Healthcare UX- How Can We Optimize Adoption for Patients & Doctors?


Facundo Navarro, Engagement Manager at intive

Due to the pandemic, recent FDA guidance acknowledges that companies conducting trials may require to put new processes in place regarding their current protocols considering virtual patients, data management, and usability. This raises the question: How to ensure and optimize user experience (UX) for patients and doctors with faster digital health adoption? 

We recently spoke with Facundo Navarro, Engagement Manager at intive, a digital transformation firm creating custom innovative solutions for his insights.

HITC: How can we ensure and optimize UX for patients and doctors with faster digital health adoption? 

Navarro: I feel that if we have to discuss adoption, it’s because the current solutions were designed for the business’ and industry’s needs instead of the physician’s or patient’s needs.

What I mean by this, is that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We just must focus on new solutions and refactor those that are already in the market from a user-centric perspective. There is no need to develop a new technique or holistic approach from the UX perspective to solve it, the approach already exists and has been proven.

HITC: What are some ways UX and UI can address clinician burnout?

Navarro: Okay, let’s think about this for a second. You need 4 years of college to get a bachelor’s degree before you can go to Medicine school for another 5 years. Then you need 2 more years as a resident, and if you want to specialize, add another 2 more years. So, we’re demanding that somebody who invests 13 years of their life preparing to be a doctor – to be able to take care of your health – do administrative work. 

Don’t get me wrong: EHR is a must and a huge asset, but the way that they are handling it means that the physician is spending a significant amount of effort filling out forms instead of building a relationship with their patients. They didn’t sign up for this, they signed up for providing care. 

I’ve heard several patients complaining that their doctors are robots or lack humanity. No, they don’t! They are burned out, stressed, and frustrated. They are splitting their attention between what is important and what is mandatory. We have AI, ML, biometrics, speech recognition, VR, and more and more tools and technology to make their lives easier. Let us put them to good use.

HITC: Studies have shown that seniors are the most resistant to digital health adoption. What are some best practices to ensure user usability and establish credibility in senior patients?

Navarro: I remember my grandfather, who was an electrical engineer working at Philips, struggling with the VCR setting at home. Eventually, somebody in the family was able to program it. The difference we are facing here is that health is not an appliance, it’s a human need. And UX needs to reflect that.

There are many things to take into careful consideration when designing a digital product for elderly people. The first is choosing the correct words, as every generation has, in a sense, got their vocabulary and understanding of a word depending on the context (phonetics, slang, and wordplay are often challenging for seniors to understand).

Another thing to consider is color usage, as this has a different impact depending on our age. Studies done in nursing homes have shown that beige tones contrasted with light greens provoke a soothing and peaceful feeling, and this works in the same way both for interior design as for digital products. Overall, what’s most important is that we focus on having a product in the end that’s “life stage neutral”, meaning we don’t approach solutions that are more common amongst or geared towards younger generations.

Regarding the layout, we need to make things easy and as obvious as we can, avoiding custom solutions that could be hard for seniors to understand and using UI patterns that are easily memorable and assist cognitive challenges. This involves making links and buttons easy to click, with a prominent interface, colors, and big elements if possible. Last but most definitely not least, all solutions need to be tested with the focus group of personas – this is a must for all products nowadays and a key part of the process to ensure the right decisions have been taken.

HITC: What is intive’s methodology and approach to developing platforms and apps for an optimized patient experience?

Navarro: To make an app for a patient, we start from the patient and keep the patient in the center of the design process. The solution we create must be easy to use and interact with for both them and the medical practitioner.

We start with finding out the needs and pain points that the current patients struggle with. To uncover them, we carefully plan and run interviews with our personas, as they represent the future end-users of our product. Then we create an interactive prototype, test it with them, create a better one, test it again, and so on. At the end of the development phase, we want to have all the user needs and pain points uncovered and addressed.

But the work continues beyond that point. We gather analytics data and listen to direct feedback of the users in different roles. We use this information and constantly improve the product to make our users happy. This is how we can ensure that our product is always the right tool for the patient and the other users.

HITC: What is the role of cloud migration in healthcare UX and testing processes?

Navarro: Cloud is good, cloud is great, cloud is our friend! 

Just think for a minute about the amount and complexity of the software needed to run a hospital operation. From an application for your insurance, another one for appointments, EHR, being HIPAA compliant, keeping records secure and private, then integrating it into the back office of the hospital, and so on. 

Cloud gives us a set of tools to make the development and testing easier because with a low amount of effort we can replicate all the environments needed for integration, certification, or compliance tests. Besides, it brings us the ability to have those environments up and running on-demand, reducing infrastructure costs.

With regards to automation, we can run paralyzed executions to retrieve the test results faster or run different kinds of test sets in a pipeline or paralyzed to go beyond functional testing, empowering a continuous delivery. And we are just getting started with AI for testing thanks to Cloud!

HITC: What are some UI and UX best practices healthcare organizations should consider when developing new innovative solutions?

Navarro: People-centric development: Think about your user persona. Ask yourself: “Who is the user of my solution? The nurses, the patients, payroll or finance?” Do not assume what is intuitive for them.

Run interviews, journey maps, storyboards, A/B testing, and other essential UX techniques. Gather your Product Design team and let them do what they do best, and if you don’t have one, call us.

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