Healthcare UX design challenges and how UX design can solve challenges for patients, clinicians, and institutions

Over the years, changes in global trends and general lifestyle have resulted in more health crises and more instances of diseases. For instance, there will be over 28 million annual cancer cases globally by 2040. That's a massive 47% increase from what was obtainable in 2020. These scary trends have led to renewed calls for health and wellness, which is why we see the development of healthcare apps increase from 90,000 apps in 2019 to over 350,000 in 2023.

However, as is with the nature of healthcare systems, the primary focus is always on functionality, hence sidelining the role of healthcare UX design. This ignorance has contributed to some of the UX challenges in healthcare today — from medical errors that cause over 9.5% of all deaths yearly in the US to churn rates caused by healthcare UX issues. These problems expose the dire need to implement UX methodologies at the start of the development cycle rather than as an afterthought.

That said, this article will highlight some of the challenges of UX healthcare design, the importance of user experience in healthcare, and how to solve healthcare UX design challenges for patients, clinicians, and institutions. Let's dive right in!

Importance of good UX design in healthcare

A good healthcare UX design can save and improve patients' lives, reduce churn rates, ease the workflow for healthcare providers, and increase ROI. Here are some benefits that exhibit why we must address healthcare user experience design challenges properly.

Enhanced accuracy

Earlier, we mentioned that medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the US alone. Most healthcare providers and even end-users, such as diabetic or high blood pressure patients, rely on digital health software systems to give accurate test results. Imagine a digital test kit that reads results in float numbers; a poor design structure of the decimal point could cause the user to read the results wrong.

On the contrary, consider all the possibilities engraved in a digital health toolkit designed with end-users in mind. A good UX in healthcare will not only reduce human errors but also offer a great user experience in healthcare. This could encourage the users to patronize the brand behind the design.

Increased productivity and wellness

No matter how much technology is used to speed up medical processes, the machines and tools will still need humans to give instructions or use them to achieve their daily goals. The introduction of computers in the medical space for record-keeping aimed to make the job easier for them. However, the reverse appears to be the case, as healthcare providers reportedly spend two hours navigating their systems for every hour spent face-to-face with a patient. All these are products of a bad healthcare UX design and complex navigation steps used in designing this software.

A good healthcare UX is a product of usability testing and proper UX research, which helps designers address situations that will probably slow down workflow for medical providers early in the development process. Therefore, the quicker these medical providers or users get the job done, the more productive and efficient they'll be.

Increased usability

The medical field is a complex ecosystem filled with jargon and unclear information. A bad healthcare UX design will only add salt to the wound for patients and even healthcare providers who use this digital health software. To prevent this from happening, UX designers need to put the needs of the end-users first to enhance usability. That way, users can navigate the software with flair and understand the steps, plus the data and metrics provided in the process.

Quicker onboarding

Many potential users of digital health software join without basic knowledge of the product. Perhaps the product was recommended by a friend or family or advertised somewhere that caught their interest. Whatever the case was, a good user experience design in healthcare is one way to make them stay and grasp the product's functionality quickly. The users' first impression will most likely determine how long they will test or use your product.

Having a healthcare UX ensures the end-users feel confident when they approach the product. Quicker onboarding due to excellently tested and researched healthcare UX design reduces churn rates and boosts conversion rates.

Wider user reach

The easier it is to onboard users, the more likely they'll recommend it to their friends and family. The goal of every healthcare enterprise is to provide both value and boost profitability from their product launches or sales. If your healthcare product is great but has a bad healthcare UX design, there are chances that it may not do well in the market as competition may likely swallow all efforts put into developing and launching the product.

7 UX challenges in healthcare

It is now clear that UX design in healthcare is a necessity, not a luxury. However, the following challenges pose a barrier to developing and deploying excellent UX designs for healthcare.

Product accessibility

Statistically, 16% of the world's population has a significant disability, and 10% are aged 65 and above. These two categories of people form a major figure in digital health usage. Of course, it's close to impossible to satisfy everyone's healthcare UX design needs. However, to solve this challenge, you must consider all end-user categories, including the abovementioned ones.

To satisfy the older and disabled population, UX designers must carefully choose their fonts, text sizes, and design colors, integrate simple navigation and text-to-speech technologies, and use easy-to-read grammar and instructions, among other things. There is also the case of language barriers that must be considered for apps that serve a broad range of users worldwide.

Regulatory compliance

Undoubtedly, one of the major UX challenges in the healthcare industry is regulatory compliance. The healthcare industry is delicate and usually follows certain guidelines and bureaucratic processes. This way, consumer medical products — tech and non-tech — can be regulated and properly accounted for. However, these protocols make UX design for healthcare more complex and hard to carry all the intended users of the supposed healthcare software product along. Because, one way or another, a specific category of users may not fit into other users' regulatory framework or needs.

