Originally posted on the Emmi Patient Engagement Blog: http://www.emmisolutions.com/blog/2015/03/04/designing-healthcare-solutions-with-patients-in-mind
Many of the experiences we face as patients in the healthcare system are not user-friendly. Instead, we face an overwhelming number of barriers in a confusing system. But, there are many ways technology has made this easier and has empowered us to take a more active role in our health. We can use apps to track our calories, we can refill our prescriptions on our iPad, and we can even get on-demand access to a personal health coach. These hardly scratch the surface of how technology is changing and will continue to change our experiences with healthcare.
Not only do these solutions make our experiences with healthcare less overwhelming, they often make it easier for us to understand and engage with our health. Behind all of these innovative solutions, you will find a user experience designer -- someone who has identified a problem in the world and worked to make it easier to accomplish. At the core, this is what a user-experience designer is passionate about: understanding problems people face, and finding great solutions to solve them.
When addressing some of the most difficult challenges patients face in healthcare, user experience designers consider an array of issues that patients might experience. But could we be more effective if we got this input from patients directly?
Better Tech Experiences from User Input
To approach these challenges, some firms are getting patient input in new ways. IDEO, an award winning design firm based in Palo Alto, has been designing thoughtful experiences and solutions for many different sectors, especially healthcare. Beginning with the first computer mouse for Apple – now the company develops a variety of projects: from redesigning heart defibrillators andcreating online birth control support networks, to designing headbands to keep us mindful. Part of their success lies in the fact that they actively seek out the advice and input of real patients. Most recently, the team acquired the valuable skills of their newest designer, 91 year old Barbara Beskind.
Barbara Beskind has been working at IDEO for 2 years; she comes in once a week on Thursdays to the Silicon Valley office, equipped with a walker and eyewear she designed herself. While in the office Barbara says she feels “30 years younger” and finally gets to live out her dream of becoming an inventor. She’s able to bring her perspective into their understanding of healthcare, and gives indispensable insight on the development of products for the aging. For Barbara’s full story, check out her coverage on USA Today and her recent story on NPR’s All Things Considered.
In technology, no matter if we’re designing for elderly, middle aged, or young patients, it’s important to remember to integrate perspective from our own experience as patients while continuing to consider the unique experiences of others. When Beskind’s in the room, the young IDEO designers think differently as Barbara helps bring real perspective to their ideas. Her life of experience as a nurse, an inventor, and a 91 year old all help to give insight into the product development that wasn’t there before. With her guidance, the young designers ultimately make products that work better for the patients they aim to help.
The critically important part of building any kind of healthcare solution is to get the feedback and input of those that will use it. This in turn will result in better products that make a real impact in the lives of people. We can’t design in a vacuum, and we need to know how people want to use a product before we can perfect it. Barbara Beskind and the IDEO team are doing inspiring work that all user experience designers can look up to. I will be happy if I can continue to design things that improve our world when I'm 91.