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Design a Better Patient-Doctor-Technology Experience

March 17, 2010

My doctor’s office has been wired and now he focuses on the Mac more then me. While there are benefits to digital files in health care, the quality of the patient experience is not yet one of them.

Let me walk you through my appointment. The doctor enters the room, says a quick hello and turns to the monitor to login. Next, he turns to me and asks me how I am doing. Before I’ve shared all the details, I’m starring at his back again as he opens a new appointment chart and starts keying in information. More than once, he utters in frustration, “Ah, I keep doing that. I’m going to start again”. We’re now engaged in a question period where I receive questions seemingly tossed over my doctor’s shoulder and I answer to the back of his lab coat.

As new technologies are introduced into society almost daily, it’s often not until the technology is experienced for a period of time that issues are identified. An example of this is the adoption and use of mobile devices in the car. Usage grew exponentially and it quickly became obvious that something had to be done to reduce the negative effects on safety. Technology’s solution was hands-free operation capabilities and legislation was passed requiring ‘hands-free’ operation of phones while operating a vehicle.

New innovations such as the iPad or Tablet PC may allow the doctor to break free from the chains of a desktop computer but that is only part of the solution. The impersonal appointment is likely the result of a combination of poorly designed software and hardware, my doctor’s discomfort with computers and the layout of the examination room. Designers need to analyze both the patient experience and the doctor experience and come up with a solution that is person-to-person first and doctor-to-computer second.

Until solutions are found, a patient’s best bet might ironically be another combination of technology and health care, the digital house call. This new service offered in the US uses video chat to deliver health care. At least in a video chat a patient can see the doctor’s face.

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