Category Archives: Health IT

Beyond UX: How To Tap Customer Desire For Better Health IT Solutions

User experience research is really important in healthcare. You need those insights to optimize the user experience and make your technology as good as it can be. But how do you know what desires and expectations users/customers bring into the experience? And how do you go deeper and identify what will bring real value to users/customers?

solutios-userexperience

As you know, user experience research in health IT typically focuses on likes and dislikes and problems and opportunities with the interface, which makes sense. After all, the interface is what users use and what feeds workflows. For some technologies, user experience research also includes how providers, patients, and the device all interact.

To understand value, it’s important to go beyond assessing how users/customers interact with the interface and beyond other aspects of the use case.

Before Use

Let’s start with what is involved with users becoming users; that is, how they get to the interaction and experience. This requires understanding and tapping into their desires and expectations.

Consider: Are users coming to the experience by choice? Are they wanting to accomplish what your technology accomplishes? Are they required to use your solution? What are their expectations? What are their desires? How does using your solution fit into the bigger picture of their workflow and priorities?

These attitudinal precursors to use can dramatically affect the user experience. Decades of research show know how powerfully expectations shape experience. So be sure you know the answers before you test usability and the user experience. Do the research to get answers to these questions. A quick and dirty approach is to talk with users just prior to using your software or technology. Alternatively, you can bring them into a focus group facility, and with appropriate props, have them imagine they’ll be using your technology and find out what’s going through their minds and hearts. Just be sure to ask the right questions and without bias.

Observing Value

Another great complement to user experience research within is in-situ/ethnographic research at clinical practices to understand what will truly bring value to healthcare workflows within a broader context than your technology.

Watch at first. Just watch. Then ask questions to understand. Really focus on understanding problems, not coming up with solutions (yet!).

Ask them what they’re thinking as their waiting for data to be processed or for the next prompt. Identify what matters to them emotionally and pragmatically. Doing so will give you tremendous insight into what they desire and value, which in turn will affect what solutions you make and what user experiences you offer to help them fulfill their desires and get done what they need to get done.

This kind of deep observational research reveals what aspects of their workflow providers and administrators find most frustrating, what wastes the most time, what desires are unfulfilled, and ultimately what interferes with better patient care.

As my friend and mentor Don Norman, a noted author and leading Design Thinker summarizes: Observe/Think/Make. This is the critical “observe” step. If it’s done with an eye toward understanding the broader context within which your technology may be used, it will provide you with far more valuable insights.

Do observational ethnographic research in clinical practices whenever you can. If access is a problem, find other ways to observe workflow. Create mock workstations or procedure rooms and invite administrators and clinicians in. Again, you can use focus groups as a place for crudely emulating workflow. As long as the setup puts users into the right mindspace, it can get you valuable insights.

Bottom line, going deeper to tap into customer desire and understand what motivates users and what will bring them real value will make your UX work far more gratifying and effective and lead to better Health IT solutions.

Make Medical Devices & IT Solutions Customers Want & Buy

In medtech, you encounter unique challenges to making devices and solutions customers want and will buy. External forces, like downward cost pressures, reimbursement challenges, and regulatory requirements make it tough. Plus a lot of device and IT companies impose relentless pressure to get the next big thing to market – and to do it now.

In light of all these pressures, how do you increase your effectiveness at making devices customers want and buy? Keep customers first in how you think and all you do.

I know, I know. It’s easy to say. It can be hard to do. And it’s not a panacea to counter all the marketplace challenges you face. But it can ground your thinking, guide your decisions, and help you get the best possible results.

In a recent article published in Device Talk, the med device industry blog from MD+DI, I outlined four keys to making devices customers want and will buy, from a customer-centric perspective.

The 4 keys:

  1. Start with the right business mindset
  2. Get customer input – the right way
  3. Decide between MVP and alternatives
  4. Recognize your work saves lives

This approach will lead you to think differently, engage with customers differently, and design and market your devices differently. You really can increase your effectiveness by keeping customers first in how you think and all you do.

Read the full MD+DI Device Talk article here.

Let me know what you think.

Hope for the Future of Health IT Marketing!

hopeI just got back from the Health IT Marketing Conference (HITMC). It gets better and stronger every year, building incredible community, thanks in large part to the vision of its founders John Lynn and Shahid Shah.

I was fortunate to present on how to win internal support for better customer-centric marketing, and to lead a workshop – one that both delighted and humbled me. Here’s why.

The half-day workshop, Using the Voice of the Customer to Develop Winning Health IT Marketing, showed how to develop game-changing customer knowledge and translate it into winning marketing strategy.

