Human experience design in healthcare tech: What is it, and how do we use it?
In the world of technology design, engineers and developers refer to “users” or “end-users.” There are entire sub-specialties dedicated to the “user” – UX or UI, for user experience and user interface.
As healthcare technologists, the Carium team is keenly aware that the utilitarian term “user” is depersonalizing. In our view, the patients, clinicians, and care teams using our platform are more than “users.” They are humans with unique wants, needs, values, and concerns.
At Carium, we embrace the principles and development methodology of Human Experience (HX) Design. HX design encourages everyone on the continuum of software design to think more inclusively, thoughtfully, and deeply about the human experience, and how to craft products to enhance it.
At first glance, the concept seems simplistic. Yet, consider innovative, sophisticated technologies where the misaligned experience of using it led to failure of adoption. High-profile tech examples of failed human experiences include Google Glass, Windows 8 and Amazon’s Fire phone.
It also affects industries that fail to innovate, such as the music industry. Record companies were slow to adopt new technologies that the internet provided, believing instead that since CDs were delivering on price, performance and quality, there was no need to rush to adoption. However, skyrocketing Napster downloads clearly showed that those three attributes were no longer what people wanted. So iTunes and Spotify were able to move in by focusing on those things.
Healthcare is not immune. Today, patients, care teams and physicians alike struggle with technologies that are overwhelming digital file piles of data. Patients, growing accustomed to shopping, banking and health tracking on their phones are not enamored with clunky patient portals.
Designing healthcare technology through the lens of HX design
In the past, healthcare technology designers typically took a "feature forward" approach to their designs. While this approach certainly has the potential for robust technology features, it ignores a huge factor in the equation – the humans using and interacting with it. And if your target audience can't use it, can you consider it a good design?
The healthcare industry, in particular, has struggled to create a real human connection using technology. However, there’s a massive need for technology that connects clinicians and care teams with their patients in a meaningful way.
Think about this: How can you create a modern, efficient connection (which is expected in all technology nowadays) in any aspect of our lives based on paper, a pen, and a phone—it just doesn’t work. Whether you’re a small practice or a health system, you can’t create this connection based on outdated methods or inefficient technology.
It’s one thing to convert those pen, paper, and phone calls to an app and another thing entirely to create a human connection. Designing from an HX angle can bridge that gap.
Our experience with HX design
When designing the Carium platform, we knew we would serve varied populations. To us, every experience matters. The people using our technology range in health condition, age, location, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, ability, role and more. We serve patients, clinicians, nurses, caregivers, and other care team members.
On the patients’ end, we needed to create something that works and addresses the wants, needs, and values of a 25-year-old using our technology at the gym, a 55-year-old managing their chronic conditions, an 85-year-old’s caregiver and everything in between.
On the providers’ end, our technology needed to alleviate their operational burdens so they could focus on their true passion—helping their patients. Our platform needed to be different from the incumbent tools geared primarily towards capturing data. Ours needed a level of intelligence and multi-functionality so that it integrated seamlessly into workflows, freeing caregivers to nurture a real patient-provider connection and deliver personalized care.
But then the question is: How do you make the experience seamless and efficient for the 25-year-old, 55-year-old, caregiver and care teams, all at the same time when they’re all vastly different?
We realized that building adaptability, personalization, and simplicity into the foundation of our technology yielded the best feedback among all of these people. We needed to make it less overwhelming for all of them, especially considering the large number of apps and technology we all use daily—not just those related to health.
For example, our home screen is configurable to only show what actually matters to the individual using it. It changes to align with who you are and what journey you’re on or going through.
If you just had surgery, your experience in the app during the week after (or whatever period of time your care team determines) will reflect that. It may outline information about your recovery, goals, and medication. You can decide if you'd like to receive alerts and reminders. Once your recovery period is over, your app experience will change to align with the new phase you're entering.
HX design in action
When delivering virtual care, one major factor to consider is patients' technical capabilities, especially when dealing with populations of all ages, socioeconomic statuses and education levels. You can't assume that every patient has a smartphone or tablet, and if they do, they may not have a deep understanding of how to use it. If they can't use it properly, care teams won't receive accurate information or any information at all.
When building our virtual care platform, we looked at this issue from an HX design angle to ensure every user, no matter their level of technical literacy, could use our platform in a meaningful and effective way.
Because adaptability and personalization are at the heart of our technology, it is possible to bridge the gap between patients who don't use a smartphone or tablet and their care teams.
For example, patients can use cellular medical devices such as a scale. Every time they use the scale, the data is automatically transmitted back to their clinician, making the process seamless for the patient and the care team. Or, if they own a phone that doesn't connect to the internet, they can still receive nudges and meaningful engagements via SMS text messages and phone calls.
Meeting patients where they are with a solution that considers their accessibility to technology and comfort level using technology will ultimately create better outcomes for everyone involved.
The impact of HX design on the future of healthcare tech
Shifting the focus from “end-user” to “human” may seem like a small change, but it holds immense power, especially in healthcare.
That’s why we continue to hold ourselves accountable for seeing our “users” – patients, clinicians and care teams – as complex, diverse individuals so that our technology creates positive outcomes for providers and patients alike.
I invite you to think of every single person who will interact with your healthcare organization when using technology and ask yourself: What’s their story? What problem(s) do they need solved? How can I design solutions for their unique wants, needs, and values?
After all, they’re not just users; they’re humans, just like you and me.
Harness the power of HX-designed tech
We’ve seen the power of HX design firsthand through creating and launching our technology solutions.
Interested in seeing Carium in action? Let’s talk.