Understanding patients to make healthcare more accessible

Zak Forbes
Nov 8 · 6 min read

At Zava we’re building healthcare that is accessible, dependable and a fraction of today’s cost. In order to build a service that matches this mission we rely on our team of five UX Researchers to help us understand our patient’s needs and motivations.

In this article, our UX Research team provide a deeper insight into why their work is so important to helping us achieve our mission as well as detailing some of the approaches they use when conducting research.

Why do we do research?

We conduct research because we simply cannot build a service without understanding our patients: needs, motivations struggles and pain points. We need to know who they are and why they might want to use our service. Armed with this knowledge, the product teams can ensure that patients are at the forefront of all product decisions. And in turn this means we offer a service that is usable and valuable.

Another reason for doing research is to discover new opportunities — how can we help even more patients? What new services could be launched? Which conditions should we look to treat?

Research is also about testing our designs not just asking questions. Even the best design has to be tested to make sure that it actually matches patient needs. We ask existing and potential patients to review all new designs and services to make sure they’re easy to understand and don’t cause friction.

Cultural nuances between locales

Behaviours change per country so it’s important we understand patients in all our markets. We treat patients across the UK, France, Germany and Ireland and need to be mindful that one solution might not work in the same way for all of these.

Conducting research across markets allows us to create services that meet patients needs regardless of the different cultural approaches to medicine. This could be the actual medication we provide, the manner in which patients expect conditions to be handled or simply how medical content is translated into different languages. As an example, previous research has shown that German patients scrutinise healthcare information they are presented with more heavily than patients in the UK and therefore additional information needs to be provided to German patients.

How is Research Conducted at Zava?

Research at Zava goes right through the business from initial strategy to product and marketing. Ultimately, we believe in collaboration. Each of our researchers are assigned to work with one / two cross-functional product or business teams, working alongside doctors, customer support, marketing (including content and SEO), data, engineering, product and growth. The researchers are fully integrated into these teams, attending stand-ups, co-creation sessions, workshops etc. They provide insights at every stage of the journey, identifying research questions and creating research plans to answer questions and build a more patient focused product.

Discovery and Testing

We mentioned before that research is not just about finding out information but testing our assumptions and designs. Research at Zava is primarily split between discovery research and user testing. Discovery research allows us to dig deeper, in a qualitative way, to really understand patients and potential patient pain points. The findings of discovery research help product teams and designers to create products, which are truly designed around patient problems and behaviours.

Within product development, user testing is carried out throughout the process. We are strong believers in iterative research. We adopt a listen, learn, build ethos — testing and learning as we go to fine-tune our products and ensure an optimised, clear, consistent and intuitive patient journey

Approaching patients regarding uncomfortable subjects

A lot of research we do at Zava is around health conditions that people might be embarrassed to discuss (e.g erectile dysfunction, contraceptive pill, mental health), so we need to make sure people feel at ease in any research situation.

The initial stage to a successful patient interview is being upfront about what we will be discussing. Respondents are asked several questions when they are screened for research to ensure that they meet certain criteria, one of these questions may refer to a health condition. Following this question we will ask them to confirm that they will be happy to discuss that condition in an interview.

Where possible we also give people the choice of talking to a man or women, or if only one sex is available to conduct the interview, we will ask them if they are comfortable talking to that person. We only want to interview people who are happy to talk, we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable.

Confidentiality is key

Within the interview, we firstly confirm that everything they say to us is confidential, and although shared with the team, will be kept totally anonymous. It’s important to make them feel at ease, so we start by asking a bit about them as a person — their family, what they do for a living and move into talking about broader health conditions.

The interview will gradually focus in on the sensitive area we are looking to explore. As we ask questions around this area, we just let them talk — sometimes people find it’s the one opportunity they have to really open up, and they will talk very openly. Although it is important to keep on topic, it’s also important to let them talk and continue to feel at ease. If at any point we feel they are uncomfortable we double check that they are fine to continue — if not, we either finish the interview, or move on to another topic.

How do we protect research participant data?

Part of conducting safe interviews is also about ensuring the protection of patient data in all user research projects we conduct.

During our research, we are likely to capture personally identifiable data (e.g. age, gender, video image, audio) and medical data (e.g. health conditions, medical history, medications taken). Therefore, we take appropriate safeguards to keep patient data secure.

Recruitment of participants through to data storage

Ensuring patients that we take data security seriously starts at the earliest stage of participant recruitment. All participants are required to provide informed consent before they take part in a research interview, and confirm that they understand the purpose of the research. We also tell participants what purposes their data will be used for (e.g. to help improve the Zava website or service), and who it will be shared with.

For in-depth interviews or usability testing, we like to record the research. This is so we can refer back to any findings or observations, and share footage with other project team members. We tell participants upfront if any recordings will be taken (e.g. voice, video) and because we use a third-party tool to record interviews we have to be explicit about its usage, providing participants with access to the tool’s privacy policy.

Storage of data is a hugely important part of keeping patients safe and we have to ensure that we comply with GDPR. Therefore patients are made aware of how their data is stored and can also ask for it to be withdrawn at any point. However the most important point is that we never link data that can be used to identify a participant to the data we use for the research projects.

How does our research help Zava as a business?

We ensure that Zava’s product and service offerings are usable and provide value. And that patient needs are at the forefront of all product decisions. Ultimately we work to ensure that we support the company in meeting the first two values of our mission — providing accessible and dependable healthcare.


Delivering digital healthcare that is instant, convenient and a fraction of today’s cost https://www.zavamed.com/uk

Zak Forbes

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Delivering digital healthcare that is instant, convenient and a fraction of today’s cost https://www.zavamed.com/uk

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