Can you, in today’s day and age, imagine a hospital building that does not have access ramps? Or beds in there that don’t have wheels on them? It’s an unlikely scenario, isn’t it? It’s simply because medical environments are designed in a specific manner. These physical structures are designed to serve certain needs – from providing easy access to the disabled to facilitating the movement of patients within the hospital.
Just as the physical structures in the healthcare ecosystem are designed with great attention to detail, the digital environments in there need as much attention, if not more. Examples of physical experiences such as ramps and specialized beds only go to prove how critical healthcare user experience is. And more importantly, that user experience is not just limited to the physical environment but extends to include the digital/technological spheres as well.
Defining Healthcare UX
When it comes to digital user experiences, one can’t find a sector as critical and complex as healthcare. Applications in healthcare include electronic health records (EHRs), health/fitness trackers, specialized apps for conditions such as maternal care, pediatrics, mental health, etc, or specific purposes such as insurance payments, government aid, ambulances, and emergency services, and more.
Users of these software can be just as varied; from providers – including clinically trained professionals (doctors/nurses) and non-clinical professionals (reception staff, insurance personnel), patients themselves or their families/carers – across age groups and abilities.
Therefore, user experience in the context of healthcare is rather layered and complicated. But to put it into rudimentary terms, good digital healthcare UX is where information is easy to find, easy to comprehend, and easy to incorporate.
Why healthcare UX matters
Healthcare is an incredible field where miracles happen globally each day, from organ transplants and life-saving surgeries to providing assistance and education to remote communities. And yet, this is one field that is besieged with poor technological tools that impede its progress rather than further it.
For a minute, let’s set aside the more alarming statistics such as the 4000 clicks a provider makes per day using an EHR or an Ebola patient being accidentally sent home. Consider any experience you or someone you know may have encountered while using poorly designed healthcare technology. For instance, have you noticed your physician being too engrossed using the computer during your visit? Or a grandparent struggling with an online appointment with their doctor? Poor experiences such as these invariably point out a deficit in one of the three components of great UX – usability, accessibility, and delight.
Healthcare UX done right
Users – regardless of the product – only take a liking to it if it helps them to effortlessly achieve a goal. Effective UX strategies in healthcare have to focus on the roles of each of the players involved in the ecosystem and play to their strengths and needs. Doing so requires an assessment of their ability to engage, understand their health literacy, technological literacy, and help them prepare and participate in their intended interactions.
Healthcare UX has been known to be notoriously clunky, no thanks to the complex nature of the industry and the sheer variability in terms of the users. That said, complexity is a poor excuse for not pursuing the attributes of usability –
It is useful as it solves a problem
It is usable as it’s intuitive and functional
It is desirable as users prefer this experience over others
The use of technology to deliver safe and sustainable healthcare systems does fall into the category of a “wicked problem,” – featuring a complex web of stakeholders, systems, and legal parameters involved. But it is this complexity, inherent unpredictability, and often erratic nature, that calls for unique attention to context.
Here are 2 case studies of projects accomplished by us at Koru UX design which exemplify the application of user-centric design successfully in the healthcare domain.
There are innumerable instances of EHRs being problematic and intrusive to the whole healthcare delivery process. The complex design of the EHR being too overwhelming for providers who remain too occupied with it, rather than paying due attention to their patient. Therefore, with this project, our objective was to create a simplified snapshot of the patient’s vital details so as to enable the provider to process it in a short time and complete his intended action. We had to ensure that the provider is more focused on the interaction with the patient, rather than be distracted by the overwhelming EHR usage.
The Medicaid law was passed in the United States to provide health coverage for citizens, including close to 16 million disabled and elderly beneficiaries. However, the major roadblock of this law is its complex eligibility determination process, causing a slow rate of enrollment. We were tasked with building an interactive and responsive web application to simplify the Medicaid application process and ensure high acceptance rates. Our focus areas were simplifying the workload management for the field agents and creating pleasant, non-intimidating interactions for the senior applicants.
It has been proven that the impact of UX on product success in the healthcare sector is higher than average across industries. Healthcare is essentially innovation-driven, where technology has helped transform the market landscape. Therefore, new product design and development processes are crucial for market success. Needless to say, UX plays a significant role in creating effective products.