WORK / Article / Healthcare Four ways to improve patient engagement and save billions in healthcare

Share this 8 AugustAug 2017

Jack Connolly

Medical Device Designer

Jack is a Medical Device Designer in Design Partners, specializing in usability testing for physical and digital products. Jack has an MSc in medical device design and has been designing products and experiences in the consumer and healthcare sectors for 6 years.


By Jack Connolly, Medical Device Designer, Design Partners

We know from experience that applying holistic-UX approaches can deliver much higher levels of patient engagement in a variety of different fields

The cost of poor patient engagement is well documented with up to 50 per cent of patients falling off their treatment regimes, resulting in thousands of deaths and a global bill of over $100bn annually. There is a wide range of issues that contribute to poor patient engagement, so you need a holistic approach that addresses challenges across all the patient touchpoints.


Here are four approaches that have worked for Design Partners’ clients:

1. Streamline medication-management apps

Chronic illnesses often need multiple medications that all too often lead to multiple medication management apps. The whole idea of an app is to simplify the process, but having to update three apps for three different drugs has the opposite effect. Even if each app is smooth, the overall experience is clunky. S3 Connected Health has developed a platform called affinial for patient engagement and behaviour change that overcomes this problem. Affinial is drug-agnositic and streamlines the medication management process and engages patients rather than overwhelming them.

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2. Align self-medication to lifestyle

Medication management is not just about scheduling and recording when a patient takes their medication, it’s about finding ways to make the medication regime fit into people’s lives. When we investigated injector-pen management for HealthBeacon, we designed a disposal system that looks like any other kitchen appliance, because that’s the place and context where it’s typically used. Rather than reinforcing negative patient associations with a medical looking appliance, we designed something that looks at home in the kitchen, encouraging better engagement.

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3. Design packaging that’s engaging

Product packaging properly executed in healthcare is a way to promote positive patient engagement. Very often it’s the first step, the ‘out-of-the-box experience’ that will determine how motivated the patient is to administer their treatment. Clear instructions that are well presented should be a fundamental building block in the medication management process. This first experience is the foundation that the rest of the product experience is built on. For example, with home healthcare consumables, patients can benefit from packaging that aids in preparation, and specialist nurses can benefit greatly from packaging that facilitates easier patient training.

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4. Plan for the patient journey

Whether designing reminders into a digital system or sending additional information and updates, long-term medication management is about taking patients on a journey, encouraging independence and autonomy. Language is an important component and should be used to build confidence and reward positive actions. Whether it’s packaging, information leaflets, or a digital experience, it’s about using the right language to navigate the fine line between helpful information and nagging.

Side-effects, subtle and slow benefits, irregular medication schedules and everyday life can all get in the way of maintaining consistent adherence. By applying positive-psychology principles, we can show the benefits of adherence and motivate patients to progress with their treatments.

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We know from experience that applying holistic-UX approaches can deliver much higher levels of patient engagement in a variety of different fields, from home healthcare to pharmaceuticals. It’s a challenging area and never easy, but we have helped significantly improve patient outcomes as well as the bottom line.

Find out more about our healthcare solutions.

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