Top 3 Challenges in Telehealth Design

Updated on August 10, 2020

Telehealth is only a viable option if patients adopt it. Learn why some patients aren’t comfortable with telehealth and what good design practices can do to solve the problem.

You’re sick. You’ve got a migraine, a sprained wrist, a nasty case of food poisoning. If getting in the car and going to the doctor ranks last on the list of things you want to do right now, how about downloading an app, setting up a connection, and talking with someone you’ve never met? And yet, that’s what telehealth services often ask someone to do.

Let’s shift focus to a different scenario. You have chronic arthritis pain, but the nearest specialist is 90 minutes away. The drive is no fun, but neither is scrolling through a bunch of options on a telemedicine app. Could they make the buttons any smaller?

These two examples highlight a flaw in some telehealth services: they’re not designed with the patient in mind. And, until patient-centric design is fully adopted, such solutions will not live up to their potential. So, let’s see how we can encourage telehealth adoption by addressing three major design challenges.

Learn more about telehealth service design. Read the article Adapting service design to telehealth.

Three telehealth challenges that good design can overcome

At its core, telehealth service design follows the same overarching principle as good user experience design: put the user – in this case, the patient – first. Walk a mile in their shoes, digitally speaking.

In March 2020, Sykes conducted a survey of 2,000 Americans regarding their perception of telehealth. Look at the top responses for why some felt chary of virtual healthcare:

  • 41% were unsure of the quality of care they’d receive.
  • 12% were uncomfortable sharing health information virtually.

Add to this the truism that people will stop using a frustrating app/webpage/device, and you can quickly see where the problem lies. Below are three common complaints you might hear from patients about a telemedicine device or service – and how you can solve that problem.

“It’s hard to use/see/hear.”

Solve it with: Accessibility.

About 15% of the world has some type of disability. So, think accessibility when designing a telehealth interface. Use larger buttons and fonts; if possible, build in capabilities for voice control, screen reading, screen magnification, captions, etc. And remember to include users with mobility, dexterity, cognitive, visual, and auditory limitations in your user testing.

“I don’t understand how this thing works!”

Solve it with: Common design patterns.

As designers, we sometimes itch to deliver bold, creative interfaces that nobody has ever seen before. Telehealth is not the space to do that. Users are relying on this device or service to work, and to work easily. In this case, it’s best to stick with common design patterns that make user actions feel more intuitive. The easier you make the experience, the more people will use it.

“How do I know this whole process is safe?”

Solve it with: Communication and transparency

Patients have a point: how do they know what happens to their medical information after they’ve left the chat? Detail how their medical information will be used, stored, and secured. Assure them that only necessary personnel have access to their records. Don’t rely on marketing-speak or tech industry jargon (which only carry meaning to people in marketing and tech, respectively); instead, explain that their data is encrypted, stored in a secure, private server, etc. Being upfront on your practices and procedures will make patients feel better about their privacy.

Good user experience design can help accelerate the adoption of telehealth services. By being aware of the user and getting their input throughout the design process, you can ensure that your telehealth service is truly accessible and usable.

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