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Innovating With Empathy: Where Disruption Knows No Bounds.

Lisa Sershen, Chief Digital Officer, Westmed Medical Group
Lisa Sershen, Chief Digital Officer, Westmed Medical Group

Lisa Sershen, Chief Digital Officer, Westmed Medical Group

Though every industry practices a healthy dose of discernment to the notion of change, disruption in the health care industry -- where “users” are actually real people, and these real people are entrusting their lives in the hands of another -- is considered a particularly distressing reality to some, but it doesn’t have to be.

We are at a tipping point to web design and technology development evolution in health care. Today, development trends in medical care are generally geared towards a user-experience design philosophy, which focuses on enhancing the “usability” of patient innovations to empower patients with greater access to tools and information, while generating increased engagement. And while the challenges of HIPPA compliance and air-tight data security protocols have always existed, as we move into a world of constant connectivity (think: wearables and smart home devices), the question becomes: can there be too much innovation in health care?

We are learning that as long as we maintain a human touch throughout the design and development process, “disruption” and groundbreaking innovations in the world of health care delivery will know no bounds.

Many patient-centered technology trends today serve to create better “access” for patients. This could mean, for example, helping patients communicate more efficiently, schedule an appointment online, pay a bill from your mobile device, or even conduct a visit virtually (using functionality like telemedicine). At this point, innovators are developing technology to make antiquated patient processes more straightforward, more intuitive, and faster.

Advancements in technology and disruptions will only accelerate as time progresses. The challenge we will face is matching this rate of acceleration with a corresponding percentage of adoption. To achieve the goal of real revolutionary digital development in health care, both the patient and the caregiver must feel comfortable and safe when embracing innovation.

Designing technology with a human touch will require designers to place themselves in the user’s shoes from an emotional perspective. The reality is that the best kind of health care is built on empathy. Only through empathy can doctors and nurses build deep trust with patients, and make a meaningful impact on the health outcomes in our communities. Patients need to trust that innovation will lead to significantly improved health outcomes for successful implementation and adoption rates. Similarly, providers need to believe that these tools will reduce medical errors and enhance their ability to make clinical decisions while still allowing them to care for their patients adequately.

The advancement of AI technology, normalization of wearables and smart home devices will allow health care providers the unique opportunity to engage consumers in a preventive approach to medicine before any illness occurs – but we are not there yet. There has been slow adoption from the health care ecosystems to accept user-generated data from patient-facing technologies, which is why efforts to create a standardized data exchange of patient-facing technologies is critical to accessing the extensive patient wellness data information available. Though adoption has been slow, we are beginning to see the massive transformation potential that will result from emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning. Using AI to read medical scans rapidly or incorporating natural language processing systems that synthesize doctor notes in an organized and accurate way, are technologies that augment health care providers’ abilities in the exam room, and are starting to become widely utilized today.

It is clear: technology has the potential to deepen the relationship between doctor and patient. The more a doctor connects with a patient, the more a patient understands that they care. When a patient feels that the doctor truly cares and is invested in a patient’s health, patients are encouraged to be more active in their care. Understanding this universal truth and applying it to technology is what will make all of the difference. Designing through the lens of empathy will create fewer barriers to adoption for both patients and providers, and ultimately, will serve to enhance a patient’s experience with their provider, lead to improved health outcomes, and pave the road for further innovations to better the world of health care delivery.

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