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A Guide to User-Centered Healthcare Software Design and Development

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

When healthcare software solutions are built without concern for the user, they often go unused. The limited value they offer does not satisfy the users and, unfortunately, the healthcare company has to abandon the software to make a better one. This not only amounts to a waste of human resources but economic resources as well. The need of the hour, therefore, is to steer healthcare software development toward being more user-centric and usable.

User-centered healthcare solutions will have more regard for user characteristics, preferences, tasks, and needs. Thus, these solutions will be able to improve productivity or user engagement, as per their purpose. The healthcare industry is transforming as the use of technology and tech-enabled solutions is increasing across healthcare institutions.

Interactive Health Technologies (IHTs) are transforming healthcare by helping manage illness and promote balanced health. By their definition, IHTs are healthcare software solutions that support interaction between an individual (patient, caregiver, or professional) and a computerized technology to monitor, access, share, and transmit information about health. These systems are human-centered and enable sharing of information, decision-making, and self-care among individuals.

However, healthcare application development for human-centered applications varies significantly from the traditional approach. Before we look at the design and development specifics of user-centered healthcare software, let’s understand why these applications have gained popularity.

Why User-Centered Healthcare Application Development is Crucial

In the current scenario, finding a healthcare application with a user-centered design is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Many industries are focusing on developing human-centric applications, but healthcare is the industry that has immense potential to realize through this approach.

Here are a few benefits of designing healthcare applications with users at the focal point of the process-

Reduce Pain Points – With a user-centered design approach, you intend to reduce the pain points and empathize with the users. In the healthcare industry, the usability of any application depends on the ability of the consumer to use it. Therefore, healthcare software solutions need to have an effortless experience, be intuitive for the users’ needs, and deliver a seamless go-through.

Enable Partnerships – As remote healthcare becomes essential for terminally ill patients, remote patient monitoring systems should create partnerships between the patient and the care provider. To enable this, we need a patient-facing app that can be easily used to relay information between the two parties continually. This ongoing monitoring enables healthcare providers to intervene in time when their patients experience complications in health.

Save Resources – Electronic Health Records today lack usability and have been in the news for getting obsolete before time. When health care systems are designed with disregard for the users, they often end up being discarded or dangerous workarounds are created to make them useful. This results in huge losses of resources in terms of the time, money, and efforts invested. However, if a healthcare software solution is developed keeping the users in mind, it leads to improving the quality of healthcare services.

If providers need to deliver consistent and quality healthcare services, it is crucial for their solutions to empathize with patients and offer solutions to the most minute of challenges.

How are User-Centered Healthcare Solutions Developed?

Human-centered healthcare software applications are developed in three distinct phases-

Discovery Phase – This phase involves research activities to understand the problem statement, the gaps in care delivery, or the inefficiencies. Healthcare providers, in this step, try and learn from patients about their most pressing challenges and experiences overall. Then, the software developers craft a mission statement or a problem statement clearly outlining what problem they will attempt to solve through their system.

Design Phase – At this stage, the design team creates ideas through sketching and other visual designing methods. Prototypes happen to be a part of this phase. These prototypes are then tested with end users for acceptance and usability testing.

Deliver Phase – Then, the implementation of the solution is transferred to the stakeholders for them to manage it over its lifetime. Also, the critical metrics are defined to help measure the impact and efficiency of the product.

The healthcare field that lagged behind in understanding the requirements of software users gains perspective throughout the development process to make the solution as close to perfect as possible. To truly meet the needs of the users and act on their concerns, healthcare organizations today need to take up user-centered development and designing proactively.

Tips to Apply Human-Centered Design Principles into Healthcare Software Development

Most recently, many healthcare organizations have begun hiring in-house designers with expertise in design thinking, as this skill has become more relevant and sought-after lately. Here are a few tips for design thinkers to implement human-centered designing into healthcare solutions-

Build Design Capacity in the Team – Onboard design thinkers who are proficient in user experience designing and human-centered design methods. Seek out design consultants and trainers if you don’t have this talent in-house. Help your team learn and practice design thinking.

Seek Inputs from Users – The best way to build a solution is to learn all about the users. Listen to patients and medical staff and understand their concerns and the challenges they face. Let this knowledge guide you in the development of your healthcare software solution. Better yet, you can invite individuals to participate as co-creators of your healthcare software, services, and products. Their presence will make sure you get the right guidance all the time and that your development efforts don’t sway.

Validate and Test – Adopt a software development approach that is rapid and iterative. This way, you can garner quick feedback from users at each step of the development cycle and make necessary changes. This would further your knowledge about the market and the users’ needs.

Usability Testing – Conduct usability tests from an early stage by building workable prototypes for your solution. This way, you will incorporate all usability features and make your solution a value-addition to its users, rather than just another application they may sideline.

As you collect information from a large group of patients, patterns emerge. The bigger picture reveals the pain points to you that are popularly faced by many patients and healthcare service users. Build a map of this data and locate where the common pain points exist. Then, bring the stakeholders into the picture.

Brings clinicians, administrators, families of patients, and everyone else together under a roof to openly discuss the challenges they face. The brainstorming and idea generation that will happen after this comprehensive data collection will lead you to nothing but a human-centric solution.

When you focus on the users throughout the process, you build healthcare software solutions that are only about the users, and nothing else.

Facilitating User-Centered Healthcare Application Development

User-centered development for healthcare needs to rely on the users’ needs. Therefore, it is advisable to use the technology that readily facilitates the designing and development of exclusive needs.

The database, connectivity, features, functionalities, UI/UX, and all other aspects depend on your vision for your software. However, the software solution must be developed according to the first customer/lead.

If you sideline the already available lead and go on developing a healthcare solution that appeals to a wider audience, you will miss out on the user-centricity you aim for. This is why, user-centricity should be the key ingredient for a successful healthcare software solution, as opposed to any technology.

If user-centered healthcare application development seems like too much for your in-house IT department, outsource your needs to a reliable healthcare software development company such as CDN Software Solutions.

With a rich experience in catering to the healthcare industry, we understand legal requirements, user experiences, and patient pain points to deliver healthcare software solutions that align with your goals.

Reach out to us for an initial consultation.