Digitalization in healthcare – one (but an important) way to overcome adoption barriers
Being a UX researcher specializing in Healthcare, I'm always curious about how the digitalization process evolves. During some lunch break news-reading I came across the 'Philips Future Health Index Study 2019'.
Here is a short study description from the website:
- The Future Health Index (FHI) is a research-based platform designed to help determine the readiness of countries to address global health challenges and build sustainable, fit-for-purpose national health systems. By examining the role of technology in the health system, the aim of FHI is to provide actionable insights to healthcare professionals, governments and patients that will also improve their experience with healthcare.
- The 2019 Future Health Index analyzes 15 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
- Sample size 2019: 3,194 healthcare professionals & 15,114 individuals (general population).
In 2019, Philips wanted to find out about how digital health technology impacts the way healthcare professionals and patients experience healthcare. Besides all the other interesting insights and conclusions there was one statement in this report that I found quite revealing: " […] despite increasing adoption rates in some instances, use of digital tools remains fragmented around the world. The impediments include inadequate access to technology, difficulty with integrating technology into healthcare professionals’ ways of working and concerns about data privacy and security. These barriers are falling, though not as quickly as many of us would like." But what could be done to overcome these adoption barriers?
User-centricity is not a common practice
I think the statement "The impediments include inadequate access to technology, difficulty with integrating technology into healthcare professionals’ ways of working […]" already provides a solution: Observe and talk to your intended user group - right from the start of the development process. I know, it might not sound like a new or innovative solution, but from my experience this approach should not be considered as common practice. A few months ago, I completed my training course 'Medical Devices Usability Expert'. I took this course because I wanted to get a deeper understanding of the guidelines and processes you need to consider when developing a medical product to get market approval (e.g. IEC 62366 or EN ISO 13485) and to get some insights about the challenges manufacturers face when developing a product. However, I was the only one in all courses who came from an UX agency. All other participants were mainly employees from medical device manufacturers.
Their main reason for attending this course was to learn how to better integrate usability in the product development process as the new MDR (Medical Device Regulation) puts more emphasis on the usability (safe and effective use) of medical devices. Besides guideline and regulation requirements, the course also included lessons about usability, UX and user-centered design. Lots of new insights for the manufacturers, lots of well-known content for me. However, my most interesting insight was that most people participating in this course had an eye-opening moment when the trainer talked about user-centricity and the fact that it is absolutely valuable to visit the intended users at their work or use environment to gather insights about their actual behaviors, needs and pain points. So, developing a product that is designed to meet user requirements and needs based on actual user insights and not just on assumptions is not something everybody is already familiar with.
However, designing a product or service that is really useful for your intended users, supports them in their daily work, provides them with the right information and functionalities, does not make them think, and is so easy to use that they can learn to use it on the fly will help your users to overcome these adoption barriers. Ask yourself: Would you like to use a product or service that does not support your work, for which you need to create workarounds and you get the feeling that you need to learn how to use it again and again?
I would like to say the same as Frank Chimero (freelance designer and writer) "People ignore design that ignores people." Period. However, I know it is often not that simple. There are many other factors that need to be taken into account, but it is one piece of the puzzle and, in my opinion, the most important one along the way of digitalization. If you want to learn more about how to implement (early) user research into your project and development process, feel free to contact us.