadmap based on patient responses.

For example, your patients might want an easier appointment scheduling process. Your new objective would then be to optimize appointment scheduling. To assess your progress toward this goal, you’ll need to establish a measurement framework.

Primary KPIAppointment completion rates
Secondary MetricsForm errors, time on page, bounce rate, exit rate
Performance MetricsPage load time, JS errors
Critical SegmentsNew patients, long-time patients, mobile vs. desktop, critical geographical regions

Analyze Your Results

The next step is to analyze the results of patient portal experience campaigns to gather the insights and data that will drive future campaigns.

Review A/B testing data: SiteSpect’s Dashboard gives you visibility into campaign performance at a glance. Dive into each campaign to see trends and patterns as you test different versions of your portal.

Identify successful variations: As you compare metrics across variations, ensure that the results of your test are statistically significant before rolling out changes to a wider audience. You might even consider another round of patient feedback on the updates. Do they bring greater convenience and ease of use to your patients?

Continue to Iterate

As you target audience segments, point them to the next release, and test, monitor, and report on the impact, it’s important to draw on what you’ve learned so far when moving into the next round. Gradual releases and continuous iteration lead to key benefits for your organization including minimized risk, reduced development costs, and a refined patient portal experience.

An iterative approach ensures that organizations stay responsive to patient needs and preferences, ultimately driving greater success and satisfaction. Through cyclical analysis and gradual adaptation, healthcare organizations can provide a patient portal experience that delivers exceptional value and meets the evolving demands of their patients.

Armed with your new understanding of patient needs, testing objectives, and a secure, iterative testing platform, you can plan your overarching strategy, develop hypotheses, and begin to plan changes to your patient portal experience based on layout, navigation, content, features, and more.

Compliance and Security Challenges

HIPAA Compliance

One of the top concerns for healthcare organizations is HIPAA compliance. Not every experimentation tool meets regulatory standards, and many A/B testing vendors aren’t ready to sign a BAA. At SiteSpect, we enable A/B testing even within a regulated environment, and we’re proud to be HIPAA compliant. We provide a signed BAA and uphold stringent privacy standards without compromising insights into user behavior.

SiteSpect empowers CRO teams to boost user satisfaction, conversions, and revenue with experimentation while maintaining data privacy and adhering to HIPAA compliance standards.

Data Security

Healthcare organizations are legally required to comply with data privacy regulations—which means they need secure infrastructure. SiteSpect integrates seamlessly with your tech stack and provides a variety of deployment options, including fully on-premise.

Utilizing SiteSpect’s proxied solution eliminates the need to alter the code of your healthcare application or website to conduct A/B tests, providing a secure, cohesive solution that will never risk your existing security or patient data.

Final Thoughts

SiteSpect offers healthcare organizations a comprehensive solution to enhance their patient portal experience through A/B testing. With easy integration and no disruptions to the user experience, our platform helps you identify successful variations with custom metrics and enables your team to iterate continuously. Your organization can also effortlessly maintain data privacy and adhere to HIPAA regulations throughout the optimization process.

Our experience conducting secure, compliant experimentation is well suited to the needs of healthcare organizations. Request your personalized demo to learn more about what we do.


Mike Fradkin

Mike Fradkin

Mike Fradkin is the Director of Product Marketing at SiteSpect. His experience ranges from smaller series-A startup companies to large multinational corporations such as AT&T and IBM. With a technology career that began with several customer-facing leadership roles, Mike never loses sight of the connection between technology value and the real people it can positively affect. He enjoys the challenge of identifying trends and market drivers, truly understanding the problems of customers within their specific industries, cultures, and reporting structures, and leveraging those insights to deliver more impactful results.

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