No one plans to be sick
The world’s most popular doctor (by a factor of 10) is Dr. Google. But few people seem happy with their visits. So why do we keep going back?
Easy: because it’s easy.
If we want to change the way people engage with healthcare (and we do), then we need to build solutions which are as easy to use and as ubiquitously available as Google.
Digital health services have to anticipate user needs. Because no one plans to be sick.
The gateway problem
There is an expensive — and extensively researched, but still poorly understood — problem in the first mile of healthcare.
On the one hand, a significant portion of in-person doctor visits could be handled remotely.
On the other hand, people wait about a year after the onset of minor symptoms before visiting a doctor. And the cost of delayed treatment for those who need it is astronomical.
These may seem like contradictory problems. But they are actually two sides of the same coin.
If it was easier to get professional medical help without visiting a doctor, people would do it.
Two expensive birds. One simple stone.
Making it easier
If I asked you how many times you plan to go to a restaurant in the next month, you could give me an estimate. Or how many times you plan to take a taxi.
But what about how many times you plan to be sick?
The monks of Bhutan recommend thinking about death for at least 5 minutes every day.
That may work for them, but for most of us, thinking about our own mortality is pretty low on our list of daily priorities.
We’ve designed most digital health products for the fantasy of user action, not the reality of user inertia.
Designing for inertia
My mother once told me: “don’t ever think you can change someone.” She meant it as relationship advice, but it’s just as applicable to UX design.
We can’t change people, but we can design ourselves into their habits.
At Abi, that has meant focusing on two key principles when designing our first mile professional health service: Ubiquity and Simplicity.
Ubiquity (juːˈbɪkwɪti, noun): the fact of appearing everywhere.
People spend a majority of their internet time on messaging services, so that’s where we put our solution. Instead of expecting users to download their umpteenth App, or sign up to yet another website, our Chatbot interface means we can bring the service to them where they already are.
Our API also allows for easy integration into 3rd party websites and Apps. Our service is even available by SMS — which makes it accessible to 6 billion of the 7 billion people on earth.
Wherever you are, we come to you. It’s the digital version of a house call.
Simplicity (sɪmˈplɪsɪti, noun): the quality or condition of being easy to do.
Video is great. For seeing your kids while you’re away on a business trip. For presenting to your clients halfway around the world.
For discussing that rash you just found on your . . . Not so much.
Despite access to 1001 flavours of video and voice communication, we still prefer texting in most situations. This is true for medical questions as much as for anything else.
Why? Because it’s simple.