Digital NHS needs to take the lead from design

In an increasingly paperless world ruled by screens and devices, digital innovation has become integral to the management of our daily lives. Why should healthcare systems be any exception? It’s time for the managed healthcare sector to pick up the pace in terms of the service it offers its patients. It's clear that digital can – and will – revolutionalise the health and wellness sector, from the advent of wearable technology and digital diagnosis, to the digitisation of health records and treatment models. The UK government’s recent plan to invest £260m in the NHS for hospitals to replace paper patient notes and prescriptions with online systems is just one part of the huge leap by healthcare professionals towards digital. However, it’s not enough to simply digitise; in order to create a service that will be successful for Britain’s growing population, the government will need to consider innovative design at the crux of its strategy.

With today’s data revolution in full swing, many organisations are now compiling information about our bodies; from fitness apps like Nike Fuelband to scales such as BodyTrace, our data is quantified and delivered to us like never before. However, the flip side of this is that it can lead to data fatigue. To minimise this effect we need to design services for ‘the glance’, making information easier, quicker and clearer to interpret. This can be achieved through effective visual design. For example, at Fjord, we have recently worked with a Harvard Medical School-funded SMART Project to redesign North American paediatric growth charts, as research had revealed that many doctors and parents found current tools to be unclear. Growth charts are present in nearly every paediatric appointment and yet existing models did not suit because they had failed to consider doctor and patient needs in their design. In approaching the growth chart’s redesign, we sought to find ways to explain the importance not just of each measurement, but how these measurements related to each other. We relied on visuals to aid the conversation between doctor and parent around a child's development. By taking a design-led approach we were able to create an interactive paediatric growth chart app that can be easily read, understood and shared between doctors and parents.

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