Healthcare and the Ever Increasing Role of Design

Design might seem like a circuitous route to saving lives, but research over the last twenty years has concluded medical systems have a number of design flaws, leading to harrowing statistics like one in ten hospital patients in the UK suffer medical errors.

Fortunately, UX-ers all over the world are coming together to help redesign medical systems to make then more systematic, logical and easy-to-use.

Infection is a huge (and unnecessary) cost to healthcare today. Doctors and nurses are servicing dozens of patients each shift, and it’s a constant struggle to reduce the spread of germs, a problem further exacerbated by poor ward layout. In response, the organization Designing Out Medical Errors (DOME) came up with a simple and effective way to improve workflow, reduce infection, and make hospital staffs’ lives easier. They developed the CareCentre, a unit that provides a clear work surface for doctors, a storage system for the medicine particular to that patient, plus an accessible supply of gloves, aprons, and hand sanitizer. All right at the patient’s bed. The result: doctors have a physical reminder to wash their hands, are encouraged to take infection-prevention measures like aprons, and spend less time walking around the ward looking for the correct tools, limiting the physical spread of germs.

Big Data is also contributing to improvements in healthcare. IBM is beginning to mine data from physician reports to find trends in readmissions and establish risk factors for patients, and simply make information more available to doctors. The idea is that the more data we have the better doctors can recognize early signs of potentially fatal illnesses and act quickly to prevent them.

Efforts are also being made to make patients more engaged with their own healthcare. Through online programs and apps, the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) is using design and digital integration to encourage people to lead healthier lives and have healthier hearts. Their range of mhealth tools allows people to monitor their weight and blood pressure, as well as complete risk assessments and receive updates and encouragements from the HSF. Other companies like Scanadu are developing tools and software that amalgamate biometric data and allow you to constantly monitor your family’s health from your iPhone.

With so much data available, doctors can spot trends early on, and the combination of preventative medicine and early action are making healthier (and happier) patients. On the patient side of the bed, the continued proliferation of medical apps like the Scanadu has led to a more informed and engaged consumer and thus better health outcomes. People are living longer, healthier lives, and designers everywhere are proud to be playing a part.