Designing for Healthcare: Unpacking the Challenges of Healthcare Systems

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By Martin Bouza

October 4, 2023

When we think about the different systems that run our societies, healthcare systems stand out. As we’ve discussed before, these complex systems bring together stakeholders with different goals, bound together by the common goal of delivering healthcare. But how do we come up with solutions for these systems? What do we need to consider for success?

To answer those questions, I believe we need to revisit some basic design principles. We must have a solid understanding of the situation we’re facing in order to create the best solutions that work for everyone involved. This applies not only to healthcare but also to any other industry or context. But here’s the catch: in healthcare, you can’t just understand the system once and be done with it, because all systems have differences. While all healthcare systems want to make people healthier, that’s about the only thing they have in common. They differ in how they’re organized, what they focus on, who’s involved, and many other ways. So each healthcare system demands a fresh understanding.

Is a healthcare system a hospital? Do we mean a laboratory? Or maybe a vaccine factory? Healthcare systems come in many forms. I previously talked about four stages of healthcare development, which we can see as healthcare subsystems. Each of them has its own unique challenges and requirements that we must address, considering that not all the challenges and requirements from one stage carry over to the next. For example, in the basic science stage, it all comes down to producing knowledge, publishing papers, getting citations, and securing research funding. But in the distribution stage, the focus is on making sure patients can access the solutions created for them. Academic matters weigh much less on distribution compared to basic research, just as logistics become much more important for distribution than for basic research.

The quality and richness of the solutions we design is directly linked to how deeply we understand the issues we’re dealing with. This isn’t just a saying; it means knowing the resources available in the system, what’s missing, the needs, how different parts negotiate and come up with solutions that may or may not be ideal. And then there’s the human aspect: what makes teams work well, feel comfortable, and empowered. Because there are people behind every design.

This leads us to another crucial point: usability. At Arionkoder, we aim to have usability as well as being easy to use. This means our solutions must fit the context to be adopted. There’s no point in creating a fantastic solution if no one actually uses it. That’s why we also rely on anthropology and sociology to design solutions that overcome resistance to change, and why we put so much emphasis on truly understanding our clients.

Healthcare systems are undoubtedly a challenge, but I believe that at Arionkoder, we’re ready to transform them and fulfill our common goal of improving lives. Come join us as we achieve this mission.