A Guide to User-Centered Healthcare Software Design and Development

Who Is Your End User

It’s likely you have an end user in mind for your application already. It may be a nurse, a doctor, a clinician, or a patient. And you’ve sketched out a preliminary app that could benefit them. But first you need to consider, how much do you really know them?

Consider a nurse’s day in the hospital ward. Nurses have dozens of patients under their care, each with unique and specialized needs. Interruptions and distractions challenge their focus constantly. This left traditional medication administration, even if it was digitally managed, prone to error because it relied on human data entry and peer-to-peer verification. If we only take a surface look at their busy day we may assume that what they want is to accomplish tasks faster, freeing up time, and digital automation makes sense.

Enter eMAR (electronic medication administration record), is a medication administration system that has helped many hospitals and clinics decrease medication error rates, and increase patient safety.

Nurses have dozens of patients under their care, each with unique and specialized needs.

If we decide that eMAR is successful because nurses can do their job faster (more automated workflows / digital data entry) we miss the larger picture. With eMAR, each patient is identified with a wristband barcode. The nurse scans it and this brings up the medication record. Each individual medication is scanned and the system reconciles the two readings.

Has this saved time? Not necessarily. In fact, it may have added time. But the risk of error has been substantially reduced. And what’s important from the perspective of the nurse, and for the hospital in terms of its liability and regulatory compliance, is that risk has been minimized, not time saved.

Now consider the larger environment a nurse works in and the conditions under which nurses may be using a given technology: Is it at night time when lighting is poor? Is it when they may not have full use of both hands? Is it taking them too many steps to complete a task in an application? In a code-blue emergency, for example, a nurse wants to alert the whole response team with the push of a button, not a flurry of text messages and pages.

As technology becomes more powerful and compact, it’s easy for the designer or developer to be caught up by the wow factor of what can be done, focus on the surface solution, and lose sight of what is truly practical and useful. Even bells and whistles intended to make the end user’s life easier with added features and functionality can end up creating noise and confusion that is counterproductive.

It is because of this, and the impact a poor understanding of your end-user can have on user adoption of your app that thorough design research is critical to gain an understanding of how the user works in real-world conditions (including pain points, workflows, processes and interactions between other people and products). Only with that understanding can you uncover what is truly important.

TIP: Are You Letting Technology Drive?

You might want to check out our section on technology that covers the mishaps and gotchas health app developers have experienced. Even if you’ve built a health app before, there can be new features or requirements in this app that have hidden traps.



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