How Healthcare UX Design Can Help Save Lives

Nov 9, 2023 | Healthcare UX

Every touchpoint of a user contributes to the overall user experience (UX). In essence, the concept of UX transcends every sector that engages with users— even the healthcare industry.

With the proliferation of digital transformation in healthcare, positive user experience has become more paramount than ever. Especially with the increased adoption of telehealth and remote diagnostic solutions by medical practitioners.

As the healthcare industry enters a phase of more remarkable modernisation with new technological advancements, UX will play a more critical role in facilitating digital health.

This article aims to dig into the future of healthcare UX design and explore the importance of UX in healthcare.

Consequently, our hope is that the information herein paints a clear picture of where UX in healthcare is headed and its possibilities. So, without further ado, let’s delve in!

What is UX design?

User experience (UX) fundamentally refers to a user’s methodical journey when interfacing with a service or product.

As such, UX design is essentially the systematic process of building products or services that deliver positive and meaningful experiences to users across branding, usability, and function.

In contrast to UI design, UX design focuses on enhancing all the nuances of the user journey when interacting with a product or service.

Principally, the fundamental premise of UX is to leave the user feeling fulfilled— whether the interaction fully solves their problem or not.

Overall, a good UX design should deliver an experience that empowers a user to execute their goal in a safer, more efficient and less error-prone way.

What is UX design in healthcare?

The healthcare domain is facing numerous systemic challenges and the demand for innovation has never been greater.

For context, the global population is ageing, leading to an increase in chronic diseases and complex health conditions. Relatedly, healthcare costs continue to rise, driven by factors like expensive medical treatments, advanced technologies, and administrative overheads.

In response to these systemic challenges, healthcare innovation is necessary to appreciably enhance patient care and reduce hospital costs.

Currently, this line of innovation is primarily being geared towards data analytics, artificial intelligence, and telemedicine disciplines as hospitals are seeking ways to digitise medical services.

However, while functionality is receiving most of the attention, the importance of a user experience design cannot be underestimated.

In the context of healthcare, UX design alludes to the design of health products and services with the aim of delivering fulfilling experiences to users. These products and services may include disease management apps, electronic health records (EHR) systems, or even doctor appointment scheduling apps.

At its very core, UX/UI design in healthcare is similar to UX/UI design in other industries. In practice, it principally aims to generate value for users whilst fostering strong user engagement and retention.

All things considered, UX within the health industry will play a unique role in the future of healthcare by improving the usability and accessibility of medical devices for consumers and care facilities.

Furthermore, as telemedicine becomes more prevalent, healthcare UX will be more significant in delivering equitable and accessible treatment globally.

For example, by applying UX principles, designers can build culturally sensitive healthcare platforms that respect the diverse cultural norms of different societies. UX designers can ensure that the imagery used in the applications is inclusive and does not perpetuate stereotypes or cultural biases.

Role of Empathy and user-centred Approach in designing for Healthcare

Unfortunately, the majority of limitations with existing digital health systems revolve around usability as many users face challenges accomplishing their intended tasks.

For example, due to their complicated interfaces, most electronic medical record (EMR) systems are typically difficult to use. Therefore, dictating multiple training sessions.

As digital healthcare continually expands, designers have more of a responsibility to design easy-to-use, and transparent healthcare systems via empathy and user-centred approaches.

challenges of patients, healthcare providers, and caregivers.

These involve working iteratively and collaboratively with stakeholders to co-create solutions that meet their exact needs. This may help lead to improved patient experience and reduced uncertainty whilst lowering the risk of errors and complications.

Overall, using empathy and user-centred design approaches can help deliver an effective UX design that equips patients to make more informed decisions.

By directly involving members of different healthcare communities in the design process, UX designers can gain valuable insights and create unique solutions that meet their specific needs.

Why is UX design important for the healthcare sector?

UX design is vital in the healthcare domain for various reasons beyond error prevention and avoiding litigation. However, good user experiences don’t just happen, they are intentionally designed. Consequently, a good UX design can translate into the following benefits within the healthcare domain.

