Continuing from our post on The Challenges of UX in healthcare: technology to change lives, we met with Amir Sheikh, Senior Design Lead at Proteus Digital Health, to discuss ways in which Proteus enhance user experience to transform patient care.
Proteus have developed and launched a new category of therapy called Digital Medicine, that uses ground breaking technology to optimize therapies, improve outcomes and increase patient engagement. Amir leads the product marketing effort, helping them gain global exposure for their unique product offering.
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About digital medicine, UX in healthcare and the work of Proteus
The world’s first digital medicine using a Proteus sensor - Abilify Mycite® was launched in 2017 and is used to help people suffering from serious mental illness. The company continues to collaborate with fellow innovators and forward-thinking healthcare providers providing treatment for cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, infectious diseases, and oncology. Their revolutionary digital technology, includes the use of DigiMeds™ (medications with Proteus sensors), a wearable patch and a smartphone app. It is primarily designed to give doctors the answers to two basic questions where medication-taking is critical: Did you take the medicine? And is it working?
Amir commented that: "Designing communications for people with serious conditions, some of which can be terminal, directs a different methodology. Healthcare in the U.S is being delivered to a wide range of people, by different health providers within a changing and complex marketplace that is heavily regulated. It’s not a straight forward task to launch a product and then iterate UX based on actual use. The end-to-end experience needs to deliver value for patients, caregivers and health systems at every point in the chain. Each site is different in its approach and this requires careful collaboration and nuances in the way the product is delivered and communicated to ensure the brand experience is consistent, trustworthy and credible at all times.”
The triple layer of challenges facing digital medicine
One challenge Proteus face is broad acceptance of this new technology. The pharmaceutical industry spends years and billions in new developments to ensure safety and effectiveness of medications and is typically sceptical of change. The Proteus approach has been to partner with a small number of health providers and to build clinical evidence in different therapeutic areas over time, so industry bodies and doctors feel confident in prescribing the program to their patients.
Doctors are focused on spending as much quality time as possible with patients and have expressed concern that digital technologies can be a burden, when they are already time poor. Proving the value of the product can be difficult when such attitudes are in place. Because ultimately the success of digital medicine, will be dependent on doctors modifying the way they deliver care and increasing the number of treatment decisions they make based on personal data provided by the patient. The Proteus sensor, wearable patch and mobile app are all FDA approved, so there is a complex gamut of rigorous tests and validation that takes place for every product launch. However, having a triple-layered customer base: health systems and payers; prescribing doctors; and of course, patients, means any of these three groups can reject the product offering.
How design and marketing affects product offering and UX
Amir has very strong consumer-focused skills and that’s a considerable advantage for Proteus. He utilises his design and marketing expertise to identify the need, understand the context and create the right triggers to deliver value to different audience groups. One of the major challenges in developing content are the many compliance issues. Messaging that is acceptable from a legal, regulatory and clinical standpoint is required to maintain FDA approval as a medical device. Any claims must be proven and supported with documentation and descriptions written accurately, otherwise they are dismissed or ignored. Brands operating in the Digital Health space therefore ending up looking and sounding very similar. To be noticed, believed in and perceived as useful is a significant challenge that Amir and team address in communications, by bridging the gap between UX, design and software and advocating consistent brand and user experience across multiple touchpoints.
At present, there is no direct competitor to Proteus. Some companies offer digital therapy technologies, but the digital medicine field is linked more to ingestible or injectable medications and the effects they present.
Detailing of UX
UX is critical to Proteus and their agile IOS and Android software development teams. Design plays a key role in helping inform product iterations and marketing communications. Amir feels that this is one area where his communications background plays a huge part in adding a different perspective to product development:
“My interactive design and advertising background has given me a solid grounding in the principles of communicating value - the ability to look at something functional and derive the value for its intended audience. Usually in product and tech set ups, this angle is lost because people are so focused on building a feature list that works, but at Proteus I've carved out a space for myself to be the one who gives a creative perspective to the user experience."
When developing a responsive web introduction and registration tool geared towards patients, Amir described the difficulties in creating compelling content that users could interact with:
“When your audience is not tech savvy, does not understand (or read) lots of copy and is very literal, then you've got to find other ways of showing lots of content without it looking overwhelming. Even basic things you can’t take for granted. It’s all about knowing your audience and respecting their limitations”.
Amir believes digital medicine will continue to be a fast developing and well-funded growth area for technological development. Technology wrapped in good UX and effective design will be the key to unlocking meaningful products, that people will use and help solve the many healthcare related problems we simply can’t continue to deliver, in the same way for future generations.
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