5 min read

Designing a better patient experience using experience design

Most healthcare organizations completely neglect the advantages of good user experience design. They are unable to look beyond improving health outcomes. However in this age of a digital savvy customer base, that is aware of their own medical condition and wants to be involved in their own treatment, modern medical care needs to go over and above just providing simple treatments and improve the overall patient experience. 

What is ‘patient experience’?

Patient experience is the entire journey that patients go through from the time they call the hospital or clinic to book an appointment, till the time they receive their prescription and need to communicate with the doctors. When patients have an enjoyable experience, they are more likely to be loyal to that particular healthcare provider.  

How can UX design help healthcare organizations design better patient experience?

Due to poor user experience, patients may drop off at different points during their patient journey. This can result in poor adherence to their medication and poor efficacy overall. When prescribed medication, oftentimes patients fail to take it on time and exactly how it has been prescribed due to complicated instructions and many other factors. Some key areas where medication non-adherence has been seen are;

  1. The patient fails to fill their first prescription and buy the medicines
  2. They do not understand their physicians instructions
  3. They start to feel better and feel that they no longer need to take the medicine. 
  4. The patient feels that the medicine is not working
  5. They forget to refill the prescription
  6. They forget about their illness

Four principles of UX Design that can improve patient experience:

1. Flexible communication or elasticity

This principle refers to how flexible the communication from the hospital is. Often, patients are asked for a lot of unnecessary information at the time they register and asked to repeat this information time and time again. This leads to patients feeling extremely frustrated and also a lot of delay in the dissemination of their treatment. Using UX principles, healthcare organizations can create a quick form on an app that only asks for the patient’s critical information as and when it is needed. 

Another common pain point that patients experience is that they need to go to many different places to get the information that they need. If the healthcare organization creates one single app that can update its status as and when the patient completes their appointment, so that they know exactly what to do at each step, their hassle of trying to remember complex instructions will get reduced.  

2. Saving time or ease

A common reason for a lot of the dissatisfaction that patients experience is the complexity of their entire journey. They are asked to go through several different touch-points to even get the most basic information. By shifting the entire experience online, patients can save a lot of wastage of time and unnecessary hassle. An online app can help patients complete their entire user journey in one place. From the time of creating an appointment to checking in, flexible time slots, seeing their spot in the queue, to being able to access their entire medical records, and even granting the access to their primary healthcare provider to being able to quickly chat with their physician for an queries, these facilities are great time-savers and providing patients with these features will provide them a lot of ease. 

3. Good UX increases empathy for a patient

UX design, when done well, can make patients feel supported in their healthcare journey. As a rule of thumb, we can assume that medical treatment can be extremely distressing for patients. And by lessening the complications of having to undergo these treatments, the organization looks a lot more empathetic towards its patients. Apart from the methods mentioned above like elasticity and ease, there are some more ways that healthcare organizations can adopt to show their empathy towards patients. The app can also offer patients access to a community of people with similar conditions as them, where they can discuss similar queries. This is a valuable feature that many patients will find useful.

4. Streamlines processes and increase efficiency

An app created using UX principles will ultimately help streamline processes. By streamlining their processes, healthcare organizations are able to increase productivity and ultimately also be able to bring down unnecessary costs. The platform will become a single destination for patients for all relevant and useful information pertaining to them. 

How can we design a more effective patient experience?

As we’ve identified already, there are several reasons why patients are unable to complete their prescriptions. The root cause for all of these reasons can be traced back to human psychology and how human behavior affects how patients perceive their own health. By adapting an experience first approach, healthcare organizations can motivate patients to effectively complete their prescriptions, thereby increasing medication adherence and effectiveness.

To take an experience first approach, organizations firstly need to create patient personas that represent their biggest patient segments. Once the target demographic is identified, organizations will need to look at their patients from a non-clinical perspective. This includes basic demographic clusters like gender, age, sexual orientations and also their interests, needs, desires, motivations, fears etc. By doing this organizations will be able to better understand the reasons for patients being unable to complete their prescriptions and also how organizations can be more empathetic towards their patient’s journeys. 

Once the patient personas have been identified, the next step would be to create an illustrative patient journey map from the time patients first realize they need medical assistance, to the time they need to refill their prescription. This is helpful to understand the context of why patients drop off at certain parts of the journey and prioritize finding solutions for the pain points that can be easily solved for. Organizations should redesign the journeys in ways that will minimize patient dependence or need for patient intervention to increase effectiveness. 

Finally organizations can use divergent thinking to completely innovate and re-design the patient experience in ways that will be more empathetic, less time consuming and a lot more effective. A better patient experience will ultimately lead to higher conversions and highly loyal users for the organization.

Sonakshi Kochhar