Digital HealthMobile Health

Can Human-Centered Design Help Create Better Digital Health Solutions?

By Kathy Azeez-Narain, Chief Digital Officer, Hoag

Health care institutions have traditionally focused on sick care, which means that we serve most of our patients through our physical locations and when they need us. The role of technology traditionally has been around what the institutions want vs. what patients need.

As tools such as Telehealth, AI, automation, RPM, and Mobile Health take center stage, the need for integration of Human-Centered Design is now necessary. Simply plugging in software or digital tools is not enough since they do not take the user perspective into account. Enabling seamless digital journeys into health systems requires us to solve the right problems that consumers face in the current traditional model.

Focusing on the reality of what health care looks like today and solving for the ideal experience through the lens of the consumer will ensure that we find the true problems that need to be solved. How do we bring convenience, speed, accessibility, and choice to the forefront? What is the experience in health care that people will expect or be delighted by? How do we support sick care and spotlight preventative care? How do we build relationships with consumers beyond one-time visits, with holistic care in mind? How do we get into their doors vs. only asking them to come to ours?

At Hoag’s Digital Organization, we start defining the problem/s vs. simply going after what everyone says is the next big health tech.

Digital will be central to answering the above questions, especially as we focus on where it fits into a unified health care journey. It is the reason we need to design a digital ecosystem that is interoperable and offers services like virtual health, choice of care, speed, and accessibility to top doctors in the nation while leveraging foundational technology tools like telemedicine, mobile, and AI. These need to be part of the toolkit that creates a best-in-class health journey for consumers. Instead of interactions based on Hospital IT systems and EMRs, we need to focus on guiding our patients through an experience where physical, virtual, and digital journeys are employed at the right moments to create lifelong partnerships.

How does Human-Centered Design play into this? At Hoag’s Digital Organization, we start defining the problem/s vs. simply going after what everyone says is the next big health tech. We take those problem statements, ideate, and co-create with physicians, consumers, and patients on the ideal experiences to solve them. We are not just plugging in technology but ensuring that any digital tools we bring in, design, or build fit the problem solution.

One example of this is our focus on mothers. The pregnancy/parenting market is already very saturated with digital offerings, but this demographic is responsible for making many health decisions across their entire family unit. To better understand if there was an opportunity here, we immersed ourselves with this consumer segment.

From survey studies to in-depth user research sessions, we set out to understand if there were gaps in the marketplace. Through that research and time spent with this group, we unlocked key insights around parts of the women’s health journey that were missing, and areas they were struggling with. With those insights, we started to design products from their perspective outwards vs. simply finding ways to solve with the systems tied around the hospital. We wanted to design around those systems but with an eye on what the experience truly needed to be for us to solve the problems that the moms had identified. Those ideation sessions led to a deep understanding of the journey women have with health care systems and we found the areas that, if improved, would have the most positive impact on their experience with us as a health care organization. We were no longer only focused on highlighting the services we provide. Instead, we were also focused on designing experiences and digital tools that would help the moms have a deeper relationship with us and drive improved health outcomes.

These concepts and products are digital-first solutions, and central to their success is the human connection and expertise that providers bring to the table. Technology is intertwined into that journey as the mechanism to enable that dialogue and care provided. It is deeply tied to solving the problem from the consumer/patient point of view vs. strictly the organization’s. We accept the foundational value of EMRs but understand that winning the relationship with consumers is not about “logging into your patient portal” but more tied to serving up the experience you need at the moment in a seamless way that thinks about you, the person trying to get answers.

The process of going deep with our patients who are mothers and co-designing solutions with them and our physicians allowed us to build digital products that can stick in the marketplace. The digital strategy is centered around being the patient vs. assuming for the patient. That way, we are designing experiences and building digital solutions that are less about what we want and more around what the end-user wants.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this “We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.”

– Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute

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