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Responsible UX (User Experience) in Healthcare - (Part 1)

Responsible UX (User Experience) in Healthcare - (Part 1)

13 December 2017

User Experience

“the overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use” - (Oxford Living Dictionaries).

“the perception and response of a person toward design elements of software or digital media while interacting with it.” – (Dictionary.com).

Awareness and adoption of User Experience (UX) in Technology has come a long way. Design and experience of products becomes a key factor to successful adoption. Seamless integration of hardware and software and related services have become a common place now and the primary driver for such direction is stemmed from the need for a better end-to-end experience.

UX has evolved steadily over the last several decades in the software industry. In the beginning, functionality was the primary focus, as there was limitation to what could be displayed on the screen. As the Operating Systems (OS) evolved into graphical front-end, ease of use became important. Best practices started to evolve around application design for the leading OS camps. These best practices tend to address recommendations around User Interface (UI) components, such as widgets, layouts, and grouping.

When internet became integral to everyone’s life, users started to become more aware of a better ‘User Experience’. Most importantly, users became very skilled at identifying the lack of good user experiences. When the smartphone era is ushered with the introduction of the iPhone, it introduced several challenges to both the users and the software developers.

Terminologies such as mobile experience, mobile-first and responsive UX started to emerge. At the heart of it, this is a technology driven solution focussed on optimising the cost-benefit for software developers. More focus was put on device type, screen size and resolution. Although they are essential, they are not key factors in deciding the best user experience for users. Key factors towards defining a better UX are typically the needs of the user, and of course the meaning by which the experience is presented (i.e. web, phone, tablet etc.).

Healthcare I.T. systems have been notoriously non user-friendly for many obvious and legitimate reasons in the past. I would even argue that the adoption of some I.T. systems are low or not in line with the management expectation, probably due to the poor UX. Although the healthcare workforce has become more tech-affluent, the systems used in their working environment left a lot to be desired. While most industries moved towards modern I.T. infrastructure and upgraded systems to provide better and familiar experiences, the healthcare industry was hampered by funding challenges and complex and disparate systems. While the healthcare professionals were exposed to better software user experience in their personal lives, they were subjected to archaic and convoluted software user experiences in their professional environment.

Most importantly, the benefits of providing a better experience is not widely appreciated in the healthcare environment. In our experience we have seen less features delivered in the best user experience results in a better outcome than more features delivered in less than an ideal experience. Arguments about UX is not limited to software products. It also extends to various devices that staff are expected to use daily. For example, while the majority of the users are exposed to smart phones or touch-friendly devices; healthcare staff still carry block phones and pager units. Although these devices are designed to clinical standards, the experience they provide is far from what they have been used to in their personal lives. This not only creates anxiety in some staff, but also creates a level of inefficiency.

In healthcare ecosystems, there are more participants beyond clinical staff. There are patients, their families, environmental staff, engineering staff and administrative staff. They are all exposed to some form of healthcare software systems. They all have varying needs arising at different times. UX needs to evolve and change as the context changes; it needs to adapt to the changing needs and conditions of the users. Let’s take a scenario where a patient walks into a healthcare facility for surgery. He or she may be expected to use a bedside display device to provide some information or even place some orders (e.g. meal, drinks etc). It is important that the user experience caters to the patient before and after the surgery. For example, if the system was designed as a touch-friendly interface, can it be used by the patient after a surgery which may result in restricted hand movement?

We believe in providing a user experience which works regardless of the form factor, location, needs, abilities in the user. We call this ‘Responsible User Experience’.

In the next blog post, we will explore further into why we believe every healthcare I.T. product should consider moving towards Responsible UX. We will also highlight some of the unique attributes within the healthcare industry that demands Responsible UX.

Our Author
Emarson Victoria is our General Manager – Product & Experience and has extensive expertise in User Experience & Product Management