The health-tech sector is among the fastest-growing in the world today, making the stakes super high. Investments in healthcare AI software, hardware, and service market will reach $34 Billion Worldwide by 2025. There are several new technological trends emerging in healthcare being in different levels of maturity, many of them with significant progress insight.
We at UX studio have a long history with healthcare UX, for example, our agency designed InSimu, a healthcare education software and for a telemedicine provider, Avizia. When I started here as a designer, guess what happened? One of my first projects focused on healthcare! At first, the responsibility rather perplexed me. I felt the need to take it even more seriously than anything else before. After all, we are talking about a person’s health — their life. My colleagues’ expertise made it a great learning experience, although it was a vast challenge to deal with.
Healthcare UX Challenges
Modern technology in the healthcare system provides patients with better, more comfortable, and safer service. But for this to work, the technology needs to be user-friendly. Healthcare workers need to feel as if they had always used these tools.
But not only doctors take care of our health; we can choose from many digital products helping us perform and live better. User-friendliness, however, holds the key to the success of these apps and gadgets in the long run. In our experience, a healthcare product’s design process must focus not only on what people want but also on what doctors struggle the most with and what treatments and tools the patients need.
Below are some examples of our UX agency’s work in healthcare UX:
In the past few years, some relevant changes have taken place in healthcare. Medical industries started to use digital devices more and more, too. Additionally, most healthcare products tend to focus overall on the patient as a customer. Treatments no longer remain boring must-haves; instead, they become services.
Keeping this in mind, let’s check out what digital trends in connection with UX design in healthcare we can foresee and what are some problems in healthcare that can be solved with UX.
Top 10 digital healthcare UX trends
1. Medical wearables (+ digital health insurance)
Smart devices have become common in the last years, and they are producing an unimaginable amount of data for researchers and experts. Almost everyone owns a smart bracelet, smartwatch, or at least a fitness monitor app on their phone.
Self-monitoring applications made it possible to analyze and change our habits for our well-being. We use colorful data visualization to help us understand how we live; we track our daily activities and steps, analyze our sleeping habits, and check our blood pressure.
Posture trackers analyze our body movements and notify us when we need to stand up and have a short break. It’s getting even more important as people work from home and the space they are living in their everyday lives is getting smaller. Employers also realized this and endeavored to support their remote workers.
Technology can democratize access to quality care, digital health enables healthcare to be globalized. Patients can adopt devices and bring the collected data to their physicians. That is why recently insurance firms incentivise healthy lifestyle by giving away gift cards for people achieving their goals measured by their digital wearables.
A new trend of digital health insurance is emerging. Health insurance is data based and measures can promote the adoption of digital health technologies to assist patients with taking better care of their health with personalized metrics.
2. Telehealth (Telemedicine + Remote patient monitoring)
RPM technologies are beneficial for patients and free up busy medical teams.
Recently clinics applied RPM for recovering COVID-19 patients during an interactive care plan.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology can transmit a patient’s vital signs in real-time. Patients can enter symptoms, and wearable tools send information about temperature, blood oxygen level and blood pressure that doctors can monitor and analyze. Dashboards provide guidance and send alerts if changes come up during the disease and help medical staff respond immediately.
Some say that telemedicine is on track to become the new norm. Patients and doctors are going to interact virtually more frequently. Messaging or video-chatting makes everything easier for both parties; patients get answers without putting themselves or others at risk by visiting crowded public spaces, and it also saves time for the medical professionals.
Combined with AR (also mentioned later on), sharing a patient’s perspective, consultations can be even more effective, because patients often struggle when they have to describe their symptoms accurately.
With the more and more popular at-home lab test patients can have access to a wide range of analyses from the comfort of their own home. These tests can also be combined with telemedicine like the clinician-administered at-home covid tests.
