Saturday, November 24, 2007

Designing the 'Care' into Health Care

The health care UX ...

"Improving the user experience could inspire people to tap into the system more regularly to help stave off more serious illness

In the current political debate over America's health-care crisis, candidates' solutions appear to be divided along party lines. Democrats want to offer universal health care (but to varying degrees and in slightly different ways) while Republicans, if they have commented on the issue yet, promote a free-market approach. The debate boils down to varying levels of commitment to universal coverage and ideas about who's going to pay for it.

To a designer's eye, efficiently providing for a basic need is indeed the fundamental issue. But it should be possible to go beyond rudimentary solutions to achieve the overall objective of a healthy population by also addressing an essential question: What does the individual want and need from the experience of health care?

The fact is, even among those covered by insurance, no one is happy with the American health-care experience today. It is an expensive, complex system to which people resort only when a problem has grown threatening. Focusing on improving the user experience could inspire people to tap into the system more regularly to support healthful choices that could help stave off more serious illnesses. Innovations are called for that are relevant to people's needs and encourage compliance, improve communication between doctor and patient, and help people help themselves be healthy. The candidates today have an opportunity to put the "care" back into health care.
Consumers Want to Be Empowered

Of course, while wellness is a desirable goal, a health-care redesign isn't only about getting everyone to take care of themselves before and as they get sick. It is also about the bottom line. Workers are expensive. And as journalist Richard Seven noted in The Seattle Times in 2006, "Unhealthy workers are the most expensive of all. In any given year, 10% of them account for 70% of the health-care costs. Many of the expensive chronic diseases such as some types of diabetes and cancer are lifestyle-related, meaning somewhat preventable." Seven reported that Caterpillar (CAT) projected its wellness program may save about $700 million on health costs by 2015 and that Motorola (MOT) reported in 2003 that it was saving $4 in health-care costs for every $1 it spent on wellness."    (Continued via Business Week)    [Usability Resources]

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