The workshop participants – mostly marketing directors and managers – were incredible. It was my experience with them that was equal parts delightful and humbling. What stood out was their openness and candor, their desire to improve, their appreciation of the customer voice, and their willingness to challenge their own thinking and mine. And most of all, their commitment to deeply understanding and serving their customers.
Continue reading Hope for the Future of Health IT Marketing!

Patient Engagement: What Is It Really?

patient_engagementWhen a patient worries about their health condition, is that engagement? What about when a patient tracks their condition with wearables? Is a provider required for patient engagement to happen? Or is it only engagement when a patient is taking action to improve their condition?

A few years ago, health IT strategist Leonard Kish called patient engagement the “blockbuster drug of the century.” At HIMSS last week, there were numerous presentations on patient engagement and countless vendors offering patient engagement solutions. Yet, there is still no clear agreement as to what exactly patient engagement is, what it does, and how to measure it.

Let’s try to fix that. This first post in the series will focus on what patient engagement is.

We’ll start by defining what a patient is. (Interestingly, the word “patient” originally meant ‘one who suffers’ according to Wikipedia). The most common definition of a patient is simply someone receiving medical care. Note there is a connotation of passiveness in the notion of receiving care. The other relevant point is that receiving care requires interaction with someone who is providing the care. That means patient engagement requires a provider, not just a patient alone. So to be a patient, all someone needs to do is accept care from a provider.

What is engagement? I see engagement in degrees, from caring to understanding to acting. A patient is minimally engaged by virtue of caring about her health. She is more engaged when you actively work to understand her health. And she is deeply engaged when she is taking action – doing things – with the intent of improving her health.

One more component to add: Most patient engagement definitions include: a) participation, use of resources, and interaction with a provider, b) a goal of positive health behaviors, and c) an end result of health management or health improvement.

Put in all together and we have this definition of patient engagement:

Active participation of a person in their health and healthcare, which includes using resources, working with their provider, and taking action to understand, manage and improve their health condition.

How does this definition work for you? Any suggestions for improvement?

Now that we have a good working definition, we can move on to what patient engagement does, and how to measure it. Stay tuned!

Hot at HIMSS 2016: Interoperability, Population Health, Telehealth, Patient Engagement

I just got back from a jam-packed few days in Vegas for HIMSS 2016. Just me and 40,000 of my closest HIT friends.himss16

The mix was 2/3 vendors, 1/3 healthcare systems, I heard. Lots of excitement, lots of energy, lots of promise. Lots of walking.

As I step back, I see four main themes jump out: Interoperability, population health, telehealth, patient engagement. Here’s my quick take on each.

Interoperability: Getting devices to talk to each other, share data, and play nicely together for the higher good- better care, better outcomes. Along with improving mediating outcomes like workflow and reducing errors. Kudos to device and IT companies for sharing and letting go of turf. It’s certainly time.

Population health: All about prediction to figure out whom to provide what services to. Seems to be a modern version of managed care in terms of bottom line purpose, but driven by predictive analytics and with far more tailoring of care. The key piece still under-estimated is how hard it can be to get people to change health behaviors.

Telehealth: Keeps evolving to let more and more care and monitoring happen remotely (or “out-of-person” vs. “in-person”). Now it’s not just connecting provider and patient, it covers connecting providers and providers, providers, payers, and patients, etc. This will challenge our paradigm about what monitoring, diagnosing, and treating can only be done in-person. I think the litmus test for clinical care is empathy – to what extent can a provider truly empathize and thereby deeply understand a patient through mediating technology.

Patient engagement: Though it’s been around since the earliest days of healthcare, it now means all kinds of things and is catalyzing a wide variety of new products and services. Key issues here are about defining what it is and isn’t, developing objective metrics, and making it not a separate “thing,” but an integral and unavoidable part of every healthcare interaction.

Better interoperability behind the scenes, plus telehealth to enhance and extend relationships, combined with population health to focus resources, improves patient engagement to make it all matter.

Connectivity and Interoperability: Advance the Frontier… But Don’t Overdo It!

big_data_waveJames is a senior product manager in a med device company. He had a pretty typical business day last Thursday. Besides meetings and desk work, he was communicating online for about three hours on and off. During that time, James sent 34 emails and 15 texts and received 29 emails and 18 texts. He got 5 messages from LinkedIn, 3 Skype notifications, and over a dozen updates from various professional groups. He booked 4 customer meetings via his CRM and scheduled 17 tasks with his team on BaseCamp. He got invited to 11 events and was pinged with 14 calendar reminders.

