Humanising digital healthcare via human-centred design

19 August 2019

Incorporating human-centred design (HCD) processes into the build of our digital health tools is a key aim of eHealth NSW, and one which will be enhanced by the recent appointment of Dr Thomas Loveday as Director of HCD in the Clinical Engagement and Patient Safety directorate.

Reporting to Chief Clinical Information Officer Dr Mark Simpson, Dr Loveday brings a decade of experience in improving the safety and performance of complex systems through the application of Organisational Behaviour and Human Factors Engineering principles.

In 2014, Dr Loveday was the first Human Factors specialist employed by NSW Health, establishing the Clinical Human Factors program at the Clinical Excellence Commission. In his new role, Dr Loveday will work with Dr Michaela Stockey-Bridge, Leia Giacon and Selvana Awad to provide a broad range of HCD functions, including user research, co-design, and user experience and usability analysis.

HCD, according to the International Standards Organization (ISO), is “an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ ergonomics, usability knowledge, and techniques.

“This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human wellbeing, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance”.

Q: Welcome back to NSW Health, Thom. Why is HCD so important in the field of healthcare?

A: HCD is ultimately about putting people at the centre of the design process. In healthcare, this approach is critically important because of the incredible levels of complexity and variation involved in providing healthcare services. The only people that really understand how healthcare is provided are the people who do it every day – the clinicians – and the patients who are served by it.

Q: How does healthcare stack up on HCD when compared with industries such as banking and retail?

A: Banking and retail have strong drivers to invest in approaches to better understand their customers. After all, businesses make money when they provide products and services that are useful, usable and accessible. Healthcare has been a bit slower in adopting HCD approaches, however, this means that we can skip to tried and true approaches to improving designs. As the saying goes: good artists borrow, great artists steal.

Q: Which public healthcare systems, either in Australia or globally, are blazing a trail when it comes to HCD – and what can we learn from them?

A: MedStar, the Mayo Clinic and the Australian Institute of Health Innovation have all done excellent work applying HCD approaches to individual projects. Certainly, we’ll be looking to adopt tools and processes developed by these organisations. However, eHealth NSW is already an innovator in this space, with several projects using techniques like user observations, desktop reviews and usability testing to improve designs. By consolidating this work into a coherent HCD approach, eHealth NSW can be the trailblazer – with clinicians and patients across NSW Health being the beneficiaries.

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