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Making Healthcare User Experiences More Accessible to Increase Adoption

October 9, 2023

Healthcare user experiences require UX designers and developers to create user-friendly, efficient applications, software, or Web sites that meet users’ expectations. They must cater to many different patients, healthcare providers (HCPs), medical administrators, and caregivers.

Moreover, when leveraging technology to improve the healthcare experience, it’s important to overcome the challenges that could hurt the user experience. For instance, making a mobile app stand out among 350,000 healthcare apps, or mHealth apps, requires overcoming the inefficiencies of outdated applications.

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However, modern-day software developers can create user interfaces that leverage technological innovations in simplifying patient care, as part of the digital healthcare system. Designing effective UX design solutions for healthcare institutions necessitates having a solid grasp of the fundamental requirements of healthcare applications.

In this article, I’ll explore some crucial factors that can help you to craft healthcare user experiences that are more accessible and, thus, can enhance their adoption.

Strategies for Designing More Accessible Healthcare User Experiences

To create an accessible healthcare user experience, you must understand Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC). Designing a healthcare application requires taking a strategic approach to GRC that helps an organization manage its overall governance and risk, comply with healthcare regulations, protect sensitive patient data, and ensure good governance and operational efficiency.

At the same time, the UX design must provide equal opportunities to all users and simplify product adoption by patients, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Ultimately, healthcare apps’ user experience can positively impact their adoption rate, enabling a more significant segment of the population to use them effectively.

#1. Designing User Experiences That Go Beyond Patients to Include HCPs and Caregivers

Conversations around healthcare user experiences often gravitate toward the needs of the patients. But it is equally important to consider the significant role of caregivers, including spouses, family members, and friends who offer critical support. Often called the silent patients, these caregivers deserve an equally robust, easy-to-learn, user-friendly user experience to help them navigate their frequently challenging journeys. Be sure to keep these caregivers in mind when devising user interfaces or conducting research, particularly those caring for patients who are dealing with severe or chronic illnesses. Moreover, an ideal UX design must consider the healthcare professionals’ user experience, including doctors, nurses, and administrative staff. Providing improved user experiences for these professionals contributes directly to enhanced patient care.

One of the top UX strategies for healthcare applications is implementing audience-centric navigation, which can help users locate and explore relevant topics in accordance with their roles as patients, caregivers, or healthcare professionals and their unique user journeys.

#2. Conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

WCAG can help healthcare organizations to provide accessible digital content for people with impairments. These guidelines provide in-depth guidance on creating user-friendly, accessible digital user interfaces. They also provide useful principles such as ensuring that nontextual content contains text descriptions and enabling full keyboard functionality. Following these guidelines can help you create adaptable content that displays well in various formats without losing any information.

For instance, using text-to-speech technology can help users to consume screen text and simplify an app’s navigation. WCAG’s principle of providing text alternatives for nontextual content becomes critical for healthcare Web sites and applications, enabling the text-to-speech software to describe the Web site's icons, images, or other graphical elements.

The WCAG guidelines stress user-specific requirements, making digital healthcare more accessible. Implementing these guidelines and principles makes healthcare apps more accessible, improving patients’ happiness and understanding.

#3. Consistently Delivering User Assessments and Active Responses to Feedback

Improving the overall accessibility and usability of a healthcare application through UX design requires engaging all types of users, particularly those with disabilities. This is necessary to assess an application’s performance throughout its development lifecycle. Incorporating an inclusive UX-testing approach offers in-depth, practical insights that help enhance the accessibility and usability of the application.

However, assessing the accessibility of a healthcare application is not a one-time effort, but a continuous process that is woven into the application’s development and update cycles. Implementing the regular assessment of healthcare products ensures that, as an application evolves, the team maintains accessibility standards or, better yet, improves upon them.

Maintaining open communication channels is one way of ensuring that the team receives and acts upon customer input. Regularly requesting user feedback and immediately resolving problems lets you improve the application’s user experience and shows a commitment to accessibility and usability.

