Jessi Pervola interviewed for Healthcare Business International: Usability in design and healthcare comes of age

This post features Jessi Pervola, Smart Design’s Director of Design. Follow her on Twitter @jessip.

One reason why projects in healthcare services fail is poor usability. Telehealthcare, patient apps, medicalised homecare — it is easy to launch schemes which patients and practitioners find hard to use. That can have a huge impact on results. But specialists focused on the sector are beginning to emerge.

Bad design is everywhere in healthcare. Drugs that come in difficult-to-open packages with print that is too small for anyone over 45 to read with the naked eye. Nurses and doctors who spout jargon without understanding the patient’s perspective. Any number of ehealth and telehealthcare apps which anyone over 40 will struggle to master. Or just processes which toss the patient to and fro.

But organizations are beginning to emerge to deal with this. It is perhaps no accident that Aetna has 10 million users for its iTriage app in North America. The app was designed by Healthagen, a San Francisco-based consultancy now owned by Aetna with a strong focus on usability. We hear Aetna has given Healthagen a $1 billion to buy up interesting new apps. Danish drug company Novanordisk also places a huge emphasis on design and usability as it builds new diabetes treatment programmes.

Then there is the Helix Centre, a collaboration between Imperial College Healthcare Trust and the Royal College of Art, in London, where ten designers are redesigning procedures in hospitals around patients. Some specialist consultancies such as Smart Design are also active.

The New York and London based consultancy has worked closely with drug companies, mainly in the USA, to redesign packages, instructions and nursing help around the patient. Jessi Pervola, Smart’s Director of Design, who is based in London, says it is very much needed: “When I go to conferences, there is always a huge focus on technology but no one says much about usability.” She says that nurses and doctors do not always fully understand the patient experience.

She argues that qualitative research with patients through one-on-one interviews or focus groups yield rich results. “You need to watch someone over 60 struggling with packaging or IT in order to come up with designs that work. Too few people do that around healthcare.” This can all go way beyond product design. Smart also helps providers redesign hospital supply chains.

Here are one or two examples of Smart’s work.

This article first appeared in Healthcare Business International.

Photo credit: NEC Corporation of America / Photo on flickr

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