The Opportunity and Necessity of Inclusive Health Product Design

Now is the Time for Inclusive Design

The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined how healthcare services are delivered. There is a shift from in-person consultations and paper documentation to virtual consultations and electronic documentation.

As a result, patients, clients and healthcare providers including many with a range of disabilities are having an increased number of interactions with digital products.

These products need to be designed with inclusivity in mind if healthcare companies want their products to offer delightful experiences for all customers. Doing so could translate to higher customer satisfaction and increased retention.

Lack of Inclusive Healthcare Design is an Untapped Opportunity

According to the United Nations, more than $147 million is lost by U.K. companies listed on the Financial Times Stock Exchange because these companies do not meet basic accessibility standards. That is a huge untapped opportunity. Most companies will lose out on opportunities to reach a wider market target if they don’t consider inclusive design.

As an essential service, ensuring basic accessibility standards in healthcare is both an opportunity and a necessity. Everyone needs access to healthcare services or products, and technology has become a key tool in bridging the inequality gap across diverse populations.

More than a billion people are living with some form of disability based on a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate. Yet, people with disabilities need healthcare services and products as much as everyone. Considering inclusive design in healthcare products and services ensures that your offerings meet everyone’s needs for the broadest spectrum of the populations you serve.

The Meaning of Inclusive Design in Healthcare

So, what exactly does it mean to consider inclusivity when designing digital healthcare products? The Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto defines inclusive design as, “considering a full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, age, culture, gender and other forms of human differences.”

Applying that definition to the healthcare space, inclusivity simply means a holistic consideration of all forms of human differences and then accounting for these differences in how healthcare services are rendered, physically or digitally.

Inclusive Design Benefits Everyone in the Healthcare Space

Inclusive design should be considered for all healthcare products because it benefits everyone. Often, the need for accessible products is overlooked for healthcare providers. Consider the case of a healthcare provider, Lisa Lim, a provisional persona.

Lisa has been practicing gynaecology for 35 years and works in a teaching hospital, educating medical students and residents. She has been experiencing progressive limited vision as she gets older and sometimes uses a screen reader or a magnifier to ease eye stress from reading many medical documents, and content displayed in small font size in electronic health record (EHR) systems.

However, she can only do so if these platforms are designed to be compatible with screen readers. In addition, making EHR systems compatible with assistive technology such as speech-to-text can help clinicians dictate patients’ visit notes.

Another common example of inclusive design in healthcare is simplifying medical terminologies on healthcare platforms to offer a better understanding to patients and clients, especially non-native speakers of the primary language used on the site.

Create a Culture of Inclusive Design in Your Organization

Designing for inclusivity is a process and not a project. Healthcare companies should start educating their product owners, designers, researchers and developers on accessibility considerations from the requirements-gathering phase to the final phase of product development.

Organizations must be deliberate about designing inclusive products. This will require company leadership commitment to provide the needed resources to support their teams.

These resources range from developing accessibility strategies, training, and engaging with a company like Emids to provide dedicated accessibility experts to work with your teams in building inclusive healthcare products and services.

Separately, Emids prides itself on a diversity, equity and inclusion policy that aims to strengthen our organization. The company finds value in our respective differences, recognizing that these differences not only bring diverse perspectives to the table where we tackle healthcare-related challenges, but also support the organization’s growth.

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