Outline all of the potential practical, intellectual, and emotional responses when users interact with a specific healthcare product, service, or experience. Think about it from the point of view of patients, providers, and caregivers—how are you framing the messages you send? What are the implications of delayed wait time in the ED and how does this affect the perception of quality and care?

Expectation mapping involves an intricate look at the interactions of patients, providers, and caregivers, and the impact of every touchpoint on the perception of quality and service. These maps help to anticipate pain points and recognize the nuance of designing for seamless experiences between users and organizations.

Healthcare interactions are complex. Taking the time to walk through experiences in a detailed manner before engaging the user is a valuable exercise. What do patients expect during their first visit with a referred physician? How do they want to be treated? What may frustrate or confuse them in the process?

We recommend conducting the appropriate user research prior to engaging in this exercise. Be cognizant of your organization’s policies and procedures when conducting research.


  1. Identify which users may engage in the healthcare product, service, or experience you are exploring. Review primary, secondary, and tertiary users, focusing on one group for this exercise.
  2. Determine the key qualities, characteristics, and contexts that are important to consider during this interaction between the user and organization.
  3. Create low-level personas—fictitious personalities reflective of a user group. Next, select a persona to "bring to life." List out who they are and what they care about. Think about how you would describe a close friend or family member—their values, beliefs, motivations, and personality. Give them a name, a face, and a story.
  4. From the organization’s perspective, brainstorm a detailed step-by-step, chronological list of interactions with the product, service, or experience of exploration. Identify and list out the intention or purpose of each step.
  5. Think about your persona—where they are physically, emotionally, and intellectually before, during, and after their interaction with your product, service, and experience—and what they expect along the way. Healthcare relationships and experiences are complex. The effects can manifest in a multitude of ways for patients, providers, and caregivers.
  6. Incorporate the vantage point of your user, walking through each step-by-step touchpoint. Think critically about the organization’s intention and how your persona interprets and reacts. Are there any disconnects or is it a seamless experience? Use these insights to focus and prioritize within your topic of exploration. 

Use this exercise to compare vantage points involved in healthcare experiences. For example, consider the diagnosis of a chronic disease. How is the patient AND their system of support—including family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, physicians, nurses and others— impacted by this experience? See all sides of the experience and its implications. Anticipate how people will feel to better support their journey.