3. Digital therapeutics (DTx)
Just as physicians prescribe lifestyle changes for a long time, it is expected that they will prescribe smartphone apps and digital technologies in the near future. According to the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, DTx delivers medical interventions directly to patients using evidence-based, clinically evaluated software (accessible via a smartphone or tablet) to treat, manage, and prevent a broad spectrum of diseases and disorders.
There is even a product library to help differentiate DTx software from other mobile health apps as they have to be evidence-based and align with 10 core principles.An example is an application (Insula) that assists type 2 diabetics. The app recommends patients personalized insulin doses and acts as a coach in managing their diabetes. A task for medical user interface design could be working on how to avoid app burnout and increase adherence regarding DTx applications as the prescription time for chronic illnesses can be longer than just a few weeks.
4. Vocal biomarkers
Will it be possible to diagnose illnesses from the sound of your voice? Researchers do expect massive market growth in the biomarker segment by 2028. Vocal biomarkers are medical signs deducted from the features of your voice. They reveal a lot about your health. Besides, they also help in detecting serious diseases and health risks.
Vocal biomarkers have a huge potential, just let’s imagine how amazing that would be to identify diseases over a phone call! The technology was researched in connection with coronary artery disease, pulmonary hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease. A California-based company is currently developing an application that is detecting covid, based on a 60 second sound file.
5. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) can help to gain experience and simulate situations that we did not have a chance to explore until now. Some healthcare fields already use VR, and this tendency will be growing.
Virtual Reality gains space in more therapeutic situations. The AppliedVR platform specializes in healthcare and lets patients get out of scary medical treatments during a guided relaxation session assisted by a VR tool. Taking them into games or traveling to nice places will draw the patients’ attention away from the reality of unpleasant treatments.
Augmented Reality (AR) can show extra information on the digital device in addition to the real world with which it can pioneer surgical planning or diagnostics. Although some developments have already begun, a lot more VR and AR projects will enter into use in healthcare this year.
Moreover, these software technologies could be part of surgical training to approve medical students to practice in real-life environments. With recent VR technologies, doctors can analyze detailed images of COVID-19 patients’ lung scans.
There is also potential in using AR in medicine packaging. Many people are not reading the drug product description and don’t take the medicine as prescribed and recommended, which can lead to lessened efficacy and safety of the therapy. AR can enhance product descriptions and make reading instructions more enjoyable and clear.
6. AI and Chatbots
Medical teams are overwhelmed, and there is a lack of people when team members fall out due to illness. More help is needed, and AI technologies can take tasks over. Touch-free solutions are essentials in high-risk areas.
Chatbots are one way of helping to alleviate the healthcare support system. They need to be made intuitive and provide relevant and well-written responses. Some examples of simple usage of chatbots include appointment booking, medication reminders, or checking on health conditions.
With the advancement of AI, chatbot functionality will be improved to cover more areas in healthcare for both patients and doctors. The right AI will enable chatbots to help patients manage chronic illness, double-check on diagnosis, and provide more personalized and personal responses.
Moreover, with patient-generated data, AI technologies will help collect, and also efficiently analyze the data to provide effective healthcare solutions. According to Tractica, by 2025, AI will help to manage the following areas in the healthcare industry.
- Medical image analysis
- Healthcare VDAs
- Computational drug discovery and drug effectiveness
- Medical treatment recommendation
- Patient data processing
- Medical diagnosis assistance
- Converting paperwork into digital data
- Automated report generation
- Hospital patient management system
- Biomarker discovery
7. Voice User Interfaces
The pandemic has fundamentally changed our perceptions and behaviors in which we use devices. To deploy usage by touching on various devices nowadays carry a risk of being infected or spreading diseases. Hand sanitization and device disinfection help alleviate such potentials. However, the need for frequent use of certain devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, ticket machines makes constant sanitization and disinfection inconvenient or unrealistic.
Here is where voice user interfaces come to play to make devices more efficient and safe to use. Voice user interface means interfaces that facilitate contact-free communications by allowing users to control and command the device systems with speech.
