A Holistic Response to Healthcare’s Technology Problem


Too many healthcare companies experience frustration with patient data not getting to the right place at the right time, scheduling systems that don’t sync, and staff that struggle navigating online portals. In the face of these concerns, many healthcare executives believe they have a technology problem and start searching for a technology platform to save their business from these frustrations.

At Worrell, we work with many organizations with these exact concerns. While technology updates are essential for staying competitive in the 21st century, interviews with our clients reveal that technology is rarely their core problem.

Technology will inevitably be part of your efforts to improve the quality of care, but technology alone will never provide the full solution. To solve quality of care problems, you cannot rely solely on technology. You need to take a broader perspective, and you can do this by understanding every detail of the patient journey.

Improving Quality by Focusing on Patient Experience

To make sure you solve the right problems when thinking about technology and the quality of care, you need to define your problems in terms of your patients’ needs. Patients don’t come to their healthcare providers in hopes that their provider has a sophisticated data sharing platform or great interfaces. People want their health-related problems to be treated effectively.

Focusing on patient needs helps organizations stay focused during the design process. It keeps design and development teams grounded to the mission of the organization, so you only expend resources designing the features that improve the quality of the patient care.

It’s also important to recognize that value-based care initiatives depend on viewing the patient experience with a holistic perspective. Shifting from volume to value requires moving from institution centric thinking to patient centric thinking. To measure value, you must be in touch with patient needs and outcomes, and that requires digital tools that are built around the perspective of the patient, not the convenience of the institution.

Overcoming the Fears of a Holistic Approach to Service Design

Many healthcare executives express legitimate fears about taking a holistic approach to improving their patients’ experiences. They associate big-picture thinking with big price tags and onerous changes to staffing models. However, the exact opposite is often the case, because a holistic approach allows you to understand the specific moments where the system needs to be adjusted and what parts of the patient journey are already working well.

Recently, we partnered with a pharmaceutical company to improve the experience of people that participate in clinical trials. A stakeholder as part of the clinical trial team didn’t think it would be possible to improve the participant experience without redesigning the entire clinical trial process and she felt overwhelmed, because they didn’t have the time or budget to do that.

Through our ethnographic research process, we were able to map out every detail of the patient journey. We shared these insights with the broader team, and together we were able to point out key moments that needed to be redesigned to improve the experience. Seeing that the majority of the process already worked well, the team felt excited and empowered about making the changes necessary to improve the participant experience.

We helped the client design a digital platform to better distribute information to stakeholders at the specific pain points in the participant journey. The team would never have been able to identify these pain points and how they were connected if they started their project by trying to pick out a technology platform. In this case, holistic thinking and ethnography allowed our client to identify the small changes that would be most impactful. 

Think Like a Designer

One of the guiding principles for designers is that you never start creating with a certain tool in mind. A designer should start with a focus on empathy (read more how we design with a focus on empathy) to identify and understand what the end-user truly wants and needs. After discovering what people need, designers figure out what tools are best for designing the devices and systems that can meet the end-user’s needs.

Worrell has expertise in a wide variety of digital and design tools, yet we are committed to starting every project by focusing on needs, not tools. This mindset has allowed us to work in many different therapeutic areas and partner with the largest healthcare companies globally.

Krisa Ryan
Director of Service Design