What Does a UX/UI Designer in the Healthcare Industry Do?

Learn how UI/UX design best practices help designers uncover new ideas and create meaningful products and experiences.

UX/UI Designers in Healthcare

Few user experience design roles are as impactful or as potentially high stakes as that of the UI/UX designer in the healthcare sector. As healthcare data is increasingly digitized, telemedicine proliferates, fitness and health tracking apps and wearables become the norm, and consumers expect greater and easier accessibility to healthcare services and their own medical records, UX professionals are at the frontlines of understanding user needs and finding ways to help organizations meet those needs.

“[It’s] not only doctors [that] take care of our health,” said Martina Győrffy, a UX designer at UXStudio. “We can choose from many digital products [that help] us live better. User-friendliness, however, holds the key for the success of these apps and gadgets in the long run.”

Győrffy is not alone in believing that UX design is shaping the future of healthcare. Heleen Elegen, head of design at Philips, says that in their capacity as the voice of the customer, designers are in a unique position to shape products and services in life-changing ways. “We are the voice of the patient and of the staff,” she said. “The role of design is to visualize and to communicate. We have the chance to envision the future.”

How Is UX/UI Design Used in the Healthcare Industry?

At its core, UX/UI design in the healthcare industry isn’t too different from UX/UI design in other industries—the ultimate goal is to create a positive user experience that will lead to stronger user engagement, retention, and, depending on the product or service, conversion. But the specific applications of UX/UI design can differ greatly, and when it comes to healthcare, in particular, UX/UI designers play a significant role in helping hospitals, medical agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and other healthcare institutions effectively and efficiently serve their customers and patients.

The specific scenarios where UX design might be used can vary greatly. For example, a UX designer working on record digitization software might be focused on how doctors, nurses, or administrative staff currently access patient data and what kind of interface would make the most sense for someone who has to use the platform all day. In comparison, a designer working on a consumer-facing product like an appointment scheduler might have to consider the usability of the product by someone who is unfamiliar with the interface, how the scheduler might work on a mobile platform such as an Android or iOS device, whether the product design and user interactions are intuitive, and whether the design experience is enjoyable enough that a user might return instead of turning choosing alternatives. 

A few other applications of UX design in the healthcare industry include:

  • Telemedicine — As telemedicine becomes more common, particularly in historically underserved and remote areas, there is greater pressure to build telehealth apps that are inclusive, easy to use, and mimic the face-to-face visit as closely as possible. This is where UX designers, researchers, and analysts can make the most impact by taking into account different user characteristics such as age, technical skills, and mental states, then bringing to the table creative ways of capturing the in-person experience between doctors and patients and recreating that experience in a virtual environment.
  • Accessibility — A vital part of the user experience when it comes to healthcare technology is accessibility. Many users of telemedicine services, health and fitness apps, and appointment registration services might have a disability, low tech literacy, or poor internet connections; it often falls on the UX designer to advocate for these different kinds of users, ensuring that the products and platforms are designed to be intuitive, user-friendly, and factor in the different accessibility issues a user might face.
  • Wearables —  The popularity of wearable devices such as fitness trackers continues to soar, with estimates that there will be 1.1 billion wearable devices in the wild by 2022. As these devices generate troves of user data, from steps walked to vital stats, device manufacturers need to find ways to prioritize information without overwhelming the user. This is where UX designers can make a difference, first by understanding the users’ needs and behaviors, then by using visual communication design to help users quickly and easily access and understand the data they’re shown.

UX Design of a Health Tracking Wearable

  • Virtual reality simulations — VR has in recent years emerged as an effective training tool for surgeons, with the Harvard Business Review stating that VR technologies have advanced to the point of offering “a highly granular picture of what surgeons are doing correctly and [identifying] areas for improvement.” The report found that VR training on a VR platform “improved participants’ overall surgical performance by 230% compared with traditional training methods.” Such tools require UX designers to build an all-encompassing user interface that is accurate and realistic while meeting the needs of surgeons.
  • Electronic health records — As medical records move online, the digitization of data alone is not enough to make information retrieval easier or more efficient. UX designers with knowledge and understanding of how medical staff typically interact with a system can ensure that any electronic health record software developed will actually be useful to the end-user by factoring elements such as what the user prioritizes, the sequence of actions performed when using a database, and what fields are mandatory versus what can be left blank.

Healthcare Industry UX/UI Designer Job Roles/Responsibilities

Most UX/UI designers bring technical design skills to the table such as the ability to conduct and make sense of qualitative and quantitative research and user testing; experience with creating prototypes, wireframes, sketches, workflows, journey maps, and user testing; interactive design; visual communication; information architecture; ease of collaboration with cross-functional teams; and proficiency with tools such as Sketch, Invision Studio, Proto.io, Webflow, Balsamiq, and Axure. And while these skills might help a designer build a visually appealing website or platform, the healthcare sector expects its UX/UI designers to be creative and empathetic problem solvers who are willing to develop domain expertise in the medical sector.

“Designers engaged in [healthcare] projects must understand the specifics of the medical sector and be ready to deal with great responsibility that comes with the tasks,” according to UX trade publication UX Planet. If designing telemedicine technology, UX designers need to “take into account such characteristics as users’ age, mental states, and tech skills.” If designing for virtual reality training, designers need to be able to identify “the needs of the target audience and make accuracy their top priority.” And if working on electronic health records, designers “need to study how medical staff will interact with the system.” 

In addition to merging their UX knowledge and best practices with knowledge of the sector, some of the responsibilities of UX/UI designers in the healthcare industry include:

  • Conducting and/or using user research to gain insight into what issues/pain-points users face when they engage with a healthcare app, website, platform, or system
  • Conducting design experiments and A/B testing, listening to user feedback, and staying on top of industry trends to develop user/patient-centered design solutions
  • Understanding the goals and desired calls-to-action of an organization’s healthcare platform and finding ways to meet those goals while still advocating for the user—whether it’s trying to help hospital workers be more efficient, improving the training experience for doctors, or making the appointment booking experience less stressful for patients
  • Designing a consistent, reliable, and accessible user experience across mobile devices and desktop platforms
  • Collaborating with team members from other disciplines such as  researchers, data scientists, information architects, marketers, and engineers to test, iterate, and launch products and services that satisfy stakeholders

Healthcare Industry UX/UI Designer Salary

Among hiring managers, UX/UI design is one of the top five most in-demand skills, according to a LinkedIn report, with the demand expected to rise throughout 2021. And as healthcare providers continue to expand their digital presence, we can expect demand to continue rising for designers who can optimize user experiences; make websites, tools platforms more accessible, and transform the delivery of care for the better. 

UX/UI designer salaries are typically determined by education, years of experience, location, and organization type. As of 2021, the average base salary of an entry-level UX/UI designer in the healthcare industry is around $68, 457. The average base salary of a senior-level UX/UI designer in the e-commerce industry is around $87, 207.

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