Designing Clinical Systems for Adoption of Telemedicine

designing for telemedicine

Walter Ramirez, UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) Design Associate Director at SOC Telemed (SOC) believes in the power of technology to empower humans to do amazing things. Ramirez is passionate about designing for telemedicine: understanding what our clients need in their clinical systems, the problems they face, and how they work day in and day out. In turn, he is able to translate those needs into an intuitive user experience in SOC’s industry-leading telemedicine technology platform, Telemed IQ.

In creating project workflows, Ramirez must explore how clients will be using the technology. He works one-on-one with a multitude of clients to capture feedback. Then, during the design phase, he continuously tests and makes improvements to ensure the clinical system meets clients’ needs. Ramirez explains how simplicity of design is an essential success factor for the adoption of a telemedicine system in a hospital or healthcare system.

Walter Ramirez Designing for Telemedicine

Why is simplicity so important when designing for telemedicine?

Clinicians are often dealing with critical situations where every second counts. The systems they use must be simple, intuitive, and supportive to their needs, rather than a hindrance. Physicians, nurses, and other providers live and operate in environments where they are pulled in many different directions. They’re already at a saturated cognitive load which is why the programs they use must be as simple as they can possibly be.

At SOC, we achieve simplicity by walking in our clients’ shoes, so to speak. We start by understanding their goals and the overall purpose for the software we’re building. We also take the time to understand the problem(s) we’re solving for. Once we’re immersed in our clients’ needs, we begin building prototypes and workflows. We work closely with the client every step of the way to ensure that our design works with their processes, their infrastructure, and what they’re used to in terms of user experience.

How does telemedicine design help with adoption and engagement?

We build clinical systems for the purpose of helping physicians work more efficiently. We achieve this by making sure they want to use the systems we create—that they’re easy, make sense, and are enjoyable to use. After hundreds of designs, we know a key element of adoption and engagement is to minimize the learning curve. We do this by getting to know our end user, in this case, hospital staff and physicians.

We become acquainted with what programs they’re using every day and how they interact with them—the icons they’re used to seeing, how they access their email, where they input notes/add images, how they’re used to seeing drop downs, etc. To this end, we may roll out a new system in stages with the purpose of easing the clinical staff into new features and functionality, then continuing to add on. We also understand that clinical teams may be at all levels of expertise using technology, and a phased roll-out helps correct these imbalances across departments and functions. Achieving this consistency is what encourages adoption.

“Design is integral to adoption. Why? Because you could build the greatest software in the world, but if it’s too complicated to learn or use, no one will want it,” explains Ramirez.

How does design help improve the telemedicine user experience?

Through design, we’re able to play a supporting role in the doctor-patient journey. We know that a physician’s work environment requires their full attention, and when using a clinical system, many items on the screen require attention in order to get a clear picture of the patient’s state, history, and more. The paradox is that while doctors need to know all available information on a patient, presenting it all at once (especially in a remote care situation) creates overload and visual clutter.

In designing these systems, it is important that we show all tools available to the physician in a manner that informs their process and provides guidance through the telemedicine journey. In determining the Telemed IQ user experience, we take into account how the physician interacts with a patient. At a high level, the physician needs to review the patient information, provide the consultation, and document the encounter.

With this ingrained knowledge, we’re able to design a path for the user to follow—knowing what steps they need to take first, we make that action button big and bright, while also including other buttons or click options for secondary actions they may need to perform. We take this approach in mapping out/guiding the consult from beginning to end; then return them to the beginning of the journey so that they’re able to quickly begin their next consult.

We also look at a multitude of nuances that all contribute to the user experience, such as font size for comfortable reading, glance-ability, how much scrolling is needed, and many other details. Each of these efforts is made to ensure that the interaction between physicians and patients is rich and meaningful.

Why do you like designing for telemedicine?

I like designing for telemedicine because it is a relatively fast-paced exercise on problem solving where one can get a fairly fast response on whether your proposed solution works or doesn’t. Also, it is especially satisfying in telemedicine because it means easier accessibility to improve patient care; a direct impact on another human being on the other side of the screen.

My educational background includes photography, typography and interactive graphic arts/design, which very much plays into how I tackle the placement of text or a call-to-action button when designing an interface, or even how I consider contrast and colors as they relate to a notations page. Our goal here at SOC is to create systems that not only make remote care easier for physicians, but are also seen as valuable tools of medicine.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work I’m very active. I play soccer and enjoy doing obstacle courses, which I think also helps me tap into my creative side. I also sketch frequently and paint whenever I can. Believe it or not, all of these seemingly non-related hobbies fuel my creativity and sharpen abilities that I’m able to integrate into my systems design work.