When we use, when we consume any product or service, we generate a set of emotions that go far beyond simple consumption, and that end up determining our opinion about it.

What do we feel when we drive a car? What do we experience when we drink a soft drink? What is the evidence when we stay in a certain hotel? What do you experience when you use a mobile phone of a certain brand?

The result of answering these and similar questions will probably be a list of experiences, factors, emotions, sensations, feelings, satisfactions (or not) that go far beyond the usability of the product or service in question.

User experience is one of the key concepts when it comes to understanding and designing user-centred strategies in the health system. It refers to the observation of all the factors involved in a user’s interaction with a product or service. We could frame this theory in the context of the economy of experience, which would consider how the emotions and experiences of users in the interaction with the different services or products determine how the user perceives the quality of the product or service we are dealing with. Looking at the quality of health care through the prism of emotion forces us to consider all the variables involved in human subjectivity, and this is because the consumption of a health service generates an opinion and therefore a result. The perception that is obtained from its interaction with the health system generates a specific set of perceptions with respect to each of the care processes.

The User Experience is intended to include the user in the design process of each of the services provided by health organisations with regard to health. Not only does it consider the user in the planning phase, but it also contemplates the evaluation of all the feelings, experience and emotions that users generate when interacting with the health organisation.

The process of health and illness must therefore be observed as a set of activities over which, in addition, it must be observed how the patient feels, how he experiences, which emotions he develops and which end up developing the perception of his own health.

Factors

In observing the user experience, as we have said, a very varied set of factors are involved. Factors ranging from those of planning and design to the social and cultural connotations of the population. For this reason, the user experience must be seen as an open system in permanent interaction with the environment and in a permanent process of change.

It seems evident, thus contemplated, that without the user there is no experience. Therefore, the service in its planning phase must consider whether it really produces the results we want to generate.

Our patients want more than just the recovery of their health, such as feelings of trust, closeness, ease of access, a simple return to their usual way of life, to be heard, and much more. That is why, when designing a specific process, it must be assessed whether everything that the patient expects is also achieved. Furthermore, it is easy to understand that it is not the same thing that a young patient, an adult patient and an elderly patient seek and expect. In other words, we must contemplate and take into account who and how the people to whom our processes are directed are.

Usability versus experience

It is important to understand that the usability or usefulness of a service goes far beyond the user experience, and although they are closely related, they should not be confused since they are not the same thing.

Usability is fundamental and plays a key role in the overall user experience, as it shows how simple or not therapeutic adherence is, i.e. how simple or not it is to face surgery, hospitalisation, treatment, quarantine, etc.

The ideal is that, as well as being simple to approach the health service in question, it meets all the factors that satisfy your personal needs, such as, for example, allowing you to return home in an acceptable condition and being of value, achieving positive perceptions regarding the consumption of the medicine, the necessary cures, communication with the professionals with whom you are interacting.

Related factors

There is no user experience without a multiple set of factors that relate both to the patient himself and to the end result.

Service factors

Usability

As we have mentioned, it refers to the ease of interaction and use of the health service in question. It is possible that we are talking about the most objective dimension of the health process and therefore the most measurable part of it, because it is based on observation, efficiency, effectiveness and ease of monitoring.

The subjective dimension of usability is more personal and is related to the set of individual perceptions, that is, to the user’s own satisfaction.

Usability is an attribute that is directly related to the quality of the service. Usability cannot be taken as a universal concept, since a service will be usable and is usable for the specific set of users, for the social niche or specific population, and this is related to social, cultural and environmental connotations.

Usability has two dimensions: 

Objective, which is that which can be measured through observation and encompasses effectiveness, efficiency, capacity to be easily learned, capacity to be easily remembered.

Subjective, which is based on the user’s perception: how pleasant it is for them, how interesting, entertaining, boring, etc.

Design

The design of a health care process is a very broad part of both the health care organisations themselves and the consequences and end result. 

It contemplates factors that range from aesthetic aspects, comfort, room lighting, etc. Designing a process that is suited to the user experience goes beyond just being a pretty process, or one that makes us look good to society. It has to generate a pleasant impact, which does not generate rejection when entering the process itself, which transmits us confidence and calm. 

Accessibility

It means that anyone who needs it can access the process, without incorporating limitations, who interacts and perfectly understands the meaning. Accessibility implies, interaction, understanding and comprehension of all the contents and all the objectives.

Accessibility is also related to the possibility of the service being consumed by as many people as possible, with minimum limitations. 

Designing an accessible health service does not mean that it has to be for everyone, as it is usually aimed at specific groups. Designing an accessible service means taking into account the differences between people, their capacity to understand and use it, providing the most appropriate adaptation in each case.

User factors

Emotional

They are fundamental in all fields of human activity and even more so when we are talking about health. The emotions that patients experience affect their mood and therefore how they will cope with their health process. This is what our health process transmits, from the very contemplation of aesthetics, ease, communication, etc. It will have an important influence on the perceptions that will be generated.

Contextual

Are the air conditioning or lighting conditions adequate in a hospital? Are patients bored during an admission? Although this seems to be a minor issue when we are suffering from serious diseases, it has a profound influence on the patient’s mood. If a patient is cold he or she may not be thinking about taking the medication properly. If the lighting is low and he cannot read, he may be more nervous and his blood pressure may rise and he may not be as relaxed as he needs to be.

Expectations

Expectations depend both on what we expect at any given time and on previous experiences we have had. It is easy to understand that previous experiences can make us expect something that is not positive in a health process that has nothing to do with it and, in the end, generate a very different final satisfaction.

Credibility

The user experience is highly influenced by the credibility that professionals transmit and this varies the satisfaction of the interaction with the system. Improving credibility requires that our processes are error-free and above all that they meet expectations in terms of both direct and indirect problems.

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