Additionally, designers may find it difficult to build apps that comply with health and data protection laws across different regions. In fact, it's almost impossible for anyone to keep tabs on all the local laws and regulations that apply to each country. So, the way out is for designers to build almost universally acceptable apps in terms of legal frameworks, especially when the healthcare brand is an international organization.

Data sensitivity and cybersecurity

In 2022, Meta got sued to the tune of $3.1 billion for harvesting users data. Now, that's just one out of several lawsuits the company faced that year. And you can rest assured that other tech giants are fighting their own legal demons. This tells you that we're in a dispensation when users are as concerned about their data and internet security as they are about your app's functionalities.

The trend is seen in every other sector of our economy, including healthcare. The spike in electronic health records and telemedicine — both digital health alternatives to medical record keeping and consultancy — has also seen an increase in cybersecurity breaches and concerns. 

Due to the high volume of sensitive data managed in the healthcare industry, a data breach can be catastrophic and cost a lot to recover. As of 2023, data breaches in the healthcare industry cost an average of $11 million, the highest compared to data breaches in other industries like the financial sector.

With this healthcare UX challenge in view, software designers focus more on its functionality and infrastructure than the overall healthcare UX. If designers must overcome this fear, it must come from a place of improved cloud infrastructures and tighten security protocols of the database architectures.

Scalability and effect on maintenance and development cost

Many healthcare systems still use waterfall methodologies in modern-day technological setups. These are typically legacy technologies that can be difficult to maintain and scale. Aside from that, the difference in healthcare laws, the slow evolution of medical technology, and the complexity of the medical ecosystem make scaling UX design for healthcare problematic.

As a countermeasure, healthcare UX designers should incorporate agile methodologies in their development cycles. Institutions and companies should also adapt to the changes and trends in the technological landscape and be willing to test new waters as medicine and technology advance. That way, they can attain effective maintenance quickly and cost-effectively.

The counter effect of UX SaaS design

Every good healthcare UI/UX design aims to create experiences that allow users to achieve their goals efficiently. However, this could cause a counter-effect over time, as laziness and overdependency set in. For instance, medical professionals who depend on metrics to measure their progress may, over time, focus on improving the metrics rather than improving their patients' experiences. The Goodhart law explains this situation: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure."

The complexity of the healthcare system and its effect on UX design

Also on the list of challenges in UX design for healthcare is the complexity of development cycles. The reason is that some technological interventions in the healthcare industry are situational and rely on unique technologies and skills to achieve. In that regard, healthcare UX/UI design will be secondary as all focus would be on how to build an MVP and launch it in the market first.

Moreover, proper medical UX design requires time and special skills, such as product testing and UX research. With all the focus and resources spent on building the software architecture, developers may feel less of the need to design intuitive applications.

Problem with understanding healthcare app

Not many end-users will get it the first time. Even so, many others may end up not understanding how to navigate a healthcare app at all. This becomes a healthcare UX challenge, especially if a significant number of consumers fall into this category — all efforts put into the healthcare UX design will have no noticeable effect.

Simplified user experience in healthcare, plus proper user education and documentation on how to use a healthcare app, will go a long way in building a solid bond between end-users and the product. A good approach, as usual, will be usability testing, prototyping, and proper UX market research, among other things.

How Dworkz is solving healthcare UX design challenges

Dworkz is a top-tier healthcare UI/UX design agency focusing on building intuitive digital health apps. For the past two decades, Dworkz has worked extensively with various enterprises, helping them to overcome healthcare user experience design challenges.

In one of the past projects, Dworkz's design team applied strategy, creativity, and extensive experience in improving the Collective Health employee portal, allowing companies to control their healthcare expenditures and improve employers' healthcare. Whether you need to start from scratch or redesign your existing healthcare UX design, Dworkz is just a click away from helping you build healthcare apps that your users would love.


What are the best ways to overcome healthcare UX design challenges?

Challenges for UX in healthcare are numerous. And it's true not just in healthcare but literally every industry. User and market research and understanding of the industry are among the top recommended ways to solve healthcare UX design challenges.

What is the importance of UX design in SaaS healthcare apps?

There are many UX challenges in digital health today because the focus is more on functionality and less on user experience. As such, the importance of UX design in SaaS healthcare industry apps is numerous, but the most important ones are that it enables developers to build products that users can navigate seamlessly, increases user reach, and helps medical practitioners get more accurate results.

What kind of problems does UX design solve in the healthcare industry?

Proper UX design ultimately saves lives by reducing errors medical practitioners may face due to the complexities of most digital health SaaS products. It also tackles a major UX challenge in the healthcare industry, which is high churn rates.

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