The medical consumer | PDD

The medical consumer


on November 23 2011

I recently watched a TED talk by Joseph Pine entitled ‘What Consumers Want (2004), where he talks about an “important change to the very fabric of a modern economy” and takes us through the evolution of ‘economic value’. The journey begins with a commodity-based economy, advances to a goods-based economy, and then progresses to a service-orientated economy. He points out that as a population we are moving past pairing economic value with services delivery, to regarding experiences as the “predominant economic offering”.

Nine years later, Joseph Pine’s observations are right on the money. Think about the value we put on ‘User Experience’ (UX). It’s the interaction between a consumer and all aspects of a product, service or company. It can provide an enormously powerful competitive edge, offering an emotive attachment to a memory rather than just the memory itself.
For example, imagine you visit two restaurants, in the first you had a waiter that introduced themselves, smiled, took your order and asked if there was anything else they could do for you. You left this restaurant remembering great service; you may even recommend it to others. But in the second you had a waiter who not only delivered great service, but also engaged you, made you feel comfortable and went out of their way to exceed your wants, needs and expectations throughout the evening. You walk away feeling gratified; remembering a great experience. In this case, not only would you be more likely to recommend it, you’d probably go back.
Now, apply the same principle to medicine where the restaurant is a medical device, service or manufacturer, and the consumers aren’t hungry customers, they’re patients. Now we’re thinking about the ‘Patient Experience’.

The term ‘Patient Experience’ is sometimes used in association with a patient’s satisfaction of their journey through a healthcare service, such as the NHS. This is indeed part of it, but what about the rest of the picture? And why is Patient Experience important to us?

Above image credit: Mobile phone consumer experience(left) and Electro-mechanical patient experience (right), PDD. Featured image credit: beautyeditor

Patients are increasingly becoming empowered users, medical consumers with complex personal tastes and needs. These users aren’t first and foremost patients; they are consumers and as a result they expect the same quality of experience when using a medical device as they do using a mobile phone.

We can therefore apply the same principles, tools and knowledge we have of designing great User Experiences to satisfy the preferences of this increasingly sophisticated medical consumer. Fundamentally, it’s about the interaction between a patient and all aspects of a medical device, service or manufacturer. Just like the User Experience, it is individual and as increased competition brings patients greater product choice, it provides that enormously powerful competitive edge.

An example of a product that gives more: iGB Star by Sanofi Aventis is a blood glucose meter that can be connected to the iPhone, not only can you take blood glucose readings, but the accompanying app from Sanofi enables you to track your readings over time (along with other useful functions). CC image courtesy Pearlsa on Flickr

From a frequent user (or patient) perspective, research has identified that people don’t want their condition to take over; they certainly don’t want it advertised, and they don’t want to think about it. Instead they want their treatment to be non-intrusive and fit seamlessly into their lives, whether at home, work, or on the go. They are looking for solutions to help minimise the impact of their condition on daily life. If we can create products and systems to be discrete, simple and convenient then we’ll answer these needs and enrich the patient experience.

Think about the stark difference between a pharmaceutical or medical manufacturer that doles out a product or service to meet your basic medical needs, and a one that provides a product or service that has been tailored with you in mind, that goes above and beyond ‘great service’ to make sure you have the best experience possible when you’re feeling the most vulnerable. Which would you prefer?