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Design digital health products with clinicians in mind


While tech companies are focused on devising solutions for patients, healthcare leaders say it’s time to give more thought to the doctors and nurses using the products.

Virtually everyone in the healthcare industry agrees that digital health solutions should be designed to give patients more ease and convenience.

There’s a growing sentiment that digital health companies need to give much more thought to making life easier for clinicians using the tools.

Roy Jakobs, Philips CEO, said at the ViVE Conference last week that digital tools need to be developed more with doctors and nurses in mind.

“We need to care for the carers,” Jakobs said.

Clinicians should be given a greater voice in designing technology solutions.

“We are here to make their life easier, not more difficult,” Jakobs said.

Healthcare leaders at the digital health conference reiterated that sentiment again and again.

Doctors are burning out from technology that’s supposed to help them, Albert Chan, chief digital health officer of Sutter Health, said at ViVE.

Despite years of training, doctors are finding the profession less fulfilling, and some are reducing their hours. Most doctors point to administrative hassles as the leading contributor toward burnout, according to a survey by Medscape in January.

“This is really a silent killer,” Chan said.

Digital health leaders need to take a hard look at themselves, he said.

Chan said it’s time to ask, “What are we transforming? Are we delivering benefits for the patients and the folks delivering that care?”

Health systems are looking to tech providers to think about clinician workflows in pitching their digital solutions, said Karen Murphy, chief innovation officer of the Geisinger Health System

“If you’re saying to the doctor or the nurse or the radiology tech or anybody else that, “Hey, I have this great solution that’s going to solve all the problems. The only thing is, it might make your job harder.’ I don’t think anybody’s up for that,” Murphy said.

Ashis Barad, chief digital and information officer of the Allegheny Health Network, sees digital health from the perspective of a medical doctor.

Digital health companies should be reaching out to clinicians early in the development of products, so they can offer insights on the solutions, he argues. Typically, Barad said, “There’s a solution and it’s brought to the provider.’

“I think we need to flip that.”

Allegheny Health Network is employing what Barad described as a “5E” framework on digital health solutions: experiences, engagement, empowerment, efficacy, and earnings. Much of that framework is designed with both the consumer and the clinician in mind, he said.

Jennifer Stemmler, chief digital officer of Adventist Health, said tech initiatives at her system are being pursued with doctors and nurses at the forefront.

“Our executive team said any digital transformation has to have workforce at the center,” Stemmler said.

Sara Vaezy, chief strategy and digital officer at Providence, said the system is analyzing problems from the lenses of the patient, the health system, and the providers.

It’s critical to see how both clinicians and patients are interacting with products before adopting them more widely.

“Do the hard work of getting out there and getting it in the hands of people,” Vaezy said.

Getting feedback from clinicians is essential in developing digital products, said Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist.

In addition to making sure the products are working for patients, Stansbury said it’s critical to ask if the product is creating efficiencies for physicians and staff.

Ultimately, digital health companies need to realign their thinking as they develop their products if they want to gain new customers and truly help improve patient care and the workload for doctors.

Yes, digital health companies should be focusing on the patients, but they also need to think about the needs of the people taking care of those patients.

“There are many entrepreneurs here,” Jakobs said.

“We need to think with the user in mind.”

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