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Building User-Centered Healthcare Applications
Nearly all countries in the world have large, complex healthcare systems. Science marches forward, and these services will become even more substantial. As the systems grow, their nuts and bolts multiply until everything becomes too cumbersome. Steeped in their bureaucracy, they turn increasingly inwards. More often than not, the patient feels neglected.
If anything is to improve, we need to go back to basics. Whom is healthcare supposed to serve? The patient, of course. Improving their experience thus becomes crucial for progress. In the digital age, user-centered healthcare applications can help practitioners with that. They can save time, money, and even lives if designed well.
What are user-centered apps?
To explain their purpose, we have to go beyond the world of healthcare for a minute. What exactly are user-centered apps? They are software that follows the user-centered design (UCD) principles, which put the end user at the center of product development. In short, you need to build the software around the individual, not around the company or its management.
It’s possible to achieve all this by carefully researching and noting the user’s requirements, objectives, and feedback. An attentive ear and an eye for detail are of paramount importance. It’s not an easy feat. Sometimes, it takes more time to gather information than to build the actual app. This is the only way to create truly user-oriented software — and user-centered healthcare. Examples of successful implementation include systems for monitoring cancer patients as well as streamlining care management.
An application delivering value to its users must be built on four fundamental principles. Those are:
- Involve the users from the get-go. It’s the only way to ensure that the software serves its purpose.
- Align business requirements and end-user needs. Find a way to strike a balance and ensure both sides are on the same page.
- Set up a user-feedback loop. Make interviewing and testing a regular practice. Collect and analyze on the go.
- Make the design process iterative. Introduce changes gradually. Continue transforming and improving.
A common way of creating software is a five-stage process first introduced by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. It prompts the developer to:
- Empathize with the end user.
- Define the goals.
- Ideate the solution.
- Create a prototype.
- Test and gather feedback.
This method lets you understand the use context and fully define user requirements. Only then can you proceed to design, always remembering to evaluate the results against initially noted end-user needs? Once you get the hang of it, the method lets you streamline the whole process – and repeat it for as long as necessary.
Why is user-centered healthcare essential?
So why is all this necessary? Why can’t things be like they were in the good old days? It’s not like anything has changed. It’s not like we’ve had a massive global pandemic… Oh, wait. We have. Now, more than ever, it’s apparent that we can’t wallpaper over the cracks. More efficient, user-centered healthcare has become a dire need. There are several reasons for this.
An aging population is the first one. The average life expectancy in the US is 76.1 years. The number has climbed to 80.9 in the UK. Length, however, doesn’t always mean quality of life. As people age, they require more help. Furthermore, many young people are living with disabilities and chronic health problems.
Lastly, our retail-oriented society has created a generation used to a customer-centered approach. People expect good quality care. They want to be active and informed participants in the decisions about their health.
What are the benefits?
User-centered healthcare can address the issues mentioned above. A well-designed system can cover simple and complex procedures. It saves time for healthcare professionals, increasing their productivity and allowing them to accomplish more tasks.
After the initial investment, this type of software also becomes a cost-effective tool. It can be built from scratch or integrated into existing systems. In the case of private healthcare, the better it performs, the more the stakeholders will see it as a safe bet.
Speaking of safety, user-centered apps can also provide it for the patient. Long-distance consultations are but one of the many options that have proven useful during the pandemic. Constant monitoring of vital stats can benefit those suffering from diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer.
Obstacles to creating user-centered Healthcare
The challenges in development and implementation in healthcare aren’t altogether different from those encountered in other areas. You need time to set the wheels in motion and introduce any improvement, especially in large hospitals. Studies, surveys, discussions, and research can take months or even years. This can, in turn, incur substantial costs.
Add the logistics of coordinating different programming languages and staff training to the mix, and you almost want to give up. Should you? Not. Just prepare well.
It’s worth it
Ultimately, the outcome depends on the development team’s decisions. As long as you can prioritize the needs of those the system is supposed to serve, the goal should be within reach. Building user-centered healthcare brings together the efficiency of smart working and the empathy of a truly people-focused approach.
This journey emphasizes the user as a resource in creating usable programs. All you need to do is leverage the information you can access easily. Connect to and get the most out of those you wish to serve. It’s the best way to improve results, boost performance, and establish credibility.