3 Key Elements of UX in Health Apps

The biggest transformation in medicine since Stone Age is happening right now. And UX is leading the way.

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For the first time patients are active decision makers and healthcare industry needs to treat them as partners or deal with the consequences. And although all lights are on data science and its impact on diagnostics, the dark horse of modern healthcare is User Experience Design.

After many years of investing in internal software for hospitals and medical professionals, a huge new market opened a while ago for health app and software development in B2C (business-to-consumer, or rather healthcare-to-patient).

And it will only grow — World Health Organization calculated the cost of not taking action to address the spread of noncommunicable diseases — 7 trillion dollars in 20 years. And unhealthy consumer decisions are mostly to be blamed.

When you first sit to design a new UX for a health product or service, the task might seem daunting. The typical models implemented in B2C strategies won’t be of much help, as they’re usually not intended for highly regulated industries.

What should you focus on then? Three elements: emotions, accessibility and going omnichannel.

In no other industry businesses have to deal with such a wide spectrum of emotions, from indifference to preventive activities to panic in case of emergency. And the field bubble doesn’t help.

How to prepare: for each step check what most popular search engines have to say.

When patients are confused and don’t know who to trust, search engines always have an easy answer. If this wasn’t bad enough, tough legal restrictions in advertising and marketing agency of health care make it even harder to debunk lies and half-truths.

Recommended tools:

Recent years brought some significant changes to how healthcare operates. It’s no longer a typical nine to five enterprise with an exception for emergencies but 24/7 full service. For example Moms and Health Technology Survey shows that what mothers need most is round the clock access to a doctor.

With an abundance of health products and services from unconfirmed sources we didn’t have to wait long for an answer from the real experts. Public administration and medical organizations are embracing this trend, too. NHS decided to partner with app developers to address insufficient access to mental help in a more teenagers-friendly manner. And American Academy of Pediatrics published a collection of apps that help parents take care of their kids’ health.

Recommended tools:

  • Consumer Barometer — in words of its creators it is “a tool to help you understand how people use the Internet across the world”.
  • Public Data Explorer — another Google tool that helps you understand public data through year-on-year animated charts.

Patient experience before digital transformation was limited to two channels: medical facilities or pharmacies. So the relations were mostly linear, controlled and top-down. Fast forward to today and health care industry has to deal with the multiplication of available channels — from traditional to mobile platforms.

It’s not only about connecting the new digital tools with traditional brick-and-mortar services, though.

When it comes to the impact on our health-related decisions, social media start playing a significant role:

The key learning for UX designers here is that we need to address differences in trust levels among various channels. As shown, when in doubt, patients tend to trust in those who are valued members of our social circles rather than cold-hearted professionals.

But it’s not only about strong emotional bonds. Social media play also a big role in the creation of support structures between patients. Doctors also see the advantages of participating in social media, especially when it comes to the implementation of lifestyle changes that need constant reinforcement.

Recommended tools:

  • healthsites.io — for researching brick-and-mortat healthcare services around the world
  • your go-to bot addon — for creating frictonless experiences also among conversation-first platforms

For the first time health care industry has to work this hard to gain patients’ trust. Implementing patient-first UX is no longer just an option, it’s an essential element of business strategy.

Main photo: Kaboompics

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