What are the UX implications of on-demand healthcare?

In this week’s #UXchat, we’re discussing on-demand healthcare. What are the implications of of having real-time data on your health, recorded, collected and accessible to both yourself and healthcare professionals?

What is the role of the UX designer in all of this? What are the benefits? What are the concerns? We took to our UX community on Twitter to ask their thoughts on the subject.

tiny yellow ambulance toy

Just in case you’re new to UXChat, here’s a little background to our weekly UX conversation where you can rub virtual shoulders with some of the most knowledgeable ‘UXperts’ on the planet, every Thursday at 4pm.

This week’s conversation was hosted by Michelle Matthews, former social worker and current UX designer for the Heal app. We’ll get to Michelle’s and the UX community’s own comments about the role of healthcare apps in our always-connected lives soon, but first, let’s get a few important questions out of the way for newbies.

What is on-demand healthcare?

Much like every other service and industry in the 21st century, there’s a significant movement to make the healthcare sector digital-first – where users can access a range of health services from their computer, mobile or wearable, and get real-time advice, consultations and medicine at their own convenience. You may also see this referred to as ‘healthcare to-go’ or ‘telemedicine’.

According to Accenture, investment in on-demand healthcare has quadrupled from $250 million to $1 billion in 2017, with two of the top 10 highest funded on-demand companies in the healthcare sector. The report also reveals that there were 42 on-demand healthcare companies in 2014 compared to just four in 2010.

Table of most funded on-demand services

Examples of companies ‘disrupting’ the healthcare industry include Echo, a UK service offering repeat prescriptions without the need of a GP appointment, Teladoctor, a US videoconferencing app that provides on-demand remote medical care and DispatchHealth, a Denver company that sends medical professionals direct to people’s homes.

But away from the rollercoaster extravagance of venture capitalism, what is the real impact of on-demand healthcare on the human using the app? What do UX professionals need to think about when designing on-demand healthcare? And how should this incredibly sensitive data be handled?

Let’s take a look at what our community of UXers had to say…

How is the on-demand movement impacting the user experience of healthcare?

What areas of the traditional healthcare landscape are in desperate need of improving through digital transformation and putting users’ needs ahead of any other concern?

Appointments

Booking an appointment to see a GP in the UK is an increasingly complex task. Many surgeries don’t offer advance bookings over the telephone, but will offer limited slots if you call up the morning on the day you want to be seen. Sometimes booking an appointment to see your GP is half the battle in receiving care.

Accessibility

With many of the apps mentioned in the introduction, a lot of on-demand healthcare services are about delivering care directly to people’s homes. But this convenience is rendered pointless if the app or website isn’t usable for people with a range of needs or abilities.

The unbearable remoteness of being seen

Sure, telemedicine gets you in front of a professional in a quicker, more convenient way. But it’s still only virtual, and a remote doctor won’t be able to touch your clammy forehead or take your temperature.

One answer to this might be the use of a specific wearable that monitors certain vital signs and sends this information direct to your consulting healthcare professional.

But will you need this 24/7, and not just for a period of unwellness? Also, what if you just don’t want to monitor your health constantly and endure the various anxieties this can bring?

What about the NHS?

For those of us who still hold this country’s free, but constantly beleaguered, healthcare system close to our hearts, there’s the worry that so much private healthcare innovation will leave the NHS even more under-funded and under-valued.

There is hope for the NHS. As Rob Whiting points out, the NHS has a digital strategy in place, which seeks to bring the whole organisation up to date.

What are the implications of users owning their health data?

Going back to the earlier point about wearables, and how we use our own personal health data, we asked the UX community about the responsibilities companies have in using this information.

How to present health data?

Mira Nair then brings up an important point, all of this data is all well and good, but how to present it to people without medical degrees in a manner that’s accessible, useful and not panic inducing?

Autonomy of choice

Access to our own health data is incredibly important, as is the freedom of choice of what we then do with that information. Then there’s a wider ethical question around what happens to that information if we become unable to use it and need someone else to make health decisions on our behalf.

How can UX designers ensure digital healthcare experiences still feel human?

Ultimately it all comes down to what’s best for the individual, and no matter what the route, as long as access to treatment is fast, reliable and safe, then whether you’re seeing a GP face-to-face or via teleconferencing, the outcome should be the same: better health.

However, what about the important off-textbook aspect of healthcare that we haven’t discussed yet… the bedside manner? How do we ensure people are still experiencing the same care and attention in a virtual manner?

UX isn’t just for patients

What are the considerations when designing the UX of on-demand apps for doctors and other healthcare professionals?

Chatbots

Perhaps a solution for talking to patients and administering healthcare advice, that doesn’t strain resources, is the chatbot. As I described in a rather cynical swipe at chabots a couple of months ago, a chatbot is a rule-based computer program that mimics human conversation with the user. Although I barely trust a chatbot to deliver my pizza to the right address, so I’m not sure how I feel about diagnosing the severity of a medical condition.

But hey, if all this digital transformation of the healthcare sector leads to nothing else but clearer, legible doctors’ notes, then all will be worthwhile.

Thanks so much for everyone who took part in #UXchat this week. Please follow us and tune into Twitter every Thursday at 4pm for more insightful UX based discussion.

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Main image by Zhen Hu.

Christopher Ratcliff
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager of WhatUsersDo. He’s also the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy and editor Search Engine Watch.

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