The novel coronavirus pandemic magnified the digital needs of everyone seeking answers to their most pressing questions, as well as the needs of coworkers to communicate and collaborate online without a hitch. This was especially true in the healthcare industry where doctors, nurses, technicians, and staff rely on the digital systems they use every day to convey diagnoses, treatment updates, and supply information. That’s why one award-winning health system didn’t shy away from completing an upgrade of its employee intranet, with the help of Merkle, when COVID-19 arrived in the United States.

The challenge

The University of Kansas Health System is a world-class nonprofit, academic medical center and destination for complex care and diagnosis. Five years after first engaging with Merkle for intranet design services, the health system tasked the agency with redesigning its intranet, named 24/7, for an improved user interface and search experience for more than 12,000 employees across the state of Kansas.

[Merkle] and its team members were like an extension of the University of Kansas Health System’s intranet team. They were great collaborative partners.

Crystal Burgess

Digital Communications & Strategy Manager, The U of K Health System

The approach

Merkle conducted a discovery project to establish strategic objectives, perform a content audit, and interview stakeholders to provide the basis of The University of Kansas Health System’s 24/7 redesign. The intranet was built on an older version of the digital experience platform Sitecore. Knowing the version needed to be upgraded, the health system leaned on Merkle’s Sitecore expertise and recommendation to move forward with upgrading to the latest version.

Merkle also recommended updated tools and capabilities to 24/7 to improve the content, search functions, and messaging to users. First, the agency enabled content workflows throughout the site and integrated the Coveo enterprise search tool. This powerful search tool provides query suggestions and returns results based on user-behavior patterns and search history, creating a fully personalized search experience that anticipates what someone is looking for and then helps them find it. 24/7 was set up for success right away as Coveo didn’t require the health system or Merkle to tag content or tweak the algorithm to serve up relevant results.

Next, Merkle implemented a custom application, called the Message Center, into the intranet. The application displayed key communications from the health system’s corporate communications team in a standardized newsfeed, consolidating the multiple content areas previously spread throughout the portal.

To best represent all the changes for 24/7, Merkle mocked up every feature of the new intranet, using UX design recommendations, overhauling the information architecture, and completing a mega-menu design to simplify navigation. Merkle structured the mega-menu intuitively and set it up to allow site administrators to move links into that menu to clean up the interface of the entire portal.

Collaborating with the health system’s stakeholders, Merkle designers and engineers built the new 24/7 with numerous custom content components for easier collaboration and everyday use.

The outcome

The University of Kansas Health System and Merkle developed and launched the upgraded 24/7 intranet with a clean, modern, and easy-to-use site search experience and user interface in 2020. The agency and health system collaborated throughout the year when hospitals and healthcare workers were hit hard with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the new 24/7 portal, 12,000 busy employees were pleased to now be able to quickly access information most important to them using the improved information architecture, content organization, and menu navigation.

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