April 24, 2024

Beyond Aesthetics: The Critical Role of Design in Healthcare Innovation

Design Principles
Good Design
UX Design

Them: “Why do you even need design in healthcare platforms? Isn’t it supposed to be simple and functional?” 

Us: “EXACTLY!!!”

In the healthcare industry, “functionality” has often been confused. You’d think the more features, the better… right? This kind of thinking has resulted in the market being cluttered with complex, feature-heavy platforms that are unintuitive and impossible to use! 

Design, on the other hand, is treated as something that's an accessory rather than a necessity. Something that is just for the aesthetics. But what if we tell you that the key to revolutionising healthcare is not the features but the design that delivers these features?

In this blog, we discuss how UX practices, when used in design, can help reduce the complexity of the platforms without removing important features or dumbing down the interface. 

Such practices will especially help greatly impact the quality of healthcare platforms that have been in high demand post the COVID-19 pandemic.

So sit back and relax as we break down the secrets of designing fantastic hospital management platforms from our very own experiences! 

1. Journey Mapping FTW!

A Hospital Management Platform is used by several people- doctors, receptionists, nurses, administrative staff, laboratory staff and so on. It is not like Uber, where you press a couple of buttons, and you’re on your way!

In order to visualise the interaction of this diverse range of users with the platform, Journey Mapping can be done. This process helps us understand the user's needs, pain points, and preferences at each touchpoint, allowing us to design a user-centric platform that meets those needs effectively. 

Such processes are the reason behind developing features like multi-function search boxes that can make navigation easier and specialised dashboards that can streamline the workflow. 

2. Smart Integration

We cannot expect our users (like doctors, technical staff etc.) to remember truckloads of information about the patients and their ongoing updates. Having them use a different platform for every other purpose is also not sustainable. 

Thus, it is wise to integrate useful features like the pharmacy purchase history of patients to help the doctors understand where the patients lie in their therapeutic journey. Options to view diagnoses done by other doctors or test results performed by labs should also be integrated in order to facilitate better collaboration between doctors. 

Additionally, to make the platform familiar to patients, gamification features can be integrated to record their progress, like taking pills on time, daily blood pressure etc. (taking into consideration the regional regulations regarding data storage, of course!)

3. Play Smartly with the Complexity

After 10 years of medical college, we still fry our beloved doctors’ brains with complex interfaces? That’s not fair, is it? Since the doctors are not very tech-savvy, it is important to make the platform onboarding platform easy and reduce the overall complexity. Videos, tutorials and clickable prompts can be incorporated to make this process smoother. 

On the contrary, assistants or technicians who often perform tasks like entry-making and operations are well-trained in using complex softwares. Thus, the platform complexity can be tuned based on who is using it. 

4. Terrible Tables 

If you ask medical professionals about the things they hate about data organisation, lengthy tables are going to be at the top of that list! Enabling these users to scan through these tables in just a blink would save them a lot of time. This can be done using coloured tags, icons and profile pictures. 

Moreover, UI Accelerators can be used to speed up the user workflow. For eg: Side panels are very useful in viewing additional information about something, or making quick edits in data without losing context. It can also help users easily jump from one section to another instead of having to go through a lot of data.  

As designers, we also find innovative ways (other than tables) to organise and represent data. For example, while designing a Cancer EMR platform, our team at Fluidesigns devised a method to precisely indicate the location of lumps. Rather than relying on conventional text entry fields, we introduced pencil and marker tools that allowed users to visually mark these positions directly on anatomical diagrams of the human body!

5. Frantic Forms

Now, something that gets on the patients’ and the doctors’ nerves are multiple…long…tedious…forms. 

To make this easier on the patients’ end, our team decided to categorise related forms together so that patients don’t get overwhelmed just by their seemingly countless number. 

When designing forms, it's essential to follow an iterative process because the best design isn't typically achieved in the first attempt. Through designing multiple forms, patterns emerge, allowing for a defined structure! Consistency, of course, is the key to ensuring usability and efficiency.

It's also crucial to highlight the collaboration between UX designers and medical professionals in crafting these forms and the platform as a whole. This partnership ensures the use of accurate terminology, adherence to guidelines, and maintenance of standards.

6. Be Inclusive 

Healthcare platforms must be designed in a way such that they are accessible to all. Following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to cater to the needs of people with disabilities, thus, becomes our responsibility and a non-negotiable measure. 

Including features like a screen reader, keyboard navigation, customisable contrast of text, editable font size, etc., will always go a long way! 

7. Scalability is the Secret

Say you have developed a platform for a Heart Specialty Hospital, and they open a new Lung Specialty division in the hospital; would you go around creating a new platform from scratch to accommodate this need? You probably won’t, right? 

Thus, the platforms we create must be versatile, such that with few changes, they can easily be used by varying departments and divisions. Another example where Fluidesigns bagged a design-gold star was when we designed a Cancer EMR platform that was versatile enough to store and organise data for various subtypes of Cancer and could be modified on demand. 

In the realm of healthcare design, simplicity breeds success! Let's fuse functionality with finesse, creating platforms that speak volumes with their ease of use. By promoting inclusivity, collaboration, and innovation, we're shaping a future where healthcare is seamless and accessible to all. Let's keep designing with purpose and passion, transforming experiences one click at a time!