Importance of Good Design in Healthcare

Adam Rotmil

AstraZeneca

This week I had an opportunity to sit down with Adam Rotmil who is a Product Discovery and Design Lead for AstraZeneca.  Adam is one of the leading minds in the design industry and he talks about what makes for good design in the healthcare space.  Adam has worked for many leading brands and is also an Adjunct Professor of Design at MICA – Maryland Institute College of Art.  Make sure to check out his new podcast Still Iterating.  

What inspires you about design in the healthcare space?  

What’s interesting to me is there are a lot of apps out there and maybe they are helpful and maybe not.  In the healthcare space it is regulated which it should be and you have to prove scientifically that it works.  You have to prove that there is a positive benefit to the user.  To me that as a UX designer that is the gold standard.   It can be frustrating at times if you are in a non-clinical setting but you want scientific standards – let’s do research, let’s synthesis it and formulate a hypothesis.  For me nothing could be better than working with doctors and scientists essentially as your client because they totally get it.

Thinking about the core principles of design and psychology how do you design for emotion and engagement in healthcare today?

Take for example the Headspace app, I can’t endorse it but as an individual I like it and think it’s cool.  Now if it came across as a form that just said how relaxed are you?  How stressed out are you then no one would want to use it.  The key to the psychology behind it is making it personal and making it engaging and inviting and making sure that the design of the product really plugs in to the rest of the users actual life.   So that way if you are using a meditation app or whatever it may be it doesn’t feel like you are checking out of your life and going to do some process.  It’s part of your life and you feel like this is the favorite part of your day.  That positive feeling makes you want to continue to use the app every day in your life and build healthy habits.   

What do you think the business impact of design is?

One of the keys to being a successful and responsible product designer is you have got to have something which is desirable, feasible and viable which means it has to support a business.  You can’t just go out and find out a bunch of users wishes and wants with no attention to if it’s going to support a successful business on the other end.  I’m sure you could if you are a non-profit with a big endowment.  But for most of us you want to have a positive user experience and based on something that users want even if they don’t know they want it.  You do the research to find that out.  You also have to work with business leaders to make sure there is a connection between those two.  If you are a product designer as long as users are happy and the business is successful then you know your product is working.  In some areas it can be harder to measure success.  

How do you incorporate diversity into your design work?

I think we have a ways to go as an industry.  I am a part of UX Coffee Hours which was established by Google and other great companies.  The meeting I have today is specifically for black members of the UX community.  The participants are usually aspiring UX-ers or just out of school.  The purpose is to have experienced designers spend some time to give some coaching and feedback to help them progress in their careers.    I think stuff like that as a design community is just something good that we can do as a community to help welcome other people into it.  Many companies are having conversations to be more intentional and to make it easier for folks to apply.  As for UX design sometimes folks will say if you can’t find anyone to do research and testing just ask your friends.  The problem with that (convenience sampling) is that you are likely to have a lot of friends just like yourself.  If you are not like that good for you, you are evolved but there are a lot of people who don’t have that as much and so if you are just researching with your friends you run the risk of having an echo chamber.  You want to make sure that in your research and testing that you have a diverse range of participants.

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