IHG patient portal awarded accessible digital service status
Induction (AIM: INHC) is a leading virtual care platform driving digital transformation of healthcare systems worldwide. It is our vision to make healthcare accessible to anyone, anywhere, including user groups who are sadly too often not front of mind when designing software features — even in HealthTech applications.
As many as one in five people in the UK has a disability, a number even higher among hospital populations. As a committed partner of the NHS, we have to be inclusive, accessible and usable to as many people as possible, helping to bring them along the digital healthcare journey. In times of social distancing, digital accessibility is even more crucial than ever. That’s why we wanted to know for sure that our efforts to make our Induction Zesty patient portal as inclusive and usable as possible was recognised by external experts.
The Induction Zesty patient portal was recently audited against the Internet’s standard for user accessibility – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Our aim was simple: to build on the success of our achievements in attracting high patient adoption rates with our NHS partners. We achieved this with simplicity at the forefront, keeping in mind what the everyday patient wants to experience when accessing their appointment information and reading their paperless letters.
A three point plan
After starting from the question “How can we make our portal more accessible?”, we laid out our plan into 3 progressive steps:
- Accessibility Compliance
- Accessibility in Mind
- Accessibility in Use
Accessibility Compliance: Using regulations as the foundations, rather than as an end goal in itself, we assessed the current state of the patient portal against WCAG standards and set out a short-term development plan with the goal being certification by an external auditor. From a range of excellent options, we chose the Royal National Institute for Blind people (RNIB) to be our auditors, based on their vast experience and their strong ties to their community.
So, with the audit booked we set to work. A rigorous self-assessment process ensued involving the whole software development and delivery team, identifying key areas for focus and improvement.
Accessibility in Mind: Testing and reviews were conducted at all stages, from design to development to support. Testing activity comprised exploratory manual techniques advised by accessibility experts at the Thomas Pocklington Trust, who help us with real user testing, and automated tools. During this process it became clear that we needed to embed accessible features from the absolute start, in other words having accessibility in mind from the conception.
We now have accessible features that are applied throughout the user experience:
- The entire portal is accessible using only keyboard input on a desktop computer (helping patients with mobility issues)
- All colour combinations use a pre-assessed accessible palette to ensure maximum contrast while balancing with pleasing colours (helping patients with sight issues)
- Button focus is highlighted with high-contrast orange to make it easier to understand where you are on the screen (helping patients with mobility/sight issues)
- The entire portal is accessible using screen reader technology, with additional advice added, hidden to sighted users, to help navigate the patient journey (helping blind patients)
Accessibility in Use: Regulatory compliance is just the start. In addition to WCAG, we also reassessed and enhanced all the written text on the portal and reduced it required reading level to primary school age (helping patients with learning difficulties). Something that is often overlooked when focusing on introducing accessibility enhancements, this helps patients of all faculties to have simpler messaging along their user journey.
Approaching audit week, the pace of our efforts became intense, trying to push the quality of experience to its limit within the timescale. We enriched our automated regression test suite with automated accessibility checking tools that give confidence that while travelling at such a speed of change, we would not lose any ground already made.
On the day of the audit, it was time to down tools; the work was all in the hands of the RNIB assessor.
Receiving confirmation of our compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA was a great delight to everyone at the whole organisation and the whole company took pride in a team effort in the name of improving patient care and inclusivity. We could now provide our NHS clients with the groundwork to build their accessibility statements in order to comply with their Accessible Information Standard and Public Sector Website obligations.
Recently, our first NHS Trust published their patient portal accessibility statement. Others are due for publishing shortly, with many more to come.
Watch this space
Achieving the high standard of WCAG 2.1 AA was just the beginning of our journey of accessible digital HealthTech; watch this space for further articles of how we are embedding Accessibility in Use principles into our long term roadmap.
About Induction Zesty: Induction Zesty is a digital front door for hospitals, with an intuitive interface that empowers patients to take control of their appointments, correspondence and clinical records from the convenience of their smartphone.