A Guide to Creating Better User Personas


Do these descriptions sound familiar?

  • Jake is a 26-year-old CPA who just enrolled in a new insurance plan. He’s looking to find a new primary care physician, but doesn’t have enough time to do a lot of research. Ideally, it’s easiest for him to schedule appointments online.

  • Elizabeth is a 37-year-old mother of two who works from home. She is primarily in-charge of making healthcare decisions for her family. Her son was recently diagnosed with a peanut allergy, so she’s looking to schedule appointments with an allergist and a dietician.

  • Herb is a 69-year-old retiree and a widow. Last year, he underwent a double bypass surgery and is looking for more information on how to stay heart-healthy.

Welcome to the world of user personas. It’s a concept of made-up stories that high-priced consultants try to sell you on how you should be writing content for your website or social media sites.

While we love a good story, we’re tired of these user persona stories. That’s because these stories don’t matter. What matters most is patients’ needs — not their personal story or fictitious background.

Recently, we partnered with PinnacleHealth’s Spine Institute to create user personas for their service line. The goal of the project was to answer a patient’s question in under two clicks.

First, we asked staff at the Spine Institute what kinds of questions patients were asking them. Here were the top questions:

  • Can you help me get an appointment with the surgeon sooner than I already have scheduled?

  • Do I need a referral?

  • What insurance do you take?

  • Can you relieve my pain?

  • How soon can I be seen at your office?

Based on these questions, we developed five user personas:

  • I’m Ready: These are patients who are already leaning toward becoming a PinnacleHealth patient and want quick answers.

  • I’m Thinking: These are patients who want to know what to expect/how everything works.

  • What’s Causing My Pain? These are patients who want to better understand their problem.

  • Referring Physicians: Content here was targeted to referring physicians that makes it easier for them to refer patients to PinnacleHealth.

  • Existing Patients: This content was focused on preparing for procedures, returning home and understanding insurance.

Since launching the new personas, the bounce rate has decreased by 32% and counting. The new site featured pathways specifically designed for what these five personas were looking for, such as: CTAs at key conversion points, buttons for referring physicians/patients and a call-out for surgery.

When it comes to user personas, just remember: Fact beats fiction.

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