UX and Design – Do they have a role to play in health education?

John Conway 04 Jun 2019

Two and a half years ago I believe iheed made a brave business move. We invested in a design approach. This can be a big decision for any company, but that move has brought untold benefits and unquantifiable positives to our business.

The questions I now ask, as I reflect on those two and a half years as the User Experience (UX) Design Lead in iheed are; How does UX improve the product we ship? How does it help the thousands of health workers worldwide get a better educational experience, upskilling in a particular disease area to attaining accredited training that will ultimately benefit their country's health system? How can design aid problem solving and tell stories such as clinical case scenarios or get these workers the information they need quickly onsite and in an emergency? Finally - How do we measure the effectiveness of design within an industry such as health and e-learning. How do we measure it within iheed and what does that look like?

Improving our product

To answer some of these questions about improving product through design it may help to give a sense of what we as designers must do to deliver a product. Part of my role has been to build a design team that can meet the needs of our growing demand for our programme designs. While this has proved a challenge in our current job climate (designers are in demand) we have managed to build a great design team. Onboarding a design team into a busy studio can take time and the learning curve is steep but the upside has been that once the team is up and running then we collaborate and deliver results in a timely manner. Access to our end users can be difficult – they are frequently working under extreme pressure in healthcare situations that, as designers, we cannot fully appreciate. Our reach is global, so we have to cater for things like language and readability changes in the learning system. Depending on where our market is we may need to change the ethnic profiles of our images. These are daily challenges, but they bring an exceptionally personalised product to a specific region of the world – all done through our skilled designers.

Design has an impact

Our design-led product changes lives and has a direct impact on the ground in the communities where upskilled health workers can apply newly learned knowledge. Hospitals and primary care centres have teams of people working towards a better healthcare system and like that our product also has an Interprofessional team that works leanly and collaboratively to deliver programmes such as our Postgraduate Diploma in Diabetes or the Professional Diploma in Healthcare Leadership in a Digital World.

Our published courses and Programmes are highly visual with many work hours going into the construction of our navigation systems, components and interactions. This goes all the way down to the visual ‘brand’ of what they look like and most importantly, how the design can aid learning. Our studio has excelled at animation and video and we are looking forward to what novel audio and voice technology [KP1] can do for the customer experience and ultimately digital health education.

Measuring effectiveness

Depending on the role and industry, many designers are lucky in that they don’t really need to worry about the business end of our companies. That’s for people who wear suits, right? But the more you work and develop your career as a designer the more you want to see that what you do has an impact, somewhere or to someone. You start developing more interest in the business side and wanting to talk more to customers or clients to get the feedback and validation for the work we do. This then feeds into an ongoing loop of research – design -iteration and so on, and the product improves over time.
While I can’t sit here and give you percentages, there are a few signifiers I can definitely point at and say ‘yes, design helped here’!
If I drew a graph of the number of programmes iheed has delivered– the graph would take a steep upward curve. If I drew another one for our need of designers – from one to seven in two and a half years, that would be another one. Feedback from our clients has been hugely positive towards our UX design approach. The recognition internally at iheed of how our designs input into a far superior product has been another very satisfactory signifier. With our research and advocacy team, we are developing new ways In how we can quantify this impact as iheed continues to grow as does the need for design.

Design does make a difference

When I started my career in design I never thought I would be making the kind of difference through design. iheed has changed that perspective and how I think about it. The impact design can have through a company like ours is something that I am extremely privileged and proud of. Design is one part of our product and we use it front and centre to keep what we do customer-centric. iheed has put UX Design at the table in order to maximise its own goals at changing how those who work in healthcare can learn. That move has shown leadership – I hope others follow suit.

Written by John Conway, UX Design lead, iheed