Healthcare Design Is About More Than Aesthetics

Better UX for doctors means better care for patients

Chris Kiess

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Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Working in healthcare was something of accident for me. I never had any intentions of working in this profession — nor had I considered healthcare much of an option. Healthcare, to me, was messy, technical, scientific and full of terms and concepts I didn’t understand. I also believed I wasn’t cut out for it.

After finishing my enlistment in the Marine Corps, I wanted to continue helping people and thought firefighting might be a good fit — until I began my training. In many precincts, firefighters also serve as paramedics or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). So before I could attend fire school, I had to go through EMT school. That’s where healthcare came in. I wasn’t too hot on the idea of being an EMT, but as I worked through the program, my heart began to soften to the profession and to the people who made this their career. I was exposed to patients who were sick, aging, and poor. I watched phenomenal professionals perform what seemed like miracles to help them.

One day, I watched a young woman undergo a C-section. She spoke in Spanish to her husband while the physicians counted out the blood-laden towels they had used, throwing them on the floor. Another day, I watched the catheterization of a young man whose kidneys were in acute failure due to repeated drug use. The nurses handled him roughly, speaking terse words as my partner explained the concept of a “frequent flyer” to me. On ambulance runs, I encountered accident victims and dangerous situations where weapons were on the scene.

I was 26 years old. The sadness and tragedy of the human condition I witnessed was more than I wanted to bear. I didn’t feel I was cut out for this work. I still wanted to help people, but I didn’t think my personality or psyche was a good fit for a first-responder profession.

Another opportunity came along, and I steered as far away from healthcare as I could, not knowing that I’d return to it a decade later.

In the spring of 2005, I read Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. That book, along with the classes I was taking at the time, changed my life and career direction. By that summer, I’d taken a position as an intern for…

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Chris Kiess

Healthcare User Experience Designer in the Greater Chicago area