Product Leaders’ Secret Ally: Rapid Prototyping’s Role in Pioneering Healthcare Innovation

Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

Picture a patient struggling to monitor their diabetes only to face an app interface that feels like a maze. Doctors are spending more time decoding EHRs than actual patient care, causing severe clinical burnout. Insurers are grappling with the complexities of claims and disconnected data. Telehealth providers are battling with shaky infrastructures and system integrations.

The result is a ripple effect: compromised user experience leading to poor adherence, impacting product outcomes, and eventually, hiking costs due to potential do-overs. This scenario is not a dystopian future but a present-day reality in the healthcare industry.

Thankfully, a strategic remedy exists to alleviate these burdens.

*Introducing Rapid prototyping*

Rapid prototyping fosters a cyclical process of ideating, creating, testing, learning, and repeating. It’s like that old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Get in there early, fix problems before they grow, and you’re not just saving time – you’re crafting a better product.

It offers product leaders, especially those in the healthcare industry, to bring their ideas to life faster and more efficiently. Its importance has never been more pronounced. Why, you’d ask?

The health tech sector witnessed an impressive surge in venture funding in 2020, reaching a total of $14 billion USD – nearly twice the amount seen in 2019.

Deloitte’s analysis of the Rock Health database

This surge underscores a growing emphasis on innovation and swift product development. So, how does rapid prototyping contribute to this? Let’s delve into how it provides healthcare product leaders with the tools to devise effective solutions both timely and cost-effectively.

The Golden Triangle In Digital Healthcare

Navigating the path to intuitive products often feels like walking a tightrope. On one side is the imperative for user-friendly experiences, and on the other, the need for meaningful clinical outcomes. And all this while juggling the realities of economic outcomes. This gives rise to the golden triangle in digital healthcare:

The Golden Triangle:  Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

In this framework, ‘User Experience’ encompasses the needs and preferences of multiple users. Considering the diverse ecosystem of healthcare, we can identify several key user personas, each with their unique needs and preferences. For instance:

  • Patients need simple, engaging interfaces
  • Insurers need efficient, accurate systems for claims and policy decisions
  • Clinicians require streamlined, interoperable tools for effective care
  • Telehealth providers need reliable, user-friendly platforms for remote care
  • Revenue cycle managers need comprehensive systems to support healthcare operations.

To address each of these needs effectively, it is essential to make the necessary UX changes in your healthcare products. Let’s explore the above examples of key user personas in healthcare, along with their specific needs and how tailored UX enhancements can positively impact both the product and economic outcomes:

Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

The Golden Triangle framework highlights the significant benefits that digital healthcare solutions bring to stakeholders. By prioritizing user-centered experiences and improving product outcomes, these solutions can effectively reduce unnecessary healthcare expenditures, resulting in substantial cost savings. In fact,

A user-centered design could generate an economic value of approximately $10 billion annually across the U.S. health system over the next few years.

Accenture Study

Understanding Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

Understanding Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

Prototyping falls under the third diamond of the Double Diamond design model, which is the “Design” phase. It involves creating a simplified version of the product or service to test and refine its functionality, usability, and user experience.

This iterative process allows for the early identification of flaws and quick rectifications, enhancing the product’s quality while keeping development costs in check. This enables product leaders to avoid expensive redesigns down the line and enables timely releases to address market needs.

According to a 2019 National Library of Medicine study, administrative inefficiencies contribute to roughly $265.6 billion wasted in healthcare annually. This shows the need for efficient systems.

Rapid Prototyping allows you to build and test different iterations of your healthcare application swiftly and address the inefficiencies early on. Imagine being able to spot a bottleneck in a claims processing workflow, or a glitch in an EHR that disrupts a doctor’s workflow, long before it reaches the users. Now, that’s what rapid prototyping enables.

It doesn’t just highlight inefficiencies; it’s an opportunity to innovate, streamline workflows, and dial into what users need. So, you’re not merely solving problems, but also exploring numerous solutions, gauging development and logistics trade-offs, and committing to a solution after carefully considering the time and resources to revolutionize your product.

3 Best Practices To Make Rapid Prototyping Work For Your Healthcare Application

At the heart of rapid prototyping lies an undying commitment to user feedback. The solutions are crafted not just for clinical efficacy and economic viability, but also for tailoring the intricate details of the user experience. But worry not. Here are three best practices to make rapid prototyping work for you:

Infuse Feedback At Every Stage of Prototyping

Infuse Feedback At Every Stage of rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

Integrating feedback loops in every stage of prototyping is pivotal not only for usability but also for aligning the product with regulatory standards, interoperability requirements, and economic considerations. This approach is encapsulated well by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright who once said,

You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.

