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E-prescription: How UX supports digital transformation in healthcare

As of January 2022, the electronic prescription will be introduced*. The healthcare sector is thus taking another important step toward digitalization and is facing a long-term transformation process. In our article, we use the example of the electronic prescription to show how you can use UX for the successful introduction of innovations and why it is important to involve all process participants.

The switch to electronic prescription affects many market participants: From doctors' offices, hospitals and pharmacies (local and online) to health insurance companies and software manufacturers. Accordingly, the application scenarios and user roles are diverse. In the future, not only medical professionals but also patients of potentially all ages will use digital applications for prescribing medicines.

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Accompanying transformation in a people-centered way

An essential aspect of successful digital transformation is understanding the needs and requirements of the process participants. This includes not only a well-designed usability of the systems and applications used, with which all participants come into contact. The impact of the digitalization step on established processes and how innovations can be optimally integrated into them should also be considered. An iterative approach (as described in the human centered design process in DIN EN ISO 9241 Part 210) accompanies transformation processes in the long term. This is because, especially after the launch, it is important to continue and keep involving the contributors in the ongoing process. This allows for a quick response to problems and changes and for an increased acceptance of the transformation among all stakeholders.

Strengthening the perspective of users

To meet the requirements of the various user groups, it is advisable to test the electronic prescription processes across all processes and stakeholders in practices, pharmacies, hospitals and with patients on site. Individual market participants have already recognized and implemented this. That’s good news – but it is not enough. It is not only us saying this, but also the speakers of the Electronic Prescription Summit have emphasized how important further and overlapping test runs in practice are for the successful implementation of electronic prescriptions. In our work as user experience designers, we place all contributors to a system or process at the center of the design. The targeted use of methods from user research, such as usability tests, on-site visits or interviews with users, provides essential approaches for optimizing the user experience of various systems and making them more accessible.

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Highlighting the use of the electronic prescription in practice

User research helps to find out how a certain target group actually acts in everyday life: What are the needs of the target group? How and with which workarounds do patients get prescriptions today? How and where do they come into contact with the world of digital prescription for the first time? What are the problems with using the programs around the electronic prescription process, and where exactly do they occur? What are the causes and consequences of the usage problems?What challenges do older people face who are not familiar with digital systems? What kinds of fears do they have? How do patients experience the interaction between the doctor's office, the various electronic prescription apps and pharmacies? How does the electronic prescription integrate into the everyday work of doctors' practices, hospitals and pharmacies? What are the hurdles?

Impulses to optimize processes

With the right questions, not only can usability problems be solved in a target-oriented manner. Impulses can also be derived for the design of individual or overarching processes – ideally early in development, but also accompanying after market launch. Digital innovations must integrate well into existing structures. They are designed to facilitate work processes, and not make them more difficult. An experience we also gained in our HoloMed project. In this project, an augmented reality application was developed to support surgeons performing brain surgery. To ensure that it is optimally integrated into their routine and established surgical procedures, we conducted context-of-use analyses in various clinics: We visited the medical target group on site, accompanied them during several operations and interviewed them afterwards.

We also performed test operations with prototypes. This resulted in concepts and designs that integrate perfectly into existing workflows and doctors' mental models, making neurosurgical operations safer and more efficient. The example shows how we use user research to analyze all the stages of the process participants. This way, we identify the crucial touchpoints of the respective user roles in the process and uncover weaknesses or gaps. This makes processes more transparent and helps to develop measures for optimization – for futuristic AR glasses as well as for "common" apps.

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The human-centered approach is an important companion to transformation processes and supports the efforts of all stakeholders to make changes like electronic prescriptions a success. Digitalization tailored to the various target groups makes it easier for users to access new applications and processes and paves the way for the future digitalization of the industry, for example for the acceptance of digital health applications (DiGAs) or the electronic patient record (ePA).