The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes to how healthcare is delivered, with a renewed emphasis on patient-centric care. In a time of unprecedented strain on healthcare systems, the importance of patient-centric care has become more apparent than ever.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of providing personalized care that is tailored to the needs of individual patients. With hospitals and clinics overwhelmed with patients, it has become increasingly important to ensure that each patient is receiving the care that is most appropriate for them. This requires a shift away from a one-size-fits-all approach and towards a more individualized approach that takes into account the unique needs and preferences of each patient.
The use of telemedicine and other technologies that allow for remote monitoring and communication with patients has also become increasingly important during the pandemic. With many patients unable to visit hospitals and clinics in person, telemedicine has allowed healthcare providers to continue to provide care to patients from the safety of their own homes.
Additionally, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of digital patient education and engagement in managing their own health. With many patients unable to visit hospitals and clinics in person, it has become increasingly important to ensure that patients have digital means to access information and resources needed to manage their own health. This has led to an increased focus on patient education and engagement, with healthcare providers working to ensure that patients have the knowledge and tools they need to take an active role in their own healthcare.
Patient centricity refers to a healthcare approach that places the patient at the center of all decision-making processes and prioritizes their needs and preferences. This approach focuses on empowering the patient to take a more active role in their own health and wellness with an aim of improving the patient outcome and satisfaction.
To achieve this, digital health platforms need to ensure:
- Ease of use: They are easy to use and accessible to all patients, regardless of their age, education level, or technological proficiency.
- Personalization: They need to allow patients to customize their experience, including their care plan, notifications, and communication preferences.
- Engagement: They give patients the tools and support they need to take an active role in their healthcare, including tracking their health data and making informed decisions about their care.
- Experience consistency: They need to provide a consistent experience across the various care areas and digital channels.
Patient-centricity and the imperative of user experience
When developing digital health platforms and given the challenges of healthcare data interoperability, there is always a greater emphasis on connecting multiple siloed data sets and systems. Equally, functionality receives the same emphasis to ensure that digital health platforms meet quality, regulatory and usability objectives.
The emphasis on user experience (UX) and how it enables patient-centricity is often overshadowed. A functional and interoperable digital health platform cannot thrive without a coherent, consistent, and personalized user experience across the broad community that it serves.
Hyperfocus on digital health platforms UX is key to augmenting the value, accessibility, usability and, as a result, patient adoption. Here are some of the considerations to achieve this:
- Agile Development: One of the key principles of Agile is that it prioritizes the user or, in this case, the patient's needs, which leads to a more patient-centric approach to healthcare. By involving patients in the planning and decision-making process, Agile can ensure that the end-user perspective is taken into account throughout the development process. Additionally, Agile’s iterative and incremental approach allows for regular feedback and more proactive response to patients' feedback, needs, and preferences.
- Design Thinking: By following the five main steps of design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test, digital health teams can create solutions that are more inclusive, accessible, and centred around patients. Conducting research, gathering feedback, testing prototypes with patients and the continuous improvement design process ensures the end product is empathizing with patients' pain and continuously evolving as these needs evolve.
- Design Systems: Investing in a design system can ensure consistency and cohesiveness in the user interface and user experience across different digital health channels and platforms. A design system can ensure that the patient perspective is considered throughout the design process by providing a set of user-centred design principles and guidelines that can be followed by designers, developers, and stakeholders. This promotes a more consistent and user-centred approach to the design of digital health services leading to a more personalized and tailored approach to care.
Design Thinking, Agile Development and Design Systems are essential tools to improve the user experience and, ultimately, patient centricity when developing digital health products. They allow for flexibility, rapid iteration, understanding of patients' needs and empathy, and consistency in design. Used together or individually, they provide multiple avenues to involve patients in the development process, to gather feedback and to test with patients resulting in the creation of products that contribute to patient outcomes and satisfaction.