The feedback process allows you to ‘fail early and fail cheaply,’ detecting flaws or mismatches in the design phase instead of the costly development or deployment stages. It also helps to ensure that the final product meets the diverse needs of all stakeholders involved. Additionally, this practice aids in fostering a culture of continuous improvement and agility, essential for keeping pace with the fast-changing healthcare landscape.

Leverage a Combination of Anticipatory and Participatory Design Approaches

When it comes to effective prototyping, consider blending participatory and anticipatory design approaches – the results can be transformative.

Start with a participatory design. Immerse yourself in the world of your users – healthcare professionals, patients, researchers, insurers, clinical staff, and administrators – by involving them in design activities. Conduct in-depth interviews, execute user research, and run usability tests to gain insights into their needs, pain points, and expectations. Use these insights to refine your prototype in a way that reflects their experiences.

Parallelly, practice anticipatory design. Delve into user data and patterns to comprehend their needs even before they are expressed outright. For instance, machine learning algorithms can predict medication adherence patterns, enabling your application to proactively send reminders. The focus here is on proactiveness – foreseeing and addressing user needs before they surface. This’ll help you create applications that not only respond to but also anticipate users’ needs.

Prioritize Function Over Form

rapid prototyping

Michael Guggenheim in his article The Long History Of Prototypes argues:

“Prototyping should not be limited to Limn The Long History of Prototypeshe creation of initial versions or test models of products, as is often done in industrial design. It should be viewed as a broader approach to cultural practices”

This involves using a tentative, trial-and-error process that draws on user input to drive improvement in products and practices. You can start with a low-fidelity (lo-fi) prototype for easy, quick alterations in the early stages. As you iterate, you can progressively move towards a high-fidelity (hi-fi) version, eliminating what doesn’t work at each stage.

This approach resonates with a general rule of thumb in software development:

Errors caught in an earlier phase cost significantly less to fix in terms of effort and money – about a tenth of what they would if discovered late in the process.

Let’s understand this by taking an example of an electronic health records (EHR) system. Instead of focusing on the aesthetics of the user interface (UI) in the early stages of prototyping, the emphasis should be on building a functional flow that mirrors the workflow of healthcare professionals. 

Prototyping can first tackle how a doctor will efficiently enter patient data, how that data will be stored, accessed by other healthcare professionals, and how it can be retrieved for future patient visits. Such prototyping should consider how to streamline processes to reduce administrative burden and improve patient care. 

Benefits Of Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare

Rapid prototyping isn’t just an approach—it’s the bedrock of successful digital healthcare solutions. Here are some noteworthy benefits of the same:

  • User-Centric Design: Rapid prototyping puts users at the heart of the design process, leading to digital healthcare solutions that are easy and intuitive to use.
  • Financial success: Exceptional UX design built through iterative prototyping supports revenue growth, attracting new customers, driving product adoption, and contributing to overall business success within budgetary considerations.
  • Faster Iterations and Time-to-Market: Time is of the essence, especially in healthcare. Rapid prototyping propels the development cycle, enabling swift iterations, rapid feedback integration, and an impressive time-to-market speed.
  • Cost Savings and Risk Mitigation: Identifying design issues early in the process with rapid prototyping in digital healthcare prevents costly reworks later on, saving time and resources.

Before You Begin: Think About Partnering with the Right Team

Selecting the right UX team is pivotal to successful rapid prototyping in digital healthcare. When considering potential partners, it’s critical to assess their experience in healthcare, their understanding of the users’ needs, and their aptitude for innovation. Seek a team that can comfortably navigate the regulatory landscape and has a proven track record of crafting successful healthcare solutions.

Consider these potential team configurations, each with its distinct strengths and potential benefits:

  • Experienced Healthcare-focused Teams: These teams bring a deep understanding of the healthcare landscape, users’ needs, and regulatory intricacies like HIPAA. They’re best for complex projects requiring extensive healthcare knowledge.
  • Innovation-driven Teams: If your project aims to disrupt the status quo, teams that thrive on innovation are your best bet. They’ll push boundaries and help you create groundbreaking solutions.
  • Versatile All-rounders: If you’re looking for broad expertise, all-rounder teams adept at responsive design, cross-discipline collaboration, effective version control, and thorough documentation could be a wise choice.

Remember, the right team will deftly combine technical prowess with creativity, enabling a seamless transformation from abstract ideas to user-friendly digital healthcare solutions. Choose the one that best aligns with your project’s destination.

Recommended reads

From Ideas to Breakthroughs: How Continuous Discovery Powers Digital Healthcare Innovation

Digital Twin Technology: 3 Applications That Can Transform Healthcare Delivery

The DNA of Digital Health: 10 Unignorable Statistics for Visionary Product Leaders