TurboTax, Patientco, and the Importance of User-Centered Design in Financial Software

by Patrick Creaghshutterstock_110556773

Chances are you filed your taxes this week (or this past month). It’s also possible that you are one of the 30+ million Americans who used TurboTax to complete your tax return and receive your refund.

Fast Company wrote an article this week about TurboTax’s 2013 redesign project headed by Kurt Walecki. I used TurboTax to file my taxes for the first time in 2014 and wrote about my positive experience . What interested me this time was the process they used to find their customer pain points.

TurboTax was willing to shut down for 2 full days to send everyone out into the field to interview strangers about doing their taxes. This approach was not only pragmatic (they uncovered fixable problems in reviewing the interview responses), it demonstrated the priority of user-centered design in what was to be the next iteration of the product.

The successful redesign was indisputable. TurboTax currently commands two-thirds of the online tax software market and more Americans are entering that market every year, ditching costlier tax preparation services to file their returns themselves, augmented by software products.

Hiding Complexity in Financial Software

The beauty of user-centered design in financial software is that it hides layers of complexity under a user-friendly interface. While all applications strive for a pleasant user experience, financially connected applications face a myriad of compliance obstacles on top of the usual system architecture challenges. For companies like TurboTax and Patientco, the product is responsible for collecting personal and financial identifiers in a compliant manner and carrying out the assigned tasks without compromising the data.

In my personal case, I filed my taxes and also utilized the direct deposit feature to have my return delivered directly to my bank account. While all I did was provide my information, TurboTax was responsible for stewarding my data between four parties: myself, my bank, the government (and state government, if you count it separately), and themselves. In return for trusting them to handle my data in a PCI-compliant manner, I was spared the hassle of filling out paper tax forms, mailing them to the government, receiving the mailed refund, and driving to the bank to deposit said refund. That’s a time savings I was willing to pay for.

Removing Complexity in Healthcare Payments

Whenever I talk about Patientco to people outside of the healthcare industry, I love using TurboTax as a comparison because it too is a  well-designed product whose primary function is to move dollars and data between multiple parties. When a patient makes a payment in Patientco’s online payment portal PatientWallet or one of our other payment options, the provider is spared the task of reconciling, depositing, and posting the payment back into their EHR/PM system, because Patientco completes these transactions securely and automatically. With Patientco maintaining stewardship over the dollars and the data together, the patient and provider can focus on their relationship instead of the paperwork. This makes delivering a superior patient experience much easier and ultimately results in a more efficient patient revenue cycle at a time when providers need patient payments more than ever.

In order to maximize payment efficiency, we constantly work to improve the user experience for our patients and providers. When we improve the patient user experience, patient satisfaction increases and payments to providers increase. When we improve the provider user experience, business office productivity increases and enables providers to put more focus on their patients. Like TurboTax, Patientco conducts dozens of hours of user interviews for each new version of our platform.

So next time you make an online payment or use software to complete your taxes, take a moment to appreciate the complexity that is happening under the surface, and the designers who helped simplify it for you.