Life Sciences Pulse

Design Thinking: Creating Empathetic Solutions in Life Sciences

 
September 11, 2018

A conversation with a friend of mine, who is a researcher studying the application of automated IoT-based wristbands for early detection of epileptic seizures in patients, highlighted the startling potential of the technology. Approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally.

Around 3 million people in the US alone suffer from epilepsy, with about 30% of the attacks going undetected. Wearing an IoT-based wristband could save at least 10% of the lives at risk. However, one of the major challenges my friend faced during the course of the research was the lack of user- friendly interaction with the software she used for recording research results. This is a common refrain across life sciences customers - be it scientists, laboratory personnel, or even sales and marketing groups.

The life sciences industry is going through a radical transition with patient-centricity becoming as critical as the drug development process itself. The industry is scrambling to resolve the challenges of shortening product lifecycles, escalating R&D costs, and meeting evolving patients’ needs using digital technologies. They are rapidly implementing systems, applications, platforms, and devices, powered by technologies such as AI, AR, and Robotics.  But the key to driving accelerated growth lies beyond mere technology implementation. Industry players must focus on improving human-software interactions to enable enriching and memorable experiences for stakeholders such as patients, doctors, and nurses.

However, in the frenzy to resolve high priority business challenges, organizations often lose touch with the all-important emotions, needs, expectations, and dreams of end users. Embracing creativity and collaborative solutions through design thinking (DT) can help change the equation by driving empathetic designs.

Why empathy matters in software product design

We recently partnered with a medical devices provider to address the challenge of decreasing sales of its surgical products. To figure out the problem, we conducted a design thinking workshop to deeply understand the users (the nursing staff, etc.) in terms of their needs, biases, behaviors, and cultural patterns affecting their response to the system.

The insights we gathered revealed problems and limitations faced by people such as nurses and sales staff .The main problem was technology and user interface-related which led to inefficient delivery of service and dissatisfaction. For example, the sales person had only a 2-minute window to close a sales process and the Head nurse wanted to see the exact specifications of the desired surgical product in this short time frame. Limited by the capabilities of the legacy application, the sales person could not efficiently demonstrate the most suitable product and dynamically change the specifications based on nurses’ immediate ask. This caused an incorrect perception of the sales team among the nursing staff. They thought the sales staff was grossly underprepared. All these issues caused lot of stress to all the stakeholders involved.

We realized that the problems were much deeper than initial feeling of the needs and painpoints. After ideation, we proposed an empathetic solution using digital technologies such as Mobility, AR & VR, voice control, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that addressed the nurses’ needs holistically. Quick contextual prototypes of the solutions and their validation with nurses helped in selecting the most feasible solution.

The secret to success lies in catering to user’s emotional needs 

The power of design thinking lies in contextually analyzing ideas under the lens of feasibility and strategy and collaboratively creating solutions. The ability to quickly visualize prototypes gives life to ideas, dreams, and inspirations of the users, making them feel connected to the solution.

For solutions to be truly meaningful to users, they need to delve deeper than just addressing the functional aspects and cater to the user’s emotional needs as well. For example, the end result of DT approach to designing solutions is to seek improvement in peoples’ happiness quotient, satisfaction, and loyalty, and instill confidence in all those who use IT to perform their jobs and tasks-both personal and professional. The key to all this is making the users’ journey, the entire experience enjoyable.

Betting on Business 4.0 (intelligent, agile, automated, and cloud-based solutions) and design thinking, to move beyond mainstream adoption of digital technologies and focus on user experience, is the key to accelerating innovation that impacts millions of lives.

Shalini  Arora heads the User Experience Design Center of excellence for Life Sciences and has more than 21 years  IT experience in various domains such as Tansportation , Quality Management, Hi tech, and Life Sciences. Her areas of specialization are Experience Design Strategy definition and deployment, end user testing in User Experience Labs, and Mobile Application development across various platforms. She has filed patent in the areas of mobile technologies and bluetooth devices to create an indoor positioning system. She holds a master’s degree in Computer application and has also been a speaker at the Open group conference for Bluetooth enabled Mobile indoor positioning Systems in Spain