The Woodward News

Local News

August 28, 2012

New Medicare website offers improvements

Woodward, Okla. — Medicare said a recent redesign of its website, medicare.gov, will make information "clearer and easier to understand."

Carolina Garcia, media relations group representative for Medicare, said the use of clear language, as well as improvements to organization, will help the public to better navigate the website and find the information they need.

"In addition, the website utilizes many web design 'best practices,' and addresses many points outlined in the federal Digital Government Strategy," Garcia said.

These "best practices" include content organization, appearance of text for readability, ease of overall navigation of the site, and specifically, ease of navigation to links, she said.

For example, Garcia said under the old site, it was sometimes difficult to find contact information for those wanting to talk to someone about Medicare or related services.

However, the new website now features a contact link available from the homepage.  This link can be found in the middle of the page under a section titled "Find someone to talk to," where there is a drop down list from which you choose your state to find a list of organizations who might be able to answer questions about Medicare or other health care issues.

The resulting agency directory even has a column that will tell you what kind of questions each organization will be able to answer.

The directory for Oklahoma lists phone numbers and/or website links for more than 50 different agencies and organizations.  This includes 2 listings for reporting fraud, as well as contact numbers for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the state hospice organization, the Social Security Administration, a Medicare coordinator-of-benefits contractor, and the Oklahoma Home Health Agency.

The homepage for the new medicare.gov site also features prominent links to check for Medicare-approved healthcare providers and for reviewing various health/drug plans.

There's even a search function so Medicare recipients can find out if a certain health test or service is covered.

Garcia said the information on the website has now been more closely aligned with Medicare's printed educational products, such as the "Medicare and You" Handbook.  The website even offers the opportunity to go paperless and receive a digital copy of the handbook.

But perhaps most importantly, mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, now can access the site easily, Garcia said.  This mobile accessibility was a feature requested by citizens, she said.

Medicare staff also seems to be enjoying the new "responsive design," which allows the website to "respond" to the device on which it is displayed, so that medicare.gov can be viewed just as easily on mobile equipment as it is on a desktop, she said.

"This is the first government website to utilize 'responsive design,'" she said.

The new medicare.gov is not just about adapting to different devices, but also adapting for its users.

Garcia said that Medicare staff plan to move into what is called a "continuous improvement" plan for making regular routine modifications to the website.  This is done to identify and correct minor information, spelling or grammatical errors without the necessity of having to overhaul an entire page, she said.

For example, after the recent rollout of the new web design,  Garcia said, "We did get specific feedback about some broken links and language to improve search results, which have been incorporated into the website this week."

The new web design comes just a few weeks before the busiest time for the medicare.gov site.

Garcia did not have records of the number of "hits" that medicare.gov receives, but said the highest total normally comes in during the Medicare Open Enrollment period,  Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Garcia said the original medicare.gov website debuted in 1999 and has had "4 or 5 modifications" in the interim.

However, the recent changes to the website represent a major refurbishment, she said.

For questions or more information about the medicare.gov redesign, contact Garcia for more information at (202) 690-6149.

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