Human-Centered Design in Health Care






Post written by Dominique Pandy



 It is common knowledge that the current U.S. Healthcare system is not working, and it is necessary that we begin to focus on developing and implementing novel solutions. One approach that may resolve some of these issues is a focus on human-centered design. As explained by’s Design Kit, human-centered design is a “process and set of techniques used to create new solutions for the world”. It starts with examining the needs, dreams, and behaviors of the people who the solutions are aiming to effect. It takes into consideration the common patterns of human behavior in order to generate solutions to problems. Thinking about these patterns can be a major influence in developing real and effective applications for improving the patient experience.

Currently, our healthcare system is not optimized for human use. This is evidenced by the prices of medications and procedures, in addition to the errors that occur daily in our hospitals and clinics.  Compared to most countries worldwide, the United States spends more money per capita on healthcare while patient experiences and outcomes are some of the least effective.  We are consistently spending more money, for lesser quality care – indicating a great need for healthcare reform. It is possible that human-centered design can be a critical part of reforming and improving the state of the U.S. Healthcare system.

Human centered design revolves around understanding the thought processes, emotions, and behaviors of humans, a component that needs to be considered in the design of our healthcare delivery systems. According to lead author Meghan M. Searl, Ph.D. the reason hospitals have only recently began to consider a user-centered approach is because hospitals were built on systems that grew in direct response to social needs, rather than systems that are built on efficiency and safety. Doctors and physicians are not perfect, and as the health care professionals and the general public become more aware of issues regarding patient safety, it becomes clear that something needs to be done.

 Applications in human-centered design, specifically in the healthcare field, vary in nature. Lead author Meghan M. Searl, Ph.D. lists several areas in healthcare that may require a user centered approach including standardizing self-care tools, developing preventative care systems, and developing treatment tools for emotional health.

Research in human-centered design is ongoing, and future applications are still being considered and discovered. Incorporating this idea of a user-centered approach has the potential to yield great benefits once mainstreamed into modern healthcare practices.




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