Three Ways to Ensure Healthcare Technology Design Focuses on the End User

By Karie Ryan, RN, MHSA, BSN

The healthcare industry has suffered major burnout due to increasing numbers of patients, persistent staffing shortages, and the complexity of high-acuity patient cases combined with new technologies and care models. Frontline nurses grapple with information from various monitors and settings, adding to the stressful nature of their work environment.

Today’s technology solutions can help stem the tide of burnout—but to do so, their design must incorporate direct input from the end user. With informatics solutions that span care settings and are easy to use, clinicians and nurses can spend more time on patient care rather than grappling with disparate technologies that don’t fit into their workflows.

So how can the healthcare technology industry ensure a user-centric design from the outset?

Keep patient safety at the root of design

For healthcare technology to have a positive impact on clinical care, its design must be easy for clinicians to use and adopt. Staffing shortages are the number one topic on ECRI’s top 10 patient safety concerns for 2022. Thus, healthcare systems fundamentally must design solutions with the end user in mind to promote use, adoption, and efficiency—while preserving patient safety and quality of care.

By prioritizing patient safety at each step of a solution’s design, the healthcare technology industry can better accommodate end users. A solution should present the most critical data up front and clearly signal whether there is a need for caregiver intervention, thereby giving healthcare professionals fewer points of input to worry about and more room to dedicate their energy to patient care. With patient safety as a core value, end-user design can evolve in parallel with new care delivery models. Working hand in hand on solution design would deliver the best outcome for patients and healthcare providers.

Seek clinician input during development

Technology features must be meaningful and practical, not just flashy. Taking clinicians’ input into consideration—along with patient safety concerns—is key to ensuring a simplified design that eliminates unnecessary noise and presents only the most critical information to clinicians, rather than giving them an obstacle to fight against. The healthcare technology industry should ask end users not only what they want, but also what they do not want.

Having a point solution for every care setting, for example, is not efficient. Each solution should work together and, when possible, have multiple use cases. This would ease the administrative burden for both clinicians and IT support teams. Thoughtful design enables clinicians to use fewer systems, with fewer variations, and to have those systems function across the care continuum.

Simplify design and training to help address clinician shortages

COVID-19 has exacerbated the existing clinician shortages but also kept newer clinicians and nurses from training in the hospital—extending the shortage issue from a volume gap to a skill gap. These clinicians know how to use technology, but they also need technology that is consistent and easy to use, presents them with the most critical information, and can support them during care without first requiring hours of classroom training.

Solution design should avoid unnecessary complexity. For example, seamless technology that fades into the background can minimize interruptions and ensure more efficient use. This also makes the technology easier to teach. To come up with the best design, healthcare professionals and vendors need to keep asking deep questions and conducting root cause analyses to give clinicians and nurses adaptable and appropriate tools.

The best technology solutions enable clinicians to see critically important insights and to know when to act. Solutions can achieve this through designs that are as simple as possible, eliminate unnecessary information, and are teachable through simulations that easily transfer to clinical practice.

Improving clinician and patient experiences through user-centric technology

Healthcare has a need for easy-to-use technology that takes the clinician’s viewpoint into account and has patient safety at its core. Thoughtful design can not only minimize the time spent learning how to use new technology, but may also help clinicians regain their focus on patients and better engage in sound clinical decision-making.

Karie Ryan, RN, MHSA, BSN, is head of clinical transformation, connected care, at Philips.