There’s been a lot of chatter lately about human-centered design, inspired by the launch of my colleague’s book, Designing for Health: The Human-Centered Approach. In it, the authors, Craig Joseph, MD, and Jerome Pagani, PhD, identify four pivotal forces that are reshaping the U.S. healthcare landscape: technological evolution, the ubiquity of platform health information systems (HIS), social attitudes, and the redefinition of health. Though Canada lags behind the U.S. in implementing HIS, these transformative forces also apply to the Canadian market. There’s an opportunity to leverage these insights from our southern allies, avoiding past mistakes and designing a healthcare technology ecosystem that truly meets the needs of those giving and receiving care.
The rapid evolution of technology is the driving force behind healthcare transformation. Artificial intelligence, automation, internet of medical things – the pace of advancement is constantly accelerating. In the U.S., national regulations encouraged the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) in 2009. A true turning point, the rollout was often marred by suboptimal design and usability issues. Canada, which is at a pivotal juncture in its healthcare technology journey, has a unique opportunity. There’s much to be learned from the U.S. experience, where technology was often seen as an end rather than a means to improve patient care.
In the Canadian context, as the pace of implementation of EHRs (also commonly called hospital information systems or HISs) in hospitals quickens, there is an opportunity to prioritize the end-users: both healthcare professionals and patients. One crucial aspect to consider is the evolving composition of the healthcare workforce. In the U.S., many physicians were digital immigrants during the initial EHR rollout, which posed significant challenges. In contrast, Canada is witnessing a growing number of digitally native healthcare professionals entering the workforce.
Designing healthcare technology solutions for digital natives is crucial. These professionals are more tech-savvy and expect intuitive, user-friendly interfaces. However, we must not forget the digital immigrants, many of whom are experienced and highly skilled practitioners. Neglecting their needs or alienating them from the healthcare technology landscape prematurely could result in the loss of valuable expertise. Designing a system that leverages advanced technologies and works for both types of users will ensure maximum usability and workforce retention and improve patient care.
Market dynamics have changed significantly since the early days of HIS implementation in Canada. The Canadian healthcare technology market has its unique challenges and opportunities. While it’s vital to have a well-designed HIS, in and of itself, it is insufficient to ensure the satisfaction of doctors and other healthcare professionals. The broader cultural context within healthcare organizations plays an equally significant role.
It's not surprising that a poorly designed HIS system is highly associated with dissatisfaction among healthcare professionals. However, even the most well-designed HIS system cannot guarantee provider satisfaction. A good HIS system can streamline processes and enhance data accessibility, but to achieve satisfaction among healthcare professionals, it must coexist within a positive organizational culture. A supportive, collaborative, and communicative culture is the other half of the equation.
In Canada, healthcare organizations should strive to foster a culture where healthcare professionals feel heard, valued, and supported. Open channels of communication, opportunities for feedback, and a commitment to addressing the concerns and needs of healthcare professionals are essential. When HIS systems are introduced or updated, involving healthcare professionals in the design and decision-making processes can lead to solutions that better align with their workflow and preferences.
Healthcare is fundamentally a human endeavor. Public expectations, cultural norms, and social attitudes play a significant role in shaping the healthcare technology landscape. In the U.S., the move towards patient-centric care was a response to shifting social attitudes, where patients demanded more active roles in their healthcare journeys.
In Canada, we have an opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive in embracing patient-centric design principles. By fostering a culture of patient engagement and empowerment, we can create a healthcare technology ecosystem that aligns with the values and expectations of Canadians. This approach will not only enhance patient experiences but also lead to better health outcomes.
Redefinition of health
The concept of health is evolving. It's no longer limited to the absence of disease but encompasses overall well-being, including mental health, lifestyle choices, and preventive measures. Our healthcare technology should not be limited to treating ailments but should promote health and prevent illness. By embracing this redefinition of health, we can create technology solutions that empower individuals to take control of their whole picture of health.
The winds of change are sweeping through the Canadian healthcare technology landscape. As we navigate the four transformative forces of technological process, HIS platforms, social attitudes, and the redefinition of health, our goal must be to create a healthcare technology ecosystem that is truly human-centered.
In doing so, we must remain cognizant of the evolving composition of our healthcare workforce, balancing the needs of digital natives and digital immigrants. We must also acknowledge the uniqueness of the Canadian market and embrace patient-centric design principles that align with our values.