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Social distancing is widening communication and servicing gaps within the entire patient ecosystem. It is critical to create a virtual environment that simulates the physical one in which our patients continue to access the health and care services they need, when they need it.

We know that the patient journey is a complex one, and one that requires service support from several angles including insurance, service providers and more.

When illuminating the patient need – human-centred design plays a crucial role in curating support elements required by the patient, and placing them exactly where they’re needed.

Let’s take a closer look at a particular scenario in order to explore how human-centred design works in creating the ideal patient environment.

Our patient is Robert, he’s a 38 year old male living in a middle-income area. Robert has a long medical history of Asthma and Heart complications although he is on medication to manage his condition and uses heart and oxygen monitoring devices – all of which have thus far been covered by his long standing medical aid.

Robert is somewhat digital savvy, but continues to battle with the many updates on his devices which creates a lot of stress as each update changes his interface and where his regular or high-traffic elements are usually placed.

Robert is due for his annual heart screening but due to COVID as well as his Asthma, he cannot unnecessarily risk exposure to the corona virus. So he turns to his devices and his medical and healthcare support services to help him.

What does he need? This is where human-centred design comes in.

Robert would first need to consult with his medical aid provider to approve a virtual consultation with his primary care physician before booking his appointment.

Prior to COVID, little to no medical aid or insurance providers covered virtual consultations, but when the outbreak happened, strict social distancing and pressure from GPs, clinicians, specialists and emergency care providers, they were forced to cover these consultations for the duration of the pandemic.

And as we’ve seen, the pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down – thus, medical aid and insurance providers are relooking at their policies to continue to include virtual consultations and even digital diagnoses.

Human-centred design is a pivotal element in this first step contact between patient and receiving the care they need. HCD has the science required to understand the user, surfacing what is important to them, what their goals are and what they prefer in terms of usability to create the best possible solution for the patient journey.

So why is HCD important when you can just throw together a basic mobile-friendly website?

HCD uncovers the human insights needed in order to create a successful journey. This goes beyond just having a website – this dives into the cognitive functions a user will experience in order to move from decision, need and ability to delivery, success and reflection. This journey is dependent on the patient successfully achieving their goal without hassle, in order to re-enforce their loyalty to the organisation and access the care they need.

Remember we mentioned how stressed Robert gets from the many device and app updates? HCD will mitigate the need for wasteful budget spend on many iterations to improve the journey – less iterations, less updates, less stress on the user.

Human-centred design creates the journey and the experience your patient needs in order to achieve their goals – and in this case, to help Robert get the care and the service he needs to safely attend to his heart screening and to continue on his recovery and maintenance journey.

What exactly does a human-centred design journey look like? It’s every interaction, touchpoint and element within the patient journey which facilitates their ability to achieve their goal.

For example, its knowing exactly where to place the SOS button to make sure the user knows exactly where to go in a dire situation, when their thoughts are far from working out how to navigate an app. Or where to store the patients basic information, where to place the medical history so the medical aid company and the healthcare clinician is able to access it securely. HCD is going a step further for the patient in integrating a digital authorisation request process within the same journey so the patient wouldn’t need to rely on tedious and outdated methods to contact their medical aid or insurance provider to approve a specialist visit.

Human-centred design is knowing who your users are and what is best for them using an outside-in approach. It’s about connecting your organisation with your patient, where they need it most. It’s about re-enforcing loyalty, commitment and relationships between patients and clinicians, service providers and response units.

Its about saving and improving the lives of patients and the world they live in.

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