What designers need to know about designing healthcare apps


Every designer wants to create designs that make the proverbial dent in the universe. They want to bring a positive change in the world. They want to feel valued for their work and make their way into the heart of a billion users. 

Healthcare is one domain that gives designers that opportunity.

Healthcare as an industry is complex and challenging. The three players- patients, payers and providers- each have multiple dimensions associated with it. Along with that there are various security guidelines that need to be in place to ensure safety of patient’s data.

Healthcare has a huge spectrum of problems that need to be solved. From improving the in-patient experience to booking an online appointment, navigating through medication reminders, or having a conversation with a healthcare chatbot, there are endless design opportunities at each touchpoint. The right design thinking helps recover, improve the patient experience, and save lives. And even a minor slip in design can cost lives. 

So, if you’re a designer who wants to bring a change, or if you want to improve the quality of life of your end users, healthcare is the right place for you. It’s complex and challenging, but the positive outcomes of good design make it worthwhile. The real and tangible output when you see a patient recover because they adhered to the medication, or when you see an elderly walking-in for monthly check-ups regularly, are proof that design can indeed change lives for the better.

But not everything is roses and sunshine in healthcare. The complexity renders many hidden obstacles. As a healthcare designer, there are a few things that you need to be aware of. 

Color psychology in healthcare products

Color psychology in healthcare products

Colors play an important role while designing healthcare apps. Be it physical spaces like clinics, hospitals or surgery rooms or digital interfaces like dashboard, colors influence patient behavior.

Colors evoke different emotions in people according to their age, environment and condition. Therefore, designers need to study color psychology before jumping in to design for healthcare products. An inappropriate color can send a wrong indication to users and can cause irreversible damage to their health.

A research paper states that, Gibson, MacLean, Borrie, and Geiger (2004) examined the behavior of 19 residents in a long-term care dementia unit and found that 13 used color to help them find their rooms, with structure (e.g., room number, name plate) as the second most often reported visual cue.

So, if you’re designing a healthcare product, give careful consideration to the color scheme as it plays an important role in comfort and stress reduction of its end users.

Know your users

Know your users

To create a user-centered design, it’s important to know who your end users are. Before jumping in to make assumptions about what users want, you need to know their pain points, needs, motivations, goals and challenges. This is absolutely critical in healthcare as the users are from diverse backgrounds- some fighting for their life, some dealing with a critical illness, while others would be care-givers trying to balance the life between hospital and home.

So before you start designing healthcare apps, do in-depth research about your audience. If possible, visit them in their environment and observe how they go about their daily lives. For instance, if you’re designing a productivity application for nurses and doctors, visit them at a hospital and observe their daily tasks. Observe the nurse stations, doctor’s room, waiting areas, and other designated spaces where they spend their time. 

Understand the compliance requirements

Understand the compliance requirements

One of the challenges of designing for healthcare is following the complex security and compliance regulations. Designing with all the security constraints becomes a challenge as they render the system complex. For example- most healthcare applications in the US need to have HIPAA compliance. It’s a federal law that aims to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. 

How does it impact design? 

The design must inform users about the compliance. And it must also convey that conscious effort has been put to create a space that keeps doctor-patient information confidential. 

There are many other things that designers need to keep in mind while designing healthcare apps. Designers need to ensure that the application is accessible, simple to use, easy to navigate and has personalization options for quick access.

If this is overwhelming for you, start with a checklist of UX and UI elements that you need to keep in mind while designing healthcare apps. And when the first version of the app goes out, make sure you do usability testing with your ends users to understand what’s not working in the application.

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