Quick, tell me what springs to mind when you think of a well-designed healthcare institution. Comfortable beds? Easily accessible, spacious waiting rooms? Yes indeed, things like these would be nice. But how about having a well-designed experience right from the moment you think of scheduling a routine hospital visit? Wouldn’t that be nicer?

It’s hard to imagine a hassle-free, zero-trouble customer experience when it comes to healthcare centers. But what if it actually happens?

From booking the right therapist online, to choosing the right hospital, to actually meeting the healthcare provider there, a well-designed user experience is what would make these interactions smooth and stress-free.

A stellar example of a well-designed user experience are health tracking apps. These have become an integral part of our everyday life, thanks to smartphones. As a result, people have gained easy access to actively monitoring their own health via fitness trackers, or BP or sugar level monitors. It’s the pull of ease and efficiency that seems so irresistible to many. Interestingly, the value of the mobile healthcare sector is all set to reach a worldwide tally of $58.8 billion by 2020, as projected by Statistica.

On the flipside, though, another telling graph demonstrates the massive fallout of poor patient engagement – up to 50% of patients fall off their treatment cycles, resulting in thousands of deaths and an annual cost of over $100 billion globally.

“The focus on the customer/patient should be the most important thing in healthcare–and it can be a real differentiator for hospitals. But for many hospitals, patient experience is about making and keeping patients happy, which misses the point completely because patient experience is also about a hospital’s philosophy about the delivery of care.”

Dr. James Merlino, Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic

Any fairly decent application, be it healthcare or otherwise, is built on the solid foundation of UX principles. Healthcare applications in particular have to be designed keeping in mind the needs of the patients and healthcare service providers, followed by other stakeholders. However, there are numerous challenges that designers have to combat while creating healthcare apps.

Listed here are a few –

  • Ensuring the security of patient data
  • Complying with HIPAA guidelines
  • Determining ease of use and access
  • Eliminating complex features

But before we proceed to improving patient engagement through design, we must understand what ‘patient engagement’ truly means.

The concept of patient engagement is often confused for compliance. ‘Compliance’ essentially has a patient following the instructions of his/her health care provider, no questions asked. Engagement, on the other hand indicates an active participation in the healthcare process by the patient as well. The professional directives given by the doctor must be processed, clearly understood, and discussed by the patient for him/her to live a healthy life and eliminate illnesses.

You may also like: How to Boost Patient Portal Engagement with UX

The pressing question arising here is, how can designers ensure patient engagement and make it profitable for all the stakeholders involved?

To begin with, the sole focus of attention must be shifted to the people who would actually be using the technology, rather than those commissioning it. A robust customer experience strategy proves to be of importance in the overall scheme of things. However, prioritizing user experience and patient engagement requires dedicated commitment and attention. Here’s how to go about ensuring it.

ROI calculator

Establish clear goals

Relevancy has to be the topmost priority for designers. The relevant needs of the users must be thoroughly understood and well-defined to build a user-friendly application. As tempting as it may seem, the urge to cram in additional unnecessary features only leads to creating confusion among users, and thus must be avoided. The final product needs to be personalized, easy to operate, and seamless.

Be focused on the stakeholders throughout

Never forget that the primary intention of your design, which is to provide users with a means to let them manage their health, fitness, medical provisions, or connect with their healthcare provider. Ensure that these objectives are never overshadowed by excessively pursuing creative concerns. The resultant product should be easily accessible to all users and provide assistance in setting health goals or acquiring medical information and reports.

Here are a few basic UX guidelines to remember while designing your healthcare app:

  • Always ask questions that are pertinent and relevant questions
  • Arrange the information flow in a manner that is clear and concise
  • Collect patient data in a straightforward, simple way. Do not ask for more information than is necessary.
  • Think of the end-user and base most, if not all of your design decisions on him/her. For instance, a health app aimed at older citizens must have legible, large fonts.

Safety and security is paramount in healthcare

Security measures are an obvious priority while creating any application, but when it comes to designing healthcare products, its significance multiplies manifold. Healthcare apps carry a lot of sensitive and confidential data that is prone to theft and misuse. They must follow the compliances of the local and international medical and legal bodies. Having covered these measures, the end result must be an easy-to-use product that hasn’t compromised its safety protocols.

Healthcare technology needs to be all-embracing

Designers today have a wide spectrum of consumers to design for. There’s a demographic which likes to monitor their dinner being cooked in the kitchen via Facetime, while they’re sitting in another room possibly streaming a web series. Let’s call them millennials for clarity’s sake. And then there are the older residents, those wary of remote-controlled TVs. Both sets of people are likely to suffer from chronic health conditions, and both would be open to using technology to help them manage their health in a better way.

To conclude, remember that the best-designed technology fades into the background, and yet is the undisputed hero of the app. To ensure that it remains so, keep testing its functions and viability with the users. Although it can be time-consuming, testing will help you define the true quality of your product and streamline your efforts in the right direction.