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Date: April 2019

Technology is now rapidly transforming doctors and patients engagement

Technology is now rapidly transforming doctors and patients engagement

Booking a doctor’s appointment or buying medicines is now as simple as ordering a pizza. The growing adoption of smartphones, multiple connectivity options, and penetration of the internet - 3G and 4G and the continued flow of investment into the digital health market have boosted the mobile health app market. As of 2018, over 318,000 health apps are available on some of the top app stores worldwide. This is nearly double what it was in 2015, and nearly 200 such apps are now added each day.

Technology is now rapidly transforming from virtually connecting doctors with patients to creating a seamless experience for the patients in times of need.

This next level of user experience will call for real-time coordination between multiple parties to ensure a seamless hospitalization experience for the patients. For instance, UK-based Coordinate My Care took this experience to a whole new level by letting patients with the life-limiting disease develop a personalized urgent care plan to be shared electronically with all the agencies and professionals involved. This includes the ambulance service providers, social care agencies, and the administration. It helps the patients select the place of their choice to spend with their loved ones in the crucial last few moments of their lives.

Develop partner ecosystem for a seamless patient experience

In May 2018, a heart was transported from the Indira Gandhi International Airport to a hospital in just 11 minutes, covering a distance of 13 kilometers in a prime example of proper coordination between the patient, authorities, and the hospital. Imagine how seamless this entire process can be made with high-end technology in place, helping save lives. Further, these new-age health apps are taking the user experience a step ahead by being useful to the users not just when they need health guidance but aid further in their daily lives. These apps integrate with new-age innovations such as Google Glass, Smartwatches, Fitness trackers, etc., to create an end-to-end experience for a user and make the health data records available anytime and in the desired format.

How is this being achieved?

UX design must-have in a healthcare app. Seven things to keep in mind while designing a health app are:

Dynamic user base
Designing healthcare UI/UX is more challenging than enterprise-based B2B or B2C apps. In the healthcare apps ecosystem, the customer can be the healthcare payers (insurance companies), healthcare providers (hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors), or patients. Hence, a “one-size-fits-all” model does not work here. Explicit user needs must be met. Empathy is thus a key to solve this. Keeping users at the center of any design and function will help cater to a dynamic user base. An important thing to keep in mind is that the overall visual design of the application should be such that it soothes and calm the user. Colors, icons, and flow play a major role in this. For instance, some studies show that the perception of color changes with age.

The new-age health apps must understand that today’s users are conscious about their well-being and do not hold back when it comes to sharing this with their peers. As a designer, it is important to understand the physiological triggers to make an app engaging. This means focusing on intrinsic motivation. The need to keep coming back to the app should reflect the clear objective behind it. Personalized tracking settings, records, profiles, and tally, challenges, are ways to sustain the user’s motivation. Gamification is another interesting touchpoint of design.

Not just simple, an app also needs to be efficient and be able to execute complex functions in minimal time and interactions (touch, clicks, or pages). The users no longer want to see technical calculations but useful personalized insights into their well-being. A designer needs to have crisp information architecture to create an intuitive workflow. This way, the user can quickly arrive at their desired task in an app, which should not have any learning curve. In order to make a workflow intuitive as well as self-guided enough, CTA buttons, search meta-tags, and controls should grab the user’s attention, be touch-friendly, and be aligned to GUI mobile guidelines. Moreover, apps are changing how data is represented by using visualization techniques that help users understand complex health data better without external support.

The simpler the design, the better the app is - this is a basic rule of thumb for apps, especially health-based apps. These apps linked to our daily life can achieve their objective only when they are simple to understand and operate. Simplification can also take specialized medical solutions to another level. For example, apps that cater to users with sensory impairments or those who lack technical knowledge should be designed with simple features. Consistency in workflow with less or no learning curve is essential every time.

While doing user research, it is important to understand the app ecosystem. If any clinical charting or prescription is to be recommended, a medical practitioner must be involved in functionality and feature testing to create a reliable solution. This, in turn, will enable the doctors to make informed decisions based on the patient’s recent medical history. Hence, accuracy in healthcare-based apps should be of utmost importance, as a user is dependent on the results.

Data protection
The user stores health vitals on the app, which are sensitive personal information and cannot be misused in any form. Hence, this should align with the anticipated draft Data Protection Bill 2018, which mandates companies to store users’ data held by local and global firms within India and be processed within the country only. To enable this, the app should have relevant cybersecurity systems in place to tackle any privacy threats.

Approvals from governing bodies
The app should also follow the required compliances of the local and international medical and legal bodies. For example - a fitness assistant app will not require an FDA, but the same used for clinical testing would require passing some compliances. Or, if the app is interpreting data and complex information to start critical actions, it would require legal compliances. It should also be in sync with the standards proposed in the Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA) which seeks to create regulatory authorities, both at the Centre and state government level. While it would require certain modifications in the app, complying effectively with the law of the land will help in its faster proliferation and adoption.

Hence, keeping in mind all these factors in mind while creating a healthcare app will ensure a robust technological infrastructure that revolutionizes the way patients interact with healthcare providers. A good UX design itself can further boost the adoption of health-based mobile apps to areas, technologies, and segments yet to be explored. Be it a doctor consultancy app, diagnostic app, health tracker app, or a medicine e-com app - a designer must understand the requisites of a healthcare app as enlisted above.

The author is a senior UX designer with Tata Elxsi.