What designers need to know/do to help transform healthcare

Authors: Richard Anderson
Posted: Mon, April 29, 2013 - 5:39:32

I've been immersing myself in all things focused in some way on dramatically changing the U.S. healthcare system and the patient experience. This has included attending lots of events. Last week, I attended the Health Technology Forum Innovation Conference. Two weeks ago, I attended the Second Annual Great Silicon Valley Oxford Union Debate focused on whether Silicon Valley innovation will solve the healthcare crisis. Near the end of March, I attended both a panel discussion about "Improving the Ethics and Practice of Medicine" and HXD (Healthcare Experience Design) 2013. ... (The list goes on and on.)

I've also been writing and speaking about this topic as well. Recent examples include the blog post I wrote for interactions in December entitled, "The Importance of the Social to Achieving the Personal" (in healthcare) and my presentation at HXD 2013 entitled, "Preventing Nightmare Patient Experiences Like Mine" (subtitled, "Avoiding 'Putting Lipstick on a Pig'").

As most agree, the U.S. healthcare system and patient experience are badly in need of disruptive innovation, a transformation, and/or a revolution. Hence, the subtitle of my HXD 2013 presentation implies that there are things (UX) designers need to be aware of or do (or not do) so that they can do more than only contribute to modest improvement of the status quo.

What are those things? The things I addressed in that presentation: 

1. Too many designers are too enthralled with technology and too focused on digital user interfaces to have a great impact on transforming healthcare; 

2. Human-centered design as often practiced is better suited for achieving incremental innovation instead of the disruptive innovation most needed -- Don Norman and Roberto Verganti have written a great essay about this; 

3. Design research too often falls short of revealing the nature and dynamics of the socio-cultural models at play that need to change; 

4. Design research too often focuses on common cases instead of the "edge" cases which can more identify or reveal emergent and needed innovation; 

5. Essential to solving the "wicked problem" of healthcare is reframing it, something not all designers do adequately -- Hugh Dubberly and others addressed this particularly well in an interactions magazine cover story; 

6. Designers need to get picky about the kinds of healthcare projects they work on.

(See the presentation for more on each item in the list.)

What would you add to this list? Is there anything in the list you question? Let's have a conversation. Please comment below or contact me via email at riander(at)well(dot)com.

Richard Anderson is a consultant and instructor who can be followed on Twitter at @Riander.

Posted in: on Mon, April 29, 2013 - 5:39:32

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is a consultant and instructor who can be followed on Twitter at @Riander.
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@Lauren Chapman (2013 04 30)

Well-stated! Reframing the problem doesn’t happen nearly enough. In regards to your points about design research, how might you recommend adding more rigor for it to be appropriate enough? Is it spending more time in research, or focusing on the edge cases?