Way back in 1996 or '97, when the public internet was just getting started, I was among the “pioneers,” working at the first CBS News website. No one knew, then, how to create good websites and we were all inventing it day by day.
Part of that process was monitoring other new websites to see – and steal – their best ideas, as they did with ours. I remember being awed by the federal government's Internal Revenue Service site. It was beautifully designed, easy to navigate and hard to screw up finding whatever it was you wanted to know or do.
This was equally true for the postal service, and both websites have been regularly updated since then with better tools, clearer navigation and improved interfaces. The federal government has been ahead of the curve from the beginning in creating attractive, user-friendly consumer websites.
A painful exception was the Medicare site. I didn't know that until I became eligible in 2006, and it has been a challenge ever since to work through its clunky, unintuitive navigation that was both dreary-looking and difficult to use.
Until this week.
On Monday, Medicare released a nifty redesign that now matches the postal service and IRS in usability.
The interface is bright, clean and easily readable. All of the most frequently used services link from the home page, and I particularly like the top navigation – just five drop down menus that lead to pretty much anything you need to know from Medicare, all clearly labeled and unambiguous.
You can easily register for “My Medicare” which pulls all your personal information related to claims, providers, preventive services, health and drug plans, health management and more together in one place in the secure portion of the site.
All the non-personal services are available whether you are registered or not. Now that I'm moving to a new state and need a new primary care physician, the Physician and Other Health Care Providers database, searchable by state and city, will be helpful. You can also compare hospitals and nursing homes, and find suppliers of medical equipment among many other kinds of health information.
It has always been fashionable to mock government bureaucracies, but in the case of their most important consumer websites, our government leaves just about every large, commercial website (with the possible exception of The New York Times) in the dust.
Congratulations to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department for this upgrade. It is fantastic and will make dealing with Medicare much easier for elders.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: And What Would You Like?