UX in The Healthcare Industry Needs a Check-up
Healthcare, UX

UX in The Healthcare Industry Needs a Check-up

Discover why UX in the healthcare industry needs a check-up. Explore the challenges hindering user-friendly designs in healthcare websites and software, and learn how prioritizing audience understanding and simplicity can lead to better patient outcomes.

I remember hearing a quote that went something like, “Housework is something you do that nobody notices until you don’t do it.” The same holds true for good design. Most people won’t even pause to admire great design if it gets them to their end goal painlessly. Good design is frictionless.

But think about all of the times you’ve become acutely aware of the absence of good design when you’ve tried to interface with certain healthcare web pages. It’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel. Instead of getting an insurance policy ironed out or accessing your medical records, you’re wasting hours trying to figure out how to navigate a poorly designed interface that feels like it was designed for something other than a human.

This isn’t an unsolvable issue, which makes it doubly frustrating. Healthcare is a huge industry that millions of people interact with every day — it can afford to make changes in its approach to UX for the betterment of everyone.

Challenges of implementing UX testing in healthcare

There’s a general consensus among designers (and users) that healthcare websites and software are clunky and confusing. Why is this? Part of it has to do with the need for healthcare services to be web-accessible and compliant. Legislative pressure to prioritize compliance over user experience led to massive consolidation under software vendors who could provide hospitals with the level of compliance demanded by legislation but who were completely lacking in the user experience department. Now, these compliant but clunky vendors are deeply entrenched in many hospital systems.

Another part of the issue stems from healthcare brands wanting to be seen as safe and predictable, mistakenly assuming that if they get too trendy, users might feel uneasy. Another layer comes from the way healthcare organizations prioritize their budgets. Due to the sheer amount of information involved in healthcare products and services, many organizations within the space focus their resources on providing what’s legally required and not much else. All of this has combined to leave healthcare design at a bit of an impasse. However, there are ways researchers, designers, healthcare professionals, and stakeholders can work together to make digital experiences more user-friendly.

First and most important, you need to know your audience. Are the users medical professionals? Patients? Caregivers?  Are they trying to work with a system from their mobile device or on a desktop? What kind of information do they need to complete a particular task? Knowing these things is necessary to land on the right system architecture and messaging for a given user and provide them with a frictionless experience. Conducting research on both segments of users (professionals and patients) is necessary to determine areas of shared motivation and frustration, as well as specific needs pertaining to each group. This level of comprehension allows for creating applications that make the process smoother across the board and promotes better relationships between healthcare professionals and patients.

Additionally, the healthcare industry is notorious for information overload, which leaves users of all kinds feeling disconnected, overwhelmed, and lost. Users will look to patient portals for direction and clarity regarding diagnoses and are instead shown test results with no explanation, or they are directed to use outdated electronic messaging systems that don’t give clear indications of message receipt. The solution to this? Simpler designs, clearer copy, and positive reinforcement. Designing for accessibility can (and should) exist alongside adherence to the many restrictions that must be considered. Other helpful design elements can include data visualizations and chatbots or virtual assistants. These applications are an effective way of helping users feel informed and in control.

The future of UX in healthcare is patient-led

If improving user experience isn’t motivation enough, it’s worth noting that the ONC Cures Act is shaking things up in the healthcare industry by encouraging easier data exchange across health IT systems in the hopes of empowering patients with more control over their medical information. This means new tech tools are being allowed entry into hospital IT systems, so providers who want to keep their users engaged must warm up to modernization sooner rather than later.

Well-designed UX in healthcare is part of creating a healthier society. Websites and applications that are geared toward providing personalized information in a painless, understandable way have the potential to improve patient outcomes in the long run. Better access to relevant information and fewer hospital visits can contribute to improved well-being for doctors and patients alike.