By Simon Norris
As technology forms a crucial part of our daily processes, it opens up many opportunities as well as bringing with it certain challenges, particularly within traditional healthcare environments where analog support is deeply ingrained. Digital healthcare and IT solutions developed in the sector were initially focused on building the solution first, without fully understanding the end users. As such, this has had an impact on success rates as well as the development and implementation of new systems. When creating IT solutions for the healthcare market, we should be taking the time to understand how people who will be using the systems need to use them, looking further into how digital can enhance experiences, not just ‘be’ the experience.
There are mounting pressures and strains across the healthcare industry including overstretched NHS resources, the impact of legacy systems which are becoming increasingly outdated, and most importantly patient experiences. Traditionally, healthcare providers have built a solution to health issues or provided information at times of outbreaks, taking a more reactive approach rather than a considered one, thinking about the end user and their needs subsequently.
As such, to optimize experiences and efficiencies in the digital world that we live in, the healthcare industry needs to think more about the individuals utilizing the services, to help with any number of actions, including preventative measures such as encouraging healthy behaviors. But to do this, we must first understand the psychology of patients, especially as they prepare to face medical concerns and procedures. Traditionally, analog support is deeply ingrained in the healthcare sector, with patients relying on face-to-face support to calm their worries or explain their conditions and the care they require. However, analog support alone will not help alleviate the pressures being faced with dwindling resources and the demand for increased efficiencies continually rising. In order to bring about change through well thought out innovations and new technologies, the industry as a whole must look at how digital solutions can be integrated with analog systems with users in mind.
Digital developments and investment in technology have the opportunity to provide real solutions to issues in the healthcare sector and reduce pressures that are placed particularly on national healthcare systems such as the NHS in the UK. This is something we’ve seen recently with the £487m tech boost received by the NHS to help reduce staff workload and innovate patient care. Embodying and embracing technology will create the change required to transform the sector and there are many opportunities to make a positive impact. For example, by introducing a user-friendly journey to comply with policy the sector has the potential to improve current situations and how patients understand their own personal health. Yet in order to do this, health organizations must work with companies to understand what health needs aren’t being met currently and how technology can benefit patients. Take for example the introduction of smart watches which have seen more people become invested in tracking their own heart rate, daily steps, sleep patterns and water intake which doesn’t seem too significant, but these devices have allowed patients to notice abnormalities to identify heart conditions and so on. Ultimately, this demonstrates that the more accessible health becomes, the more improvements we are likely to see.
How can IT be the solution?
Research shows that IT solutions can have a positive influence on the overall healthcare experience. For example, Nomensa has previously worked with the NHS Blood and Transplant service to create a seamless experience for users to point them in the right direction and ensure a streamlined customer experience while signing up to the service and returning to it when appropriate. This solution resulted in a 100% increase in mobile sign-ups to the service and 5,000 people out of 7,000 users who initially selected ‘no I don’t want to donate my organs’ changed their decision and recorded their wish to be a donor. This change has the potential to improve or save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, demonstrating that the power of technology solutions should not be underestimated. Yet, it is plausibly the implementation and understanding of them that has the true power to make a real difference.
To bolster future success and improved developments in the sector, healthcare professionals must look to truly understand people and put them at the heart of every process and everything. To ensure humans remain at the heart, it’s imperative that training and support is provided to continually aid this process. From understanding individual requirements, to what technology they use and communications platforms they access, those developing IT solutions to support the sector must take a strategic approach to design and development and continually review success measures. Ultimately, IT solutions rest in the minds of the individuals that will be developing them and it’s critical that humans still play a big part in the development process to deliver human-centric solutions, always ensuring digital enhances experiences.
Simon Norris is founder and CEO of strategic UX design agency, Nomensa.