Articles/Patients Are Designing The Future Of Healthcare

Patients Are Designing The Future Of Healthcare

1/3 of patients believe healthcare doesn’t put them first”… What do you think?

As a digital advocate and emerging technologist, (including a recent dad), I believe the doctors definitely put my wife and child first. But what didn’t help any patient or staff member, the repetitious series of forms, processes and information provision the hospital’s aging system requires.

To unpack how technology is helping change the future of healthcare and healthcare systems, we hosted a webinar in partnership with Microsoft — I was joined by Tony Henderson, Digital Innovation and Healthcare, Essen Naido, Azure Solutions Specialist at Microsoft, and Kath Blackham, VERSA’s CEO.

The webinar was inspired by the focus shift in tech companies to widen from a consumer-only offering, and directly address industry-specific needs. This opportunity led to innovation, we saw technology companies become successful and start exploring how the products or services they offered could integrate or solve healthcare use cases. Now we have patient data systems, automated online appointment booking and cloud integration. But the latest catalyst has been COVID-19, a recent pandemic that spreads through human contact which is putting duress on healthcare systems around the world. This change has forced many providers to pivot and adopt virtual care.

And while two-thirds of U.S. adults in a recent survey said they would be more willing to try virtual care because of COVID-19, at VERSA, we believe there are new opportunities to make virtual and in-person healthcare better.

Human-centered design in Healthcare

The best way forward in healthcare is to take a step back and take a breath.

It’s been a really tough time, massive changes in requirements, resourcing have meant for fast-tracked digital transformations. When time is your enemy it forces decisions to be made with speed and efficacy in mind, rather than sustained value.

However as healthcare systems begin to return to a new normal, and the world starts to gather itself again, there’s an opportunity to rethink these systems and services through a human-centered design lens.

Human-centered design isn’t new in the digital space, but if the term is unfamiliar;

Human-centered design is the process of involving the end-user, through quantitative and qualitative research methods, informing the design of a product or service.

At a very basic level in the case of redesigning the technology systems that support healthcare, this research might include a large set of data about current versus desired hospital systems and processes combined with specific insights and interviews with patients, family and carers.

Some healthcare organizations are helping patients become a part of the redesign of healthcare solutions, a process called Health Design Thinking (MIT). The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) offers a grant for healthcare systems to actively improve their services, involving digital designers, patients, staff and stakeholders through research.

Health design thinking challenges the current hierarchical process of medical research, which focuses on academic expertise, by actively engaging diverse stakeholders. By demonstrating the success of integrating design into research, such studies are proving a more collaborative approach among patients, caregivers, researchers, and clinicians.

The customer or the patient is always first, and while this is true, most of the time, financial or technical limitations can often restrain organizations in implementing improvements. However, keeping these improvements small but specific allows technology to play an important part in the provision of care.

Mapping the right technology to the right moment

While it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the new and emerging technological solutions, it’s more important to think about the moments of pain in the patient journey and then think about where technology can be useful.

As the pace of innovation increases, technology constantly improves and we can see how it might apply and support healthcare. Some of the key digital drivers will be artificial intelligence, voice tech, chatbots, virtual assistants, cloud solutions, VR/AR, 3D-printing, robotics and nanotechnology.

There’s no reason to innovate for the sake of it and pushing technology out just because it’s there. We need to map the right technology, no matter the platform, to the right moment in care.

Technology has changed the baseline expectations for patients, which is now causing us to rethink the ways patients interact with their providers. According to an Accenture survey, 77 percent of patients believe the ability to book, cancel or change an appointment online is important. Virtual service is clearly an area where technology will be able to act as the bridge between the provider and the patient.

We’re also seeing ways tech can feel more natural as well as convenient. Technology companies are well known for the common cloud-based solutions and applications we use every day, like computers, mobile phones, smart speakers, communication tools, online storage.

Now we can utilize the same technology patients and staff use at home, but the form just has a different function. An iPad or digital touch device is no longer providing just Netflix to patients in hospital beds, it can be their single point of care with a doctor, their meal ordering service and the connection to their family.

Understanding the types of digital products and services available for your healthcare organization is a good way to start, that way you can begin to prioritize where and when technology can be most effective.

Deliver information at the right time using the right medium

Technology isn’t always the best solution, we need to focus on where technology provides a better experience than the in-person or trusted and true.

I host a podcast called “Better By Voice”, it explores how and where voice technology may be a better application than other traditional touch-based methods. (We did an episode specifically on the patient experience if you’re interested).

In discussing the medium VERSA works with primarily, voice and chat-based AI and automation, we’ve identified some key moments where there can be real patient value.

Voice is helping to make the entire patient journey contactless when patients need to be in care, specifically helpful in elderly or palliative care. One study cited at the LeadingAge 2019 conference that depression scores of older residents who used smart speakers in a senior care setting dropped by 44 percent over a six-month period. By querying Amazon Echo Dots on details ranging from bingo times to dinner menus, users get “a little more of their independence back,” a Minnesota senior ­living administrator told LeadingAge attendees in October.

Automated chatbots and cloud-based communications are helping patients navigate the admin involved with accessing care and information. Thinking of a hospital’s website as the new “front door” of the hospital, providing automated bookings, doctors consultancy through telehealth and delivering important information 24/7. In the hospital, cloud-based services are also helping teams collaborate better as an organization. In some health clinics and services, chatbots are providing care, for example the Woebot trial showed success in delivering cognitive behavioral therapy to people suffering from depression.

Rethink your approach

We know that human interaction will always be invaluable in healthcare.

Technology frees up time and resources to enable care providers to focus on those patients and issues that need more human-centered help.

I think it’s time to spend the words and the brainpower on rethinking our approach to healthcare service design and how technology centers that care around patients.

Stay in touch and follow more of our discussions on how technology and service design is shaping your industry…