Healthcare UX – What It Is and Why It Matters

According to, engaging and quality design is a second most important factor that would convince people to use health apps more frequently, and in recent IBM survey, 95% of respondents said that ‘ease of use’ is the main reason for choosing one digital health solution over another.

If you are a healthcare entrepreneur that have an idea for a health app, read on to learn how User Experience Design will help you earn loyal and engaged users.

The way people take care of their health and wellbeing is changing

Health and wellness context for years has been primarily based on the face-to-face interaction. Visiting a hospital or a GP, booking a session with a personal trainer, speaking to a psychologist or even caring for a loved one – all required attending a specific location and a face-to-face interaction.

In the recent years, we have witnessed a growing trend for incorporating digital devices and tools into this setting. Starting from a consumer electronics manufactured primarily for fitness and wellness – Fitbit, smart scales, smart homes solutions, meditation apps – to the more clinical side where we’ve seen developments in mhealth apps, telehealth and teletherapy. Patients themselves are turning to the internet to answer their questions and alleviate health concerns. Some of those devices have substituted face-to-face interaction entirely, and some are a medium facilitating the communication and the exchange of information.

What it means for healthcare entrepreneurs

What it means for health and wellness providers is that they too need to enter this world of creating engaging digital solutions. And with the amount of competition out there it is not enough to just create something that works.

So how do you create digital health solutions that people want to interact with over and over again? How do you discover an opportunity in the market and how do you turn an idea into product requirements? And what if you have no idea about app or software development process?

The best advice I can give you is to start with thinking about your users, their needs and motivations, and the experience you want them to have with your product. And healthcare UX can give you tools and methods that make this process easier.

User Experience design for digital health and wellness

The term ‘experience design’ might sound somewhat mysterious and confusing if you’re not familiar with creative industries or software development methods. How can you ‘design’ something so intangible as an ‘experience’? It simply describes the overall experience people have when interacting with a product or service.

Think of ordering an Uber versus ringing a traditional taxi company. It essentially does the same thing, gets you in a car from point A to point B. But from a user perspective there are several factors that make the overall experience just better: seeing the price estimate up front, seeing exact location of your driver and the estimated time of his arrival, being able to save your favorite locations like ‘home’, ‘office’ and ‘airport’ and finally, that little moment of delight when you saw the little cars turning around and moving on the map for the first time.

User Experience (UX) Design as a discipline is concerned with understanding what those added-value factors are and how to turn those opportunities into a product or service.

Healthcare UX answers the questions:

  • Who are the users?
  • What are their problems and challenges?
  • What motivates them and what are they trying to achieve?
  • What products/services/features will solve their challenges?
  • What will they want to use and how will they use it?
  • What value does it provide to the user?
  • What are the core features, functionality and content of the product and how will users interact with it?

Answering those questions is critical to creating engaging digital solutions that provide real value to the user. Healthcare entrepreneurs also benefit from applying this approach.

Healthcare UX drives engagement and reduces abandonment rate

A recent study has shown that most of mhealth solutions fail because the development team failed to address most important user needs and take into consideration the context of use.

Let’s say your app lets user track their symptoms over time and pass that data to their healthcare professional or share it with a clinical research team. You’ve implemented an interface where users can answer a number of questions or enter their information in the provided form. It fulfils the goal on the business end – obtains the data from the user. But what about the user? Data tracking is a tedious task and the user needs an incentive to stay engaged with the application and keep using it on a regular basis. For people to use something it needs to provide them with a value back. Of course, it helps to improve their health, on a long term. But you would get much better results by providing people with an immediate reward. An engaging and playful design might be one idea of such reward. A useful data analysis and representation with additional tips and resources might be another.

UX process allows you to find out what this value is during the research phase, and incorporate it into your design.

Healthcare UX is a deciding factor for people choosing one solution over another

A recent IBM survey among mhealth users has shown that the ease of use and user-friendliness is a primary reason for choosing one solution over another for 95% of respondents.

In the software development context, we’ve known the issue of ‘feature wars’ for years. This is the tendency to pack more and more features into your solution with the aim of attracting more users and getting ahead of the competition. The problem is that it is very easy for your competitor to catch up with you by copying these features in their next release. Also, the truth is that most users don’t need that amount of features and most likely they will only use the core functionality.

The most popular digital tools on the market fulfil a few key needs for their users but do those few things extremely well (all that Snapchat does is sending self-destructing messages but it has millions of dedicated fans). The design and the experience of interaction with your product are also much more difficult to copy, therefore it gives you a much better edge over the competition.

Healthcare UX helps create a habit and drive behaviour change

When it comes to health and wellness digital solutions, the common purpose is to help people improve their health and wellness outcomes. This will usually require consistent changes over a long period of time.

But changing habits is difficult. UX Design as a discipline is very much rooted in the psychology of how people interact with things and what impact this interaction has on their lives. The topic of habit-forming products and designing for behaviour change has been researched by such design professionals and psychologists like Stephen Wendel and Susan Weinschenk. A good UX designer will be well versed on this subject and will help you create a product that will motivate your users to change their unhealthy habits and promote healthy behaviour.

Healthcare UX provides methods to validate the idea and the requirements

Incorporating UX Design methods from early conceptual stages helps to avoid mistakes and unnecessary work later on in the process. If we start with user research we can find out which concept is the strongest and what features are really important to users (aka what will actually make them download and use this app).

As creative people and entrepreneurs, we tend to have a lot of ideas of what the product could and should do, but it’s crucial to validate these ideas before we spend time, effort and money on developing complex products. Having this knowledge also helps to plan product roadmap – knowing what features are the top priority, we can develop those first and go to market with the right MVP much quicker and with greater confidence.

Healthcare UX in practice

I hope that this article gave you a good introduction into what healthcare UX is and why it matters for your digital health solution. For a complete step by step guide on how to incorporate Healthcare UX practices in your next project, get your free copy of Healthcare UX Design Blueprint.



Still have questions? Feel free to add your questions in the comments below and I’ll be more than happy to answer.