1. Enhancing patient safety

Insulin-dependent diabetic patients must continually monitor their glucose levels several times a day in order to adjust their insulin shots accordingly. To measure their blood glucose levels, they typically use a glucometer.

If a glucometer’s user interface presents a usability challenge, it could lead to medication errors for the patient.

For example, if a decimal point is not readily deducible, patients with visual impairments might adjust their insulin doses incorrectly. This may lead to a catastrophic patient outcome— resulting in anything from severe hypoglycaemia to diabetic coma, or even death. As such, UX is key to reducing medical errors and preventing patient harm.

2. Streamlining healthcare processes

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for scalable healthcare processes and solutions in crisis situations.

Organisations with optimised clinical workflows typically achieve better bed utilisation, streamlined communications, efficient clinician scheduling, lower sepsis infection, smoother patient journeys, and higher resource efficiencies.

UX design exercises and research can help streamline the workflows that occupy the most time and hospital resources by automating administrative processes, and alleviating clinician and staff burdens. Thereby leading to better hospital efficiencies and productivity.

3. Fostering patient engagement and compliance

Empowering patients to actively engage in their healthcare decisions and management typically leads to better outcomes.

Since facilitating patient engagement is a crucial component of healthcare innovation, UX design can help hospitals foster patient engagement and a sense of ownership and involvement in their healthcare.

For example, medical apps that allow easy access to information, appointment scheduling, automated reminders for medicine taking and management of treatment plans may lead to better adherence to prescribed treatments.

Or even better follow-up appointment attendance and effective management of chronic conditions.

Similarly, gamified medical apps with rewards and badges can provide more engaging experiences that motivate patients to track health metrics and achieve wellness goals. This can potentially help to encourage patients to practise prevention through graduate lifestyle changes.

4. Addressing healthcare disparities

Unfortunately, disparities in healthcare access exist among disparate populations. Fortunately, technological advancements may provide a way to bridge these inequalities to ensure that all people receive equitable healthcare.

However, the integration of these technologies into existing systems and workflows dictates a deep understanding of the diverse needs of users.

As such, UX design exercises can help foster inclusivity by identifying barriers faced by marginalised communities, like the disabled and the elderly.

By understanding the challenges of the underserved, UX designers can create innovative healthcare solutions with multilingual support, voice commands readable fonts, and even appropriate colour contrasts for those with visual impairments.

Conclusion: The future of healthcare UX design

Healthcare’s future will manifest many exciting new opportunities and UX trends that will reformulate what healthcare means. For example, virtual reality is currently being employed by some surgeons to simulate operations.

Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to play an indispensable role in the advancement of healthcare— especially in the realm of disease prediction.

AI may help caregivers identify patients at high risk of developing chronic conditions in order to provide tailored early interventions. These interventions will be based on an individual’s data, including genetic, history, wearable device data, and even biomarker and phenotypic characteristics.

Contact-free voice user interfaces (VUI) and operations are also increasing in adoption in healthcare.

VUIs serve to improve patient safety and streamline workflows, without sacrificing the quality of service. For example, VUIs are being employed to prompt patients to schedule appointments or prepare for surgical procedures.
Relatedly, VUIs are being exploited to streamline caregiver workflows. Thereby, allowing them to spend less time tethered to workstations whilst giving them freedom to interact more with patients.

By the same token, chatbots are being employed to handle some administrative tasks typically performed by caregivers. For example, helping patients book appointments, sending appointment reminders, collecting feedback, and checking on health status. This lifted burden consequently frees them up to directly attend to patients.

All things considered, healthcare UX design has the potential to enhance people’s everyday lives, increase the efficiency of service delivery and significantly impact patient outcomes and quality of care.

A good UX design can appreciably enhance health apps’ usability, accessibility, and functionality. Thereby, making it much easier for patients to access the treatments they require promptly.

Furthermore, by wholly adopting an inclusive UX design approach, designers of healthcare platforms can break down barriers and improve healthcare accessibility for all individuals. All whilst designing with cultural sensitivity, and empathy in mind to empower patients and foster health equity.

Reach out to us at Netizen for more information on utilising UX design for your next healthcare project

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