Voice user interface can be very useful during and after the pandemic to ensure safer usage, especially of public devices such as ticket machines and ATMs. In the healthcare sector, voice user interface can be an ideal solution for contactless operation while still integrating with the graphic user interface.
When healthcare workers wear gloves to use touch screens or typing, it is not always as smooth as without gloves. Moreover, the gloves can get dirty. In such realities, contactless operations via a voice user interface with the combination of a graphical user interface are more efficient during the pandemic as well as post the pandemic.
8. Digital products for mental health and telepsychology
It is more than clear that social media affects your life and thoughts. You can dig yourself into how dangerous it is, how it keeps us scrolling, clicking, and sharing content all the time. Upcoming trends must deal with this problem.
Doctors and everyday people suffer from anxiety, facing slight or more serious forms of depression, so we should not leave out mentioning applications and digital products for avoiding burnout. Thanks to slow movements, more and more applications help us direct our minds towards mindfulness.
Regular physical exercise reduces anxiety and produces happiness hormones. Having a daily habit sets boundaries and gives the feeling of control. A lot of applications offer free exercise plans with various intensity levels and exercise styles. Usually, they come with well-explained videos to avoid injuries.
Apart from the possibilities of getting professional help the number of mental health apps also keeps on growing. There are applications for avoiding burnout, digital tools to help you reach mindfulness and practice meditation and even virtual reality solutions for relieving stress and anxiety. As mental health is fundamental to overall health and well-being it’s great to see that these digital tools not just have met practical reality for now, but are progressing into the new future of healthcare. By developing applications that help make peoples’ lives easier there are definitely challenges and tasks for designers in the field of UX of healthcare.
Meditation apps come in handy if you just started this journey. Only three to five minutes a day can bring changes into your life in a few weeks. Changes will not only show in your way of thinking, but it affects your physical well-being too.
As an example, Headspace is a nicely designed app that is perfect for beginners. A calming voice leads you through guided sessions, and after a few minutes, you feel total zen even in your smallest body parts.
9. Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)
Although the influence of telehealth and digital therapeutics is expanding there are cases when physical presence is still required and patients need to get to a facility. Transportation problems are one of the leading causes of inequalities in healthcare. Millions of appointments are missed yearly due to no or unreliable transportation.
The demand will increase for healthcare providers to make NEMT an added value service by either dedicated rides, taxis, or ride-sharing apps. That not only can help patients in rural areas but those with disabilities or even with invisible disabilities like anxiety when being in public transportation.
Companies like Modivecare use an interactive voice response system, web portals, and mobile applications through which patients and facilities can book and track healthcare trips. Members can also rate their ride experience to ensure the best service.
10. Digital health tools for pets
In the last years, people had the chance to spend more time with their pets at home than ever before. People think of pets as their children, it’s no surprise that animals get their momentum in digital health. According to a new research report the pet care market is expected to exceed 350 billion USD by 2027.
Caring for pets is a long time commitment and veterinary care is one of the highest sources of spending in the pet community.
Challenges veterinarians face are surprisingly similar to the physicians who treat humans, leading the digital tools and tech solutions to be also very similar. Wearables and smart trackers dominate the pet digital health market like smart harnesses and collars and even a radar that can track your pet’s vital signs from afar, without a physical connection.
Apart from our furry friends’ physical health, there’s even an already developed A.I.-powered dog collar that attempts to decode a dog’s moods.
The future of healthcare UX
There are quite a few trends that are happening, and their presence and importance will continue to increase in the healthcare industry given the time we live in regarding our physical and mental health states and risks. No matter which of the above-mentioned areas your product or service is focusing on, a good user experience is essential for its success and integrity in improving the well-being of people.
In this ever-changing whirlwind of medical technology, you want to stay up-to-date, so keep an eye on these trends. Designing medical products brings great responsibility. We must keep people — and their safety — as our focal point. Before aiming for success, first, aim for a valuable service. Create a service that brings value and makes people’s lives better. Designing healthcare UX today isn’t a total joyride. But it’s a ride worth taking.
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