As I've helped an elderly relative navigate through the US health care system over the past couple of years, I've been struck by how often essential information is available, but not truly accessible, to patients, to providers, to payers, and to other caregivers, due, in large part, to a lack of "usability" or good industrial design in software, hardware, or business processes.
Today I came across an interesting blog called aiming for grace: chronic illness considered. It's written by a designer with diabetes who wears an insulin pump. In one recent post, she comments on a cleverly titled BusinessWeek article.
...there were some research data that spoke to the role of good design and medical compliance and behavior in a quantitative, statistical way. Design is so often dismissed as extra, "nice to have" component rather than a critical, integral part of making a functional and effective product or tool. The study this article references at least broaches that misconception. "Recent research bears out...that design can influence how a patient deals with his disease...researchers said they looked at quality-of-life issues for...patients with type 1 diabetes. They found people who used [easy to use insulin pumps] experienced 70% less therapy-related dissatisfaction than those who repeatedly inject themselves." Ok, so they're comparing pump therapy to shot therapy but still, it's a start. There is a correlation between design and behavior which is totally cool. It's saying that the technology and quality one uses to manage this disease impacts the experience, approach and behavior in living with it.
I couldn't agree more. I also came across a provocative blog post by Amy Tenderich at Diabetes Mine, where she eloquently makes the case for Steve Jobs-like user interface wizardry for medical devices.