It is expected that in the next several years, there will be a rise in the number of patients on the global level but a stagnation in the number of doctors. Such a lack in the number of healthcare professionals has become a major concern. What is also aggravating is that doctor-patient interaction has lessened because doctors spend a major chunk of their time on paperwork.
This is where we can see the benefits of UX in healthcare. Healthcare products designed in tune with the expectations of both medical practitioners and patients will allow for more time for doctors to devote to patients. UX design standards can have a pivotal role in the future of healthcare by designing the products to suit the patients’ and the doctors’ needs.
UX challenges in healthcare
According to users’ needs, designing healthcare products typically involves usability, efficiency, and an improved UX for patients and doctors. Understanding user needs as you try to solve a problem is already an accomplishment. However, there’s a great variety of needs, and understanding them all demands from designers a deeper insight that goes beyond the mere problem created by the healthcare system.
As a current bachelor’s degree in product design teaches us, the discipline of design is defined as prevalent intelligence that drives designers towards new solutions, social progress, and novel ways of thinking. Knowing that the designer is the leading force defines the product’s main characteristics, foresees potential issues, and makes sure the product is usable and efficient.
One of the most common issues faced by medical practitioners and patients when using a healthcare-related product is their inefficiency. This could be seen in the example of a poorly designed glucose meter where the decimal point was not very noticeable in the device’s display. A person with failing eyesight could misinterpret glucose level as several times higher than it is, leading to serious problems and even to the loss of life.
Interoperability is another challenge in designing healthcare products. This term refers to the ability of a product to exchange and use information. Most healthcare applications have to interface with complex and expensive external systems. But, several standards have been designed that can simplify the process, but this doesn’t come without implementation hurdles that require more time, rework, and overrunning of codes.
Among major concerns nowadays is the privacy of a patient’s records. This has mandated certain regulatory requirements, so when designing a healthcare product, these must be kept in mind. HIPAA and PHIPA are required to secure and prevent the misuse of patient’s data. A well-designed product needs to protect the patients’ records and allow the users to perform their tasks efficiently.
Improving healthcare with UX
The motivating force behind innovation and success is user-friendly design. Research, design, and assessment are the three steps that catalyze innovation. These steps can minimize the communication gap between the design team and the users.
The following aspects should be kept in mind when designing a healthcare product:
- Instead of keeping the UX methodologies as an afterthought, they should be implemented from the design and development stages.
- UX expertise should also be included from the beginning as well as appropriate techniques to understand user input.
- The design team should be acquainted with the leadership and culture in the vendor company/hospital.
- Research should be among the primary steps – understanding the users and their problems, aims, and tasks should be a part of the design process from the start.
- The right design is rarely achieved from the first try – it generally needs multiple revisions.
- Early testing is recommended as it can detect design flaws and save time and resources.
- Keep in mind the minority population and their needs – healthcare innovations typically focus on the majority population.
Expectations improved healthcare product design.
Once you understand the patient’s problems, pain, concerns, and fears, you can also help designers and stakeholders understand how the innovative design can be improved so that it can serve the patients better.
As for the clinical experience, hospitals mostly see patients in pain waiting outside the ER to get their turn. In the design process, it’s imperative to develop better ways of managing doctors’ working schedules so the waiting time can be reduced.
More than we’d like to see, there have been instances of modern digital health solutions being helpful, either the caregiver or the receiver, but rarely to both. This is why even the most cutting-edge tech solutions in the healthcare field leave a lot of room for improvement in matching user needs. The greatest challenge for UX designers working in the healthcare system is still to design such digital solutions that can satisfy both sides – the medical practitioners and the patients.
Author’s bio: Jennifer Hahn Masterson is the Lead Content Strategist at Spread the Word Solutions, holding an MA degree in business communication. She is always doing her best to help her clients find their place in the ever so competitive business arena, insisting on long-term sustainability rather than on some questionable get-rich-fast scheme. You can check her out on LinkedIn.