Department of Veterans Affairs Optimizes Mobile App Delivery for Consistent Customer Service

The U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs serves more than 19 million military veterans. They operate over 1,200 outpatient sites, 300 Vet Centers, and 145 VA hospitals. That's lot of administration! Of course it's difficult to deliver consistent customer service across all of those sites.

  • 1200 outpatient sites
  • 300 veterans centers
  • 145 veterans affairs hospitals
  • More than 19 million military veterans use the apps

Helping the VA up its game

Yet consistent customer service is key. Many veterans struggle to reach local facilities for care. And health care providers have limited time for them. The VA tries to help by providing mobile apps. Some are for veterans, and others are for their physicians and caregivers. In theory, these apps help connect, inform, and empower veterans, and facilitate the care process. But veterans and providers alike are frustrated by the multitude of apps.

VA
M*P: The VA’s many current mobile apps and web portals needed to provide a consistent user experience

The VA turned to Mad*Pow to help create a consistent user experience. Mad*Pow first reviewed their mobile apps, and created a roadmap showing how they could merge many apps. But they went further. Mad*Pow designed and developed a UI pattern library so that future work will be consistent. All of this work makes for a better veteran experience.

The Process: Research, Review and Report

The Mad*Pow team knew they needed to hear both the veteran and the provider perspective. Both would help inform a clear path forward, and understand how the many mobile apps helped.

VA
M*P: Patterns and components within the apps began to splinter into a variety of different paradigms

Mad*Pow researchers conducted qualitative studies to better understand their day-to-day experiences and frustrations. Meanwhile, designers conducted an heuristic evaluation of a core set of seven frequently used appsThese evaluations leveraged Mad*Pow’s knowledge of mobile best practices, along with a deep experience in healthcare, to identify opportunities for improvement. The team then synthesized the evaluation results and research insights into a tactical action plan.

VA
M*P: Heuristic Evaluation findings

The Results: A Plan for Consistent Customer Service

First, Mad*Pow delivered recommendations on how the Department for Veterans Affairs could create a consistent customer service across all mobile apps. Then the team went a step further and translated recommendations into a fully coded and documented UI Pattern LibraryThe VA can now integrate this Library into their existing toolkit. In that way, the VA can create future apps with a standardized set of interaction principles and defined component styles.

VA
M*P: Visual system recommendation to unify the VA’s mobile apps under one consistent look and feel

Mad*Pow's qualitative research with VA physicians also exposed a need for better patient information handoffs (between care providers). To solve for this challenge, Mad*Pow collaborated with physicians and VA product owners to define requirements for a new mobile tool. Based on the requirements, they then developed a visual prototype to help bring these ideas to life. Lastly, they tested the prototype with VA health care providers to further refine the functionality and design.

With these new tools in hand, the VA is well positioned to meet the needs of veterans. And with Mad*Pow's ongoing mission of designing for positive change, the team couldn’t ask for anything better.

 

VA
M*P: Mobile-based “Rounding Tool” prototype

 

Key Services

  • Research and Testing: This project required a deep understanding of VA health care providers and veterans. The team conducted dozens of ethnographic interviews and surveys to learn about pain points and user needs.
  • Experience Strategy and Service Design: Mad*Pow strategists took a holistic approach to this project. The key was understanding all of the channels the VA uses to offer services. This meant building blueprints, and ultimately creating a roadmap for the future.
  • Experience Design: Consistency in design means libraries. So the UX design team created a UX Pattern Library. They noted best practices and design principles, while also pushing boundaries to make the VA feel modern.
  • Mobile App and Web Development: While pattern libraries can be merely visual, a coded approach saves time in the future. Mad*Pow's development team provided accessible, standardized code for all UI patterns.