Illustration by Erica Fasoli
Healthcare UX has been an up-and-coming sector for decades. As new apps emerge, the market has become increasingly competitive, forcing designers to become even more innovative.
With the rise of COVID-19 this year, we’re seeing an even higher demand for improvements. As many patients prefer to avoid public places—including their doctors’ offices—telemedicine in particular is that much more important. Beyond the apps and platforms, some organizations have turned to design to share important messaging to the public, allowing designers to showcase their skills in other ways.
So, where are we headed from here? From telemedicine to health-focused wearables, here are the top five trends in healthcare UX design.
There’s no doubt that telemedicine is the most popular trend we’re seeing right now in healthcare UX. It has quickly become one of the most useful advances in medical technology, especially in today’s climate. Instead of having to travel to a doctor’s office, medical professionals can now treat patients remotely via healthcare apps, remote monitoring tools, and video consultations.
A typical telemedicine appointment looks and feels much like a regular visit to the doctor, minus the physical presence of the doctor. Video conferencing solutions allow patients to speak to the doctor directly, without the need to go into an office and expose themselves to germs.
This positive user experience is where healthcare UX and UI come into play. It is the designer’s responsibility to guide patients through the video conferencing experience, without adding any stress due to usability issues from the app design. Since these patients aren’t feeling well to begin with, it’s important to make the experience as easy as possible.
UX designers also need to design for different types of patients, taking into account characteristics like the user’s age, mental state, language, and tech skills.
Wearables in tech
Wearables are another popular trend in healthcare UI and UX. Smartwatches and fitness tracking apps have been around for a while, and technological developments have allowed app creators to expand and enhance their use. Wearable devices are no longer just about counting steps and monitoring sleep patterns; they can now monitor vital signs like a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. They can even measure your body mass index and detect irregularities in your heartbeat.
More than 80% of consumers are willing to wear fitness technology, according to a Business Insider report, and the wearable tech industry has great potential to connect users with healthcare providers. Because of this competition, UX design in healthcare is even more relevant for the survival of your product. Anyone can create a healthcare app, but if the user experience behind it isn’t great, your users will most likely head toward your competitors. To stand out, your UI design needs to focus on simplicity, usability, connectivity, interactions, and data handling.
Healthcare chatbots have also become a key part of healthcare UX. Chatbots can help patients book appointments, connect patients with doctors, remind users to take medications, and collect feedback after visits. These chatbots help medical organizations reduce the workload for doctors and administrative staff while still delivering quality, patient-centric services.
The main goal for UX designers to keep in mind when designing chatbots is this: patients who are seeking medical advice need to feel like their needs are met and that they are cared for, even if they are talking to a machine. If users feel like they are speaking to a poorly designed machine, their negative experience may move them away from future interactions with the chatbots. Ideally, it should be a positive and seamless user experience, so they continue to use the service.
AR and VR in healthcare UX
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) open the doors to a variety of new opportunities for the healthcare industry. Doctors can use these technologies to complete trainings, for example, allowing them to master professional skills without risking the health and life of real patients. Research from UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine even showed that surgeons who used VR platforms for simulated training enhanced their surgical performance by 230% compared to doctors who used traditional training techniques.
In addition to training healthcare professionals, AR and VR have helped physicians diagnose medical conditions via more in-depth body scans. The technology increases the accuracy of diagnoses and can even help doctors show their patients what’s happening as they perform medical treatments.
As these technologies continue to evolve, it will be more important than ever for designers to beta test the products and platforms and get feedback from patients, to ensure a positive experience.
Electronic health records
A final trend in healthcare UX is the rise of electronic health records (EHRs). Previously, offices kept medical records on paper, relying heavily on administrative staff (and patients themselves) to stay organized. Now, EHRs have digitized medical records while reducing the amount of admin and paperwork needed by the physician’s office. Patients can now access their medical records via online portals, giving them quick access to information. Patients can also give new doctors or specialists their medical history with the click of a button, as opposed to requesting copies of their records and physically transferring them to their new doctor.
These online portals have been at the forefront of the healthcare UX sector, with the websites designed in a way that helps users navigate with ease. As more organizations take advantage of online portal systems, designers will need to continue performing UX research to ensure the platforms are user-friendly and effective.
The future of healthcare UX/UI
These five healthcare UX/UI trends are only going to continue to grow in popularity and demand. Especially in an era of COVID-19, many doctors’ offices are focusing more on telemedicine. And with that, patients need to feel like they’re receiving the same quality of care, if not better.
Wearables will become more efficient as users will be able to monitor their health and detect medical conditions earlier and in ways they never have before. Chatbots will become even more human-like, while AR and VR will continue to revolutionize the medical experience. Finally, digital access and transfer of healthcare records will ensure patients do not have to wait to receive the care they rightfully deserve. This exciting sector is only going to continue to grow and make our lives easier in years to come, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.