Digital tools have transformed almost every aspect of our lives. With technology increasing access and efficiency, we’ve come to expect convenience and personalization in nearly every task. What used to require an in-person appointment or lengthy phone call can now be completed in a few taps of the finger. In sectors such as retail and personal finance, convenience and discretion have driven many consumers to prefer virtual services such as online shopping or personal finance to in-person services. Despite these leaps forward, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt digital tools or—perhaps even more concerning—has introduced technology without considering the emotional experience of the end user.
To date, electronic health records (EHRs) and digital health interfaces have produced poor user experiences for patients and physicians alike. These shortfalls have led to skepticism about the value of technology in healthcare more broadly. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, of the nearly 88% of patients that say their physician is using a computer-based medical record, fewer than half say that the move to EHRs has improved the quality of care they receive (45%) or the interactions with their physician (44%). And a 2018 study from Stanford Medicine found that though 63% of primary care physicians think EHRs have led to improved care, 59% think the EHR system needs a complete overhaul. Much of the failure of health technology can be attributed to limitations (time, budget, personnel, etc.) on technological development.
This vacuum creates a unique opportunity for healthcare providers to transform their service delivery with consumer-grade software. Healthcare can be the next frontier for digital technology that is seamless, responsive and powerful for both the provider and patient. Consumer-directed functions such as care coordination and care provisioning present clear opportunities—and challenges—for human-centered design.
Digital transformation, as the name suggests, refers to the integration of digital technology to solve problems and strengthen processes. And while such broad terms may feel a bit daunting, the outcome of successful digital transformation is actually quite simple: software that is both simple and pleasant to use.
Technologies within the healthcare space have been evolving for decades, but three major design and market trends have laid a foundation for organizations to integrate digital tools more effectively and efficiently than ever before:
The opportunity is clear and the resources are available, but what does this process actually look like? Drawing inspiration from the Plan-Do-Study-Act Model and the now ubiquitous design sprint, HTD’s approach to digital transformation leverages user research best practices and human-centered design principles to create digital experiences tailored to the unique needs and challenges of its audience.
Digital transformation starts with building an experience that patients and practitioners love. An engaging experience improves both physician performance and patient adherence. And in the case of digital health and care coordination, user engagement in turn creates valuable data about patient health and care delivery which can be processed to create enterprise value. The process is broken into the following phases:
There is no one-size-fits-all digital solution in healthcare. The beauty of the digital transformation process outlined above is that it produces digital tools and systems tailored to the specific needs of each organization. Digital engagement applications are transforming patients’ interactions with their healthcare providers at every point along the care continuum:
These examples represent just a few ways that digital tools are transforming primary care. As more and more providers shift toward alternative payment models, they are being held accountable for the cost of care. Such models incentivize investment in efficient care protocols with quality outcomes that can deliver higher shared savings. Digital health has the opportunity to catalyze such models. The designs of the future will give power to the patient, allowing them to take control of their health through digital and in-person experiences catered to their needs.