UCLA Health: revitalizing the online experience

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UCLA Health partnered with Slalom Build to reimagine and rebuild their patient digital experience platform, retiring more than 250 legacy subsites and modernizing their tech stack in the process. Prognosis? A vibrant and healthy future.


Software Engineering, Modern Web Development, Experience Design, Quality Engineering, DevOps, Agile Coaching


Cloudflare Workers, Drupal, PHP, JavaScript, Storybook, Bitbucket, Acquia

Putting patients at the heart of medicine

Los Angeles is home to some of the most iconic industries in the world—film, music, technology. It’s also recognized internationally as the nerve center for advanced medical innovation.

UCLA Health is at the forefront of groundbreaking, leading-edge medicine. It’s a diverse collective of four hospitals, 250 clinics, and thousands of distinguished physicians, nurses, and administrative staff. With more than 710K new patients a year and 3.1M outpatient clinic visits, UCLA Health has an extensive network of provider profiles, healthcare locations, medical services, clinical trials, and much more—all funneled through www.uclahealth.org.

The website serves as the digital front door for patient access to healthcare, specialty organizations, and countless wellness programs. UCLA Health recognized they had an opportunity to deliver a more modern, innovative experience for patients and began retiring the legacy Content Management System (CMS) used to support the site. Together, we embarked on what would be a rather remarkable journey.

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Re-examining the partnership procedure

As with any procedure, a pre-op check-in was required. Determining patient needs and how they wanted to engage with the website was paramount. Fortunately, our Product Engineering Methodology (PEM), is designed to answer these important questions.

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We introduced the team to our customized approach to modern Agile development that provides a repeatable framework for driving effective products with the highest quality, speed, and velocity. With this framework in place, UCLA Health could effectively and collectively examine and reposition their administrative procedures and site management.

Historically, the UCLA Health marketing team had often operated as an in-service provider facilitating web engagements for physicians and multiple internal organizations. So, when rebuilding the public website, they shifted to an outside-in approach, putting the patient experience at the heart of the design.

The patient-centric platform required easy navigation and privacy protection. For this reason, the team chose Drupal as UCLA Health’s new CMS platform. It’s one of the most extensible and secure CMS offerings in the healthcare sector.

The diagnostic process

To understand what it would take to build the platform technically and architecturally, we started by building a minimum viable product (MVP), dividing workloads into engineering and content development, to further clarify ownership and responsibilities.

Working as a connected team, daily standups helped us define and prioritize the features and functionality patients wanted. These check-ins sped up time to delivery and were critical to the team’s success.

As we built the MVP, we also developed a phased approach to transition 250+ subsites that had been independently built and managed by various UCLA Health organizations and physicians throughout the health system. Our first step was scrubbing the top twenty-five prioritized subsites to prepare them for the transition. In doing so, three main concerns emerged.

First, some subsites had the same look and structure as the main site, however they led patients off the domain or to dead-ends that lacked clear navigation and integration with the main site, generating a user experience that could be confusing and frustrating.

Second, there were redundancies among the subsites. We needed to examine subsite content to eliminate duplicate information and pages.

And third, some subsites were owned by doctors or organizations that were no longer active or whose sites lacked current information. We needed to eliminate the inactive sites, and for the others, identify new owners and train them on the new platform to ensure consistency and relevancy.

UCLA Health was intent on creating a more cohesive, navigable experience for their patients.

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A clean bill of health

Once the main site moved from the legacy platform, UCLA Health was able to address the hundreds of subsites that needed to remain active on the legacy platform until they were able to go live on the new one.

By putting a content delivery network in front of the legacy platform, we were able to route all active subsite traffic intelligently between the legacy and new platform, without any interruption to patient services.

Through prioritization and collaboration on our carefully planned roadmap, the new uclahealth.org main web site — approximately twenty-five subsites — launched in July of 2021. Despite the challenges, the site was delivered smoothly, and today, regionally dispersed patients can easily access the most relevant and time-critical information they need in just a few clicks.

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With patients at the heart of the rebuild, this work led to a 12% increase in self-scheduled appointments and a 482% increase in online appointment requests. Plus, the new site shows significant performance gains over the legacy platform, including a 26% increase in visitors, 30% improvement in Time to Interactive, 50% increase in online search results brand visibility, and 71% improvement in Time to First Byte.

The strong partnership between UCLA Health and Slalom Build continues to this day—we’re transitioning legacy subsites on a regular basis and invigorating the new site with more features and functionality, such as faceted search.

Because of our commitment to help clients transition successfully, Slalom Build engineering will continue to partner with the UCLA Health marketing team through 2022, until they are fully prepared to take ownership and maintain the health of their powerful and flexible, easy-to-use, patient-loving platform!

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