A Guide to User-Centered Healthcare Software Design and Development

Diary Research

Are You Ready for the Long Term?

Sometimes storyboards and customer journey maps aren’t enough. They’re excellent at capturing immediate processes and illustrating interconnections and highlighting opportunities for service improvements. But they are still “in the moment”, as it were. They don’t show the day in, day out usage trends. Sometimes in short-term engagements you can miss out on a part of the process or a systemic issue that just didn’t materialize in your initial short-term research.

Diary research is an interesting research method for long-term user engagement. These studies provide a comprehensive understanding of what users like and do not like about a product, what they find easy, difficult or confusing, what other additional features or functionality they would find useful, and what were their triggers for use. Sure, storyboards and customer journey maps also illustrate those things. But the key here is tracking users over a multi-week period rather than in hour-long interviews or usability tests to capture insights about long-term engagement.

If you’re working on an in-depth application with high usage in the workforce (or a patient-based app) looking at the long- term may provide valuable insights during your design and development phase.

More to Do

If a more holistic approach is taken to application development, and we build out and examine tools like customer journey maps and storyboards (and diary research) carefully, we see that our application is placed within the broader workflow. There now is an opportunity to understand our application’s implication on other processes, systems, and tools within the hospital environment and its possible limitations.

We always must remember that in most cases, less is more. End users will only embrace a piece of technology if they are not frustrated by a learning curve, it fits within their broader context, and they have trust in its reliability. In fact, reliability and risk mitigation, rather than speed and efficiency, are often the most important considerations for technology intended for healthcare professionals. Speed and efficiency are important, but on a secondary level.

Despite the fact that we have highly effective tools such as journey maps, storyboards, and diary research at our disposal, our industry still needs to improve. Ensuring that the end-user perspective is a driver of the design and development process is still not as mainstream as usability testing, which often focuses on efficiency and efficacy. A design process governed by the end- user and their context has the best chance of producing a piece of technology that will be embraced by its target audience and used to its full potential.

Tip: Business Process Modeling

In some contexts like an emergency room or a nursing ward, understanding of the workflows at play and how they interact requires formal business process modeling. One of the simpler tools, jUCMNav, models processes by way of Use Case Maps (UCM) notation. These maps are translated into requirements and are used to design software. This can often be an important step to make sense of a complex environment involving a variety of different user personas, before delving into each of their experiences individually.


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