UXPA Conference 2015: Enabling Empowerment in Healthcare


May’s UXPA Boston User Experience Conference 2015 brought together the best and brightest minds in user experience for an exciting day of education, networking and inspiration. From the start,“Empowerment” was a key theme of the event: from giving attendees new tools, research, and thought leadership to how our work as professionals in the field creates empowerment for the end user  From the welcoming remarks by UXPA Boston President Eva Kaniasty and throughout the day, it was clear that UX is helping to drive innovation and deliver better, more engaging experiences for all.

The Medullan UX Team was honored to be a part of the day with our session, “Coping with Complexity in Healthcare: Enabling Sense-Making through Great UX.”

Healthcare consumers (and lets include patients, clinicians and other care providers in this definition!) often feel frustrated, confused, and intimidated by the experience and interfaces associated with digital healthcare tools – websites, HR benefits portals, EHR’s and even mobile applications.  As part of the UX community, we are in a unique place to convert these negative feelings into positive ones – delivering contentment, satisfaction, and empowerment – all of which can drive better health outcomes for patients, efficiency for providers, and hopefully cost savings for all.

Let’s make Jack happy

As part of our session, I presented our audience with the case of “Jack” – an educated individual who had opted to get his genome mapped to better understand his himself and health outlook.

What made Jack, the user, unhappy was that despite having a degree in chemistry, working for a software company, and being a bit of a geek generally, he still could not learn very much from his genetic test results due to the poor interface.

The portal “worked” technically in that it provided incredibly rich genomic information about Jack. It even showcased a high degree of sophistication in its interactive visualizations. But as powerful, comprehensive, and even beautiful as these visuals were, they still missed the point: making Jack feel empowered.

How, as UX practitioners, can we help Jack?  We explored how utilizing familiar design patterns and principles helps make complex medical information feel more consumable and familiar. For example:

  • Design for real peoplenot scientists – tools like Auto-Suggest, Tool Tips, and other in-line help patterns to educate Jack when he’s presented with new concepts and terminology

  • Support exploration – tools like Search, Faceted Navigation and Personalized Spotlights let Jack confidently explore and learn about the parts of his genome that he’s most interested in

  • Create community – tools like Forums, Social Sharing, and Messaging offer comfort in an environment where medical information can feel daunting and alienating







    Familiar tools simplify unfamiliar information

As UXers, we have a large toolkit of design patterns available to help Jack, and all health consumers, interact with new and complex information. Pulling from a range of industries – retail, finance, travel, media – we can use patterns that users find familiar and approachable to help them feel more empowered when dealing with their healthcare information.  

Thanks to UXPA Boston for inviting Medullan to share what we’ve been thinking about and working on in healthcare. It’s an exciting domain, with lots of opportunities for creating great, high-value user experiences. We’re delighted to be part of it and proud to be part of the greater UX community in Boston.


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