The three most important trends in health care experience design for 2019

Justin Daab Customer Experience Design, Strategy, User Experience Design

We’ve seen 30+ years of shifting trends. And one underlying constant.

Over the past 30+ years, Magnani has had the pleasure of working with clients across a variety of industries—from health care to hospitality, industrial equipment to medical devices, household cleaning products to sporting goods, dining cruises to the world’s most highly traded financial derivatives contracts, just to name a few. Each engagement has broadened our collective perspectives while confirming one underlying truth: Regardless of emerging trends, ongoing changes in technologies or the idiosyncrasies of individual markets, the fundamentals of human nature remain constant.

While we are continually working at the forefront of experience design trends, we believe the inspiration for real innovation comes from respecting those trends but also, more importantly, looking to find a deeper understanding of the foundational human motivations fueling them.

To that point, there are three fundamental elements that drive all trends—basic (human) needs, drivers of change (shifts in technology adoption, population changes, etc.) and innovation (newly available tools or methods). But it is perhaps more accurate to say that motivation stems from the tension occurring at the intersection of those forces.

To understand those intersections, we rely on a variety of resources and quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, from ethnography to focus groups, individual interviews, secondary research reviews and data analysis. Further, depending on the scope and time horizon of the project, we may utilize tools such as the trend framework, consumer trend radar or consumer trend canvas. We also consult market research reports and publications from organizations like MINTEL, Kantar, IRI and Nielsen, among others. Ultimately, we design research and analysis strategies and plans that are unique to every project, challenge and budget.

As we survey the greater market environment, we see the dominant customer experience trends, regardless of industry category, surround three main thematic pillars: consumer control, data ethics and privacy and automation/personalization. In health care specifically, we must layer on increased demand for access to care, the democratization of health information and the drive to lower costs (from both the consumer and provider sides of the equation). Specifically, in health care, we see these trends expressed in the following ways:

Consumer Control:
Consumers expect health care experiences to be as frictionless and simple as hailing an Uber … sort of.

Consumers want access to health information and care whenever and wherever they need it. But there’s a catch. While consumers are increasingly expressing the desire to manage their own care, the technologies that enable that control have varying levels of adoption among different generational cohorts. For example, newly available telemedicine solutions that should, in theory, provide increased levels of control and access, have varying degrees of acceptance depending on age and generational and conditional differences. To state it more colloquially, the older and more informed the patient, the less likely the patient is to prefer a technology solution over consulting a physician directly.

Simultaneously, consumers want increased transparency and choice, ostensibly in order to more actively shop for their best care options and control costs. However, it has not been shown that lower cost and improved proximity are as powerful an influence over care decisions than a physician referral.

In short, currently, control-enabling technology is best suited to enhancing personal connections in a health care journey, not replacing it. But that balance should move more toward the replacement side of the equation, as the balance of the population shifts to younger generations.

Data Ethics and Privacy:
Data privacy issues are moving beyond HIPAA.

For perhaps the first time, general concern over data privacy is on the consumer radar. Thanks to HIPAA, privacy rules surrounding traditional medical records and health information are clear and established (albeit under constant review). But the entrance into the market of consumer fitness- and health-related technology companies is creating a new privacy gray area for consumers and health care companies, alike. Quasi-medical devices, like sleep and fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and fitness trackers, while creating a compelling feedback mechanism for consumers, are a vector for data leaks and privacy violations. These products and the data they create should enable a more holistic, long-term understanding of patient well-being and enhance the customer experience. But health care providers and organizations need to be aware of vulnerabilities and create increasingly secure integrations.

Further compounding data privacy issues is the increasing role of caregivers. It’s been estimated that there are more than 40 million family members acting as unpaid caregivers in the U.S., and the number may increase in the coming decade. Among the many challenges in creating a seamless health care experience, a significant challenge arises around allowing caregivers to provision access and permission for personal health information and electronic medical records while respecting the patient’s privacy and security.

Automation/Personalization:
In health care, every patient represents a distinctive market of one.

Health isn’t a simple product or service that can be transferred to a consumer. Each consumer is physically and emotionally unique. Therefore, there is no all-things-to-all-people solution to providing the optimal customer experience. The industry will need to use emerging technologies to provide the right experience for each customer, based on that customer’s needs at any specific point in time. No small challenge, especially given the privacy restrictions mentioned above.

Thankfully, technologies for privacy-compliant extreme personalization are advancing rapidly. We foresee technologies like blockchain increasingly supporting interoperability and personalization while maintaining sufficient control over data leakage. Ultimately, the trends suggest patients should realize higher-quality care experiences such as blockchain and competing crypto-technologies allow seamless sharing of medical records across health care providers while maintaining privacy and control.

The success factor no one talks about in Presidential debates.

As early 2020-election-season rhetoric swells to a roar, obviously the future of health care is a large part of the stump speech for every candidate. All of the candidates talk about the broad brush economics of how a change in the way we as a society pay for health care might affect our pocketbooks (not to mention our individual survival). What you don’t hear is how we might really improve the health care experience beyond cost and basic access. Whether or not we will see universal health care implemented, equal consideration should be given to the quality of the experience itself as will be given to how the money changes hands. That’s surely where the long-term successes or failures of any future system lies.

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Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.

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