Some of these things were really important to James, some mundane. However, all these activities went to the cloud, then to all his connected devices – cell phone, tablet, and watch. There was no discrimination as to what specific content was worth sharing, so virtually everything got distributed and was accessible on all his devices. When James saw 83 of the things he did online earlier in the day also show up on his phone, then on his watch, he growled: “Why are they telling me all this?!”

And whenever he was on his laptop and interrupted by text messages popping up on his screen, he felt intruded upon: “Why are they assuming I want this??” he shouted in his head. “Let me choose!”

Switch gears to healthcare. Connectivity and interoperability continue to be really hot topics throughout the industry. Health IT and med device companies are offering more and more connectivity and interoperability in their systems and solutions. GE describes the sharing of information between medical devices and information systems as “fundamental to GE’s healthymagination objectives of lowering cost, increasing access and improving quality.”

The core purpose underlying connectivity and interoperability is collaboration that improves care. HIMSS defines three levels of interoperability. The highest level is “semantic” interoperability, which requires that data is not just exchanged between systems (both IT and devices), but made available in a way that can interpreted and used by the clinician.

Done right, the technologies that enable connectivity and interoperability can help transform the industry by facilitating better health care and improved health outcomes at lower costs. That’s good for the healthcare industry overall and good for patients. Whether driven by Meaningful Use requirements, competitive pressures, or clinician needs, fundamentally, connectivity and interoperability are customer-centric ideas.

However, like with James above, be careful not to go overboard with connectivity and interoperability. This can happen when what is possible, i.e. what technology can do, trumps what is desirable, i.e. what customers want, need, and will use. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes it’s the discernment  of what information really matters that makes connectivity and interoperability so powerful.

Be sure you know what data (and in what form) your customers want, can interpret, and will use; and what data is just frustrating or confusing clutter. Do your homework, don’t assume. Just because all the data can be shared collaboratively doesn’t mean it all should be shared.

 

How to Position Your Brand as the “Safe Choice” in Healthcare When You’re Up Against the “Big Boys”

“No one ever got fired for hiring IBM.” That was a classic business cliche in the 1970s, and a true one, as a colleague reminded me recently.  Now for many Health IT companies (and some platform-based medical device companies) selling into hospitals, it’s the big EMR companies like Epic and Cerner with lots of APIs, apps, and extensions, that beat them out because customers feel the “big boys” are the safer choice.

Let’s say you are a small to mid size company. You can apply key principles of persuasion to increase your chances of winning business in this ultra-competitive space. Here’s a 3-step process you can use:

1. Emotional Alignment:  First establish empathy by emotionally aligning with the healthcare customer: a) Acknowledge that when making purchasing decisions like this, some people choose one of the big-name brands because they assume it’s a safer bet.  b) Acknowledge that for some hospitals that’s a reasonable way to go. c) Acknowledge – carefully – that for some people it’s a “CYA” decision and that may trump looking at what will be best for the hospital in some circumstances. d) Acknowledge that it can be hard to know when it may be a better choice to go with a smaller, more specialized brand.

Now the customer will feel understood and more open to considering other options. You have disarmed several points of resistance. You rightly have not pitched your brand yet.

2. Initial Decision Guidelines: Second, help the customer know when they should and should not evaluate different brands. a) Give them a few specific guidelines to inform this first decision – whether they should broaden their assessment beyond the big-name brands or not (have this as a tool you provide to them too). b) Explicitly explain the conditions under which it does NOT make sense to broaden their assessment beyond the big-name brands. This step is critical for you to be credible. c) Explicitly explain the conditions under which it DOES make sense to broaden their assessment beyond the big-name brands.  4) Walk the customer through the use of the initial decision guidelines for their setting.

You have now provided them with a reasonable way to decide if they should explore further and they should have arrived at an appropriate decision. Note you still have not pitched your brand yet – good job being patient!

3. Guided Influence: Third, if and when the initial decision guidelines suggest the customer should evaluate other brands, provide a set of criteria for comparing brands. a) Be sure the customer agrees the criteria make sense, and if needed explain the relevance of each. Be willing to add or subtract a criterion to better fit the customer’s situation. b) Now it is time to talk about your brand. Show how you compare on the criteria.  Admit when competitors are better on certain points. Reinforce that in this circumstance, your brand is actually the safer choice. c) Provide specific reasons to believe and an emotionally compelling story to support each of your claim of superiority.

Now do your thing as a professional sale rep to respectfully get an initial commitment, close the sale, or something in-between.

Recognize that once in a while your initial decision guidelines (Step 2 above) will lead customers to stay with the big-name brands, which means you’re done for the moment. That’s OK. You will have established yourself as a trustworthy partner concerned about what’s best for them – even if you did not get the sale. This is customer intimacy in practice, and it will pay off big – if not immediately, then certainly in the long-term.