Healthcare IT must embrace behavioral science in order to create better UX

22 February 2017
Healthcare is not exactly at the forefront when it comes to user experience, Lorraine Chapman, senior director of healthcare at Macadamian (a UX design & development firm), said at the HIMSS17 UX Forum. Patients are put-off by impersonal-feeling portals, healthcare providers are frustrated by ungainly user interfaces and counterintuitive workflows.

At the half-day HIMSS17 UX Forum, designers, developers, clinicians and patient advocates put their heads together to find ways to create technology that's not just usable but "delightful" – for caregivers ánd patients, Healthcare IT News writes. In this respect a lot can be learned from UX leaders such as Apple and Disney to create impactful and lasting demand for their products.

That was one of the main conclusions made by Chapman, Kyra Bobinet, MD, CEO of engagedIN (her neuroscience behaviour design firm) and Rick Starbuck, senior vice president of product and experience design at Change Healthcare.

To many clicks

According to past HIMSS surveys, clinical documentation and nursing tools have shown significant problems with UX: too many clicks required by EHRs, poor templates that affect data quality, difficulty in communicating context and reasoning and design-hampered challenges with workflow and care-coordination.

Bobinet sees two two components for good UX. The more basic one being not to tick people of, the more advanced one is to elicit delight when using technology based healthcare tools.  Chapman adds that smart UX strategies save IT vendors from wasted product development cycles, and ensure that what they produce is meeting a need. The user must be put at the center of the (design) framework, considering their emotional needs, workflow requirements and more. 

Bobinet believes that the human element is most often missing in experience design, especially as we lean more on technology. "The brain hasn't developed for chatbots and apps. So if I'm going to drive value, I'm going to have to nail this emotional design." Specific regulation often make this a challenge in healthcare IT, where product development for clinical systems is often hamstrung by federal certification checklists.

Too much focus on solutions

There are three main components to product development, said Starbuck: needs, solutions and validation. A lot of companies focus in the middle, and miss the needs and validation parts. Another key to doing better, is to embrace behavioural science, Bobinet stated. "When you know where the brain is going to go, you don't have to spend so much time guessing or iterating.”

In this respect, behavior science is the new wave of design. "It's the third leg of the stool. It's not enough to just do market research and segmentation of personas. You have to start with the science."