The Ailing UX of Healthcare Applications

By Rob Innes, 12 June 2018

Some industries are positively blooming (and therefore booming) when it comes to UX. Online retail for one. With modern ecommerce systems, slick paths to purchase, and detailed customer insight to power personalisation, several retail brands are not only monitoring and testing UX but driving UX innovation. As you’d expect, their vitals - revenue and repeat customers - are strong. Whilst traditional high street retail challenges remain, online is soaring and good UX practice is helping that growth.

So, what about healthcare? Where is UX in the rise of ehealth, wearables and the medical internet of things? How do you get it right in such a heavily regulated environment, globally, with numerous diverse user groups?  Healthcare 4.0 shows amazing promise but sometimes current systems feel more like Healthcare 1.0! Like all good medical evaluations, the key is good listening and perceptive thinking right from the very start.

The Difficulty of The Healthcare Setting

In healthcare, poor UX isn’t just frustrating - it’s a risk that can have serious consequences. Yet, the picture of health in hospitals and GP surgeries is often clouded with complexity. Jam-packed data screens, zero imagery and a less than intuitive User Interface (UI).  Without doubt Healthcare is a far trickier operation than retail. It’s regulated on a country by country basis, has vastly different operating models and the end result is often compromised in an attempt to keep unwieldy stakeholder groups happy.

An added difficulty in the healthcare setting is the addition of ‘real-life’. Retail websites, provide only for an online experience. Find a dress, add to basket, make a purchase. However, in healthcare settings, software systems need to allow for a vast range of very personal use cases, such as:

  • Appointment scheduling across vast estates of providers and practitioners
  • Nurses or doctors interacting in the moment with patients and scribing the results of visits, diagnoses, regimen changes, etc
  • Security and access challenges for electronic medical records
  • Dispensing and resourcing
  • Payer administration schemes

Healthcare UX thumbnail

What Have We Learned?

When planning and implementing UX projects for healthcare, we try to keep some guidelines top of mind. These are gained from hours struggling over many a thorny challenge!

Test. Measure. Learn.

Adopt this discipline to attack UX challenges incrementally. Plan and execute but don’t reach for everything. Pick off some tasks from the backlog and advance the cause progressively. No-one really knows which UX scheme will work best, so set up to test and measure through good analytics and research, then feed insight back to adjust the backlog.

Avoid Long Runways.

If a UX project does not deliver for nine months, the risks become very large and stakeholders get nervous. Consider breaking projects into modular deliverable chunks. Build confidence and then refine the approach and adjust the backlog.

Adopt a Design Scheme.

Build shared libraries and re-use extensively. Custom design is allowed, but if and only if the requirement bends the current design scheme out of shape. Consistent UI models make for easier development workflows and train users to use the whole system after exposure to only a few screens.

Progressive Release of Complexity.

Just because there is a lot of data to show or a lot of data fields to complete, does not mean that every pixel needs to be used. Don’t throw every metric into a dashboard. Discriminate. Build hierarchies and progressively release more details as users engage. Click to reveal, add panels that expand, tabs that open on demand, drawers that pull out for more information. Lots of UX techniques are available to help.

Personalise.

Figure out the right level of personalisation. Self-service terminals likely require a tight workflow (and hence minimal personalisation), whereas, allow business users to set up dashboards to their personal preference. Retain settings between sessions. Use on-boarding tips discretely as users start to use new components. Use analytics to figure out workflow improvements and cater to different user types, locations, need states, etc.

To find out more about our experience across various healthcare areas, or for support on any challenges you are facing, get in touch with us today

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