Designing for healthcare can force you to rethink everything you thought you knew about how people behave. The industry’s dense thicket of lawyers, privacy regulations, and outdated technology is easily the most frustrating part of a designer’s job – but it also creates opportunities. And the chance to improve on the way healthcare is delivered is hugely motivating. Exhilarating, even.
These are a few of the conclusions drawn by the designers who recently spoke about what their jobs in healthcare mean to them. Hosted in San Francisco by Opower, Design for Good panelists included:
- Moderator David Webster, who led IDEO’s global Health & Wellness practice
- Jesse Silver, VP of Product for Omada Health, which focuses on promoting healthy behavioral changes
- Susan Dybbs, Head of Design at Collective Health, which works to improve employer-sponsored health insurance
- Laura Martini, Director of Product Design for Counsyl
The group weighed in a number of topics, including how to create a user-centered experience in a world where the fax machine can still call the shots, and how design can benefit in a mission-driven company culture.
If attendance is any indication, design in healthcare is a hot topic. Nearly 150 people packed the event. “It’s refreshing hearing from other designers facing the same kinds of challenges we are,” says Martini. “Many of the ‘best practices’ in design – like short onboarding flows or clever website animations – don’t make sense in medicine. Working in this space gives you a chance to reinvent what good design looks like.”
Below are a few clips from the event.
What challenges are specific to designing for healthcare?
No designer can work effectively to improve health care without first becoming familiar with the regulatory environment. Developing an understanding of everything from HIPAA, to FDA requirements, to insurance coding is simply part of the job. The result can be a pace that’s “a little bit slow-moving at times,” says Jesse Silver.
But challenges can also turn out to be opportunities. Martini talked about Counsyl’s decision to improve healthcare delivery by taking on the industry’s price transparency problem.
Says Martini, “It shouldn’t take Silicon Valley engineers and a lot of time and resources and years of effort to be able to give patients a simple answer to the question, ‘How much will this cost me?’”
What can users teach us about designing for healthcare?
In a world where technology is helping businesses everywhere achieve frictionless transactions, it can be a struggle for designers to keep in mind that’s not what always works in healthcare. Sometimes patients reject slicker and faster in favor of deeper relationships with a company, as Jesse Silver’s team discovered in the course of working with diabetics to make healthy lifestyle changes.
“We have people calling up to tell us they want the onboarding process to be longer because they want us to understand them,” says Silver.
And in many clinics the fax machine is still a critical part of clinical workflow, says Martini, which means “you have to design fax-first.” In healthcare, it’s about facilitating human-to-human interaction and not just coming up with solutions to enabling technology.
How can the desire to make the world a better place fuel good design?
Each designer on the panel noted the advantages that come from working for a mission-driven company. They credited the “desire to make the world a better place,” in Martini’s words, for not only inspiring designers but for creating a corporate culture that supports good design.
“Designers, I think, by nature are passionate and usually driven by some mission,” says Jesse Silver. “And so, if they’re aligned with your mission, then design flows more smoothly throughout the entire organization.”
Design for Good: Rethinking Healthcare
If you’ve got time, grab some popcorn and check out the entire event.