Design Thinking Is Critical For The Healthcare User Experience (UX)

I was watching this video of Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO) earlier this morning, and it immediately clicked with me.  The idea of design thinking is very similar to the architecture training that I had.  Perhaps that is why I’m so fascinated by the opportunity to use technology and data driven insights to improve the consumer experience in healthcare.  

I like this definition of design thinking from an HBR article on it.

“it is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

This graphic from the Design Thinking for Educators site (from IDEO) is another good summary.


But, one of the key reasons that I want to talk about this is IDEO’s frameworks are critical for healthcare.  If you look at David Kelley from IDEO, one of his key points is that “empathy” is essential to design.  That is so true in healthcare.  It reminds me of my interview with Michael Graves on this topic.  (BTW – IDEO is the group that worked with Walgreens on their new store design.)

In general, the user experience in healthcare is horrible.  People don’t understand the system.  They don’t understand their benefits.  Data is only now beginning to be transparent (but it’s still confusing).  People can’t read and understand the information.  Their providers don’t speak in plain language.  

It’s frustrating because all of us know this is a problem, but it’s so massive to change.  I always use the Triple Aim framework to make the point that the consumer experience is critical.  Think about evaluating prescription drugs or chemotherapy.  Quality of life is really important but often overlooked.  This leads to patients getting too much care as physicians try to cure them only to perhaps make their life miserable in their last few weeks of life.  

I’m going to have to continue to learn more about design thinking and reflect on how to use it more systemically in my approach to problem solving.  


3 Responses to “Design Thinking Is Critical For The Healthcare User Experience (UX)”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your view on design being essential to the quality of a patient’s healthcare experience. When mapping out a healthcare facility’s workflow, it’s important to think of the facility as an entire system. When a system is designed from the patient’s perspective it provides not only increased patient satisfaction, but often also more efficient care. In addition, studies have shown that more efficient workflows deliver improved clinical outcomes, cost savings and shorter cycle time. At Midmark, we’re always evaluating workflows for efficiency and working with our customers to rethink their existing setup for better outcomes.
    Kurt Forsthoefel, Midmark Corporation

  2. Maria von Hildebrand Reply January 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Hi George,
    In England we have had a very different kind of Health Care Service to the American model. SInce 1948 the NHS has provided free care to everyone. We pay through our tax system. In the past 20 years or so, patients have been seen as crucial to the NHS, the ideas of, quality, safety and accountability have loomed large, mainly due to the number of scandals which came to prominence at the latter end of the 20th Century and most recently in 2006 with the completely avoidable scandal of Mid Staffs, given the level of regulation which supposedly scutinizes the NHS. America however has always run its health care system as a business, and people have to take out insurance, and if they can’t afford it they don’t get treated. So it’s interesting to read your comments about empathy etc in that context. My concern is that since the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has been introduced with Section 75 competition regulations, England is sleepwalking into a privatisation of the NHS. Patients are patients generally because they are ill and need care. We have a recognised growing population of chronically ill people in England, and an increasing population of over 50’s. Patients who are desperately ill need care, if they can make choices all well and good, but in my view the NHS exists to relieve suffering in a compassionate and caring way. Empathy, kindness, accurate diagnosis, and engaged communication should be the minimum standard applied to any patient anywhere in the world, not whether they have an insurance card, or whether they have the means to pay. Customer service and choice is all well and good when you are able bodied, clear minded and have choices. I know the costs of the NHS are prohibitive and change is required, technology and digital medicine provide some cost effective solutions. What doesn’t cost is the humane attitude to the patient suffering in front of you. Yes its called empathy, kindness, compassion. It should be the DNA of any health care system. What do you think?

    • Of course, I agree. Empathy should be the DNA of the healthcare system, but like you say, healthcare (in the US) is big business. I think in general that many practitioners (MDs, RNs, RPhs) do a good job in face-to-face settings with patients. (Not all of them) But, I think that we develop physical facilities, processes, templates, systems, forms, and many others things that don’t accurately reflect human processes and the human experience. That’s where I see a lot of opportunity from my perspective.

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