Can UX Improve the NHS? #GiantHealthEvent

Panel chaired by Dr Gyles Morrison of Dr-Hyphen.

UX is shorthand for user experience design. It is a hot topic at the moment, particularly as ‘UX experts’ like Apple move into healthcare.

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The premise was put to the group that NHS UX tends to suck. However, it is not just the user interface that needs to change but the problem needs to be looked at holistically from all angles. It’s no good if a piece of software becomes easier to use at the cost of overall utility. There will also be knock on – unexpected effects which UX seeks to solve. For instance the interface might look good and become very usable, but if the system slows down as a result this is an un-acceptable trade off. what-exactly-is-ux-design-01

Some of the panel then made the point that clinicians and frontline staff are not consulted by any of the decision makers. One of the panel members – an orthopaedic surgeon believes we need to fight back against the legacy systems we currently have.

One of the audience then suggested that part of the issue is commissioning. Managers will look for the simplest single solution that ticks the most government boxes and UX doesn’t come into it at all. He gave the example of script switch which almost invisibly switches your script around, saving money and time.

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UX crosses the boundaries of lots of different sectors. The orthopaedic surgeon then told a story about consultants in his hospital being told to see patients within 14 hours of their admission. This was agreed with the CCG than the hospital would hit a 90% target of achieving this. This was not discussed with the consultants until after it had been agreed. They then realised they had a major problem – the staff had no buy in and the managers had no mechanism to actually measure their success.

The GP in the audience then argued that the problems we are trying to solve are normally artificial. We should rather be working out which steps add value to patients, clinicians and managers.

One of the other panel members suggested that the key is to solve a single problem rather than try to tackle many problems at once. I then suggested there is a danger here that we end up like the app market where there are multiple individual proprietary platforms all competing together for money. This could lead to an increasingly fragmented health service which may not serve patients well.

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All were agreed that empowering patients therefore is important, but how this happens and how we cater for patients’ future needs will be key to whether or not we succeed in creating a better future for all patients or only some.

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