For example, throughout the development of an application, you must test it across various users, including those with disabilities. Your team can get diverse comments on accessibility from people who have impairments. Even after launching the application in the marketplace, you can still provide a feature that lets users directly rate the app’s usability and accessibility. Consider conducting surveys to obtain more structured feedback to help you improve the app’s accessibility.

#4. Creating Inclusive Designs

UX designers must craft solutions that provide users with familiarity and comfort. People should be able to use digital tools seamlessly, without any friction.

Often, tools that have been designed primarily for healthcare professionals are overcomplicated, clunky, and challenging. They can hamper efficiency and productivity. However, top-quality UX designers can ensure that an app’s design and structure do not unintentionally favor one user group over another—for example, making it more patient friendly by overlooking the doctor’s user experience. It is crucial to remember that when one of these user segments struggles, this negatively impacts the entire user ecosystem.

While an application for storing patient records should be robust and comprehensive for the healthcare professionals who use it to record data, it should also be simple enough for patients to navigate their records, update their information, and schedule appointments. This is why UX designers must balance complexity and usability.

Such an inclusive approach to healthcare UX design makes applications more user friendly and drives their success over the long run. Accommodating such a diverse range of users requires crafting digital tools that are as inclusive as possible. Doing so improves the user experience and makes healthcare more equitable and accessible.

#5. Adopting Universal Design Principles

The principles of inclusive design revolve around creating more user-friendly environments, services, and products, irrespective of users’ abilities or circumstances. Within the context of the healthcare user experience, this implies creating digital health platforms that are effortlessly navigable, intelligible, and usable by the widest possible user base.

A practical example revolves around the design of a healthcare application. Incorporating multiple navigation methods such as touch, voice commands, mouse interactions, and keyboard inputs can significantly enhance the app’s usability. This ensures that users with diverse abilities can interact with the application effectively and embodies the true spirit of inclusive design.

To better understand the various factors that UX designers should consider when creating a healthcare application or tool, let’s dig into the following:

  • multisensory interactions—These ensure that an application makes it possible for users to respond to its interactive elements using more than just one sensory modality. This includes incorporating visual, auditory, or haptic responses to accommodate a wider range of user needs and abilities. For instance, a user with a hearing impairment might benefit from visual alerts, while a visually impaired user might find audio cues more beneficial.
  • scalability and flexibility—Healthcare user experiences should be flexible and scalable to meet the unique requirements of different user groups. Therefore, an application’s design should support customization such as adjusting text size and contrast for the visually impaired or facilitating simplified user interfaces for users with cognitive challenges.
  • simple, easy-to-learn user interfaces—Users often find healthcare systems overwhelming because of their complexity. UX designers can counter this tendency by making an application’s user interface simple and easy to learn, by using common symbols, well-organized layouts, and logical navigation paths. All of these different aspects of design contribute to making the user experience more comfortable and efficient for users.
  • language diversity—The global nature of digital healthcare requires considering language diversity as a part of the UX design. Therefore, consider offering support for multiple languages to enhance a platform’s usability for users who must be proficient in the default language.
  • contextual design—UX designers should consider different contexts for the use of healthcare applications. Would users be in a rush? Are users likely to be stressed or anxious while using the application? Designing with certain contexts in mind can lead to a compassionate, empathetic user experience.

Wrapping Up

An ideal way of building a successful healthcare application is to ensure that you’re providing all-inclusive, digital health solutions that are highly accessible. While plenty of challenges exist to the adoption of technology in healthcare, it is possible to overcome these challenges through inclusive design principles, by adhering to accessibility standards such as WCAG, being committed to proactive user involvement during testing phases, and taking into account all the aspects of accessibility that I’ve mentioned in this article.

Making accessibility a top concern in the development of digital healthcare environments can lead to rapid increases in their adoption rates and contribute to user happiness and better health outcomes. The ultimate objective of designing accessible healthcare user experiences is to ensure that everyone can fully use digital healthcare applications, regardless of their unique talents or impairments. 

Freelance Marketing Writer

Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Hazel RaoultAs a freelance marketing writer, Hazel works with┬áPRmention. She has more than six years of experience in writing about business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and all things relating to SaaS (Software as a Service). Hazel loves splitting her time between writing, editing, and hanging out with her family.  Read More

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