Breaking down the barriers between tech and healthcare

Female doctor empathy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a buzz word that is rapidly becoming part of everyday dialogue; but what does it mean for putting people first, enhancing the impact of human insights and shaping daily life?

We recently had the pleasure of contributing at the Intelligent Health UK 2022 conference. This year’s main theme was ‘Breaking down the barriers between tech and healthcare’, with a specific focus on the role of AI in healthcare. We were very excited to be attending this in-person event. Even more so, since we were invited to run a workshop inspiring decision makers to lead with a human-centric approach in the design and activation of healthcare platforms/ solutions.

The conference was a great opportunity to learn more about how tech is advancing our lives, challenge our thinking and understand how insight-led research can help. Let’s zoom in on some of the key themes that were particularly inspiring during the conference.

Understanding human concerns: the ‘who’, ‘how’, and ‘why’

As well as facilitating new and enhanced brand experiences within healthcare, tech is also key to exploring who is really interacting with these interfaces. This is critical to gain a more meaningful understanding of human needs and concerns. Understanding who is using tech, how and why might seem like relatively straightforward questions. However, creating space to understand these questions was referenced by Dr Alan Karthikesalingam, Senior Clinical Scientist at Google Health, who said that understanding the needs of user and decision maker should be a priority.


Tech for everyone

It’s very easy to only focus on the healthcare professional using or recommending a new technology platform, or the patient who will be relying on the service. But the benefits of AI can have a butterfly effect. Just think about the tangible impact on, for instance, health outcomes, but also the reduction of waiting lists, or even the influence on job satisfaction or engagement for professionals. Intangible benefits can include improving a patient’s quality of life, impacting emotional support systems, or understanding the subjective experiences across therapy areas. All are important, and each can have huge impressions on the future of our healthcare systems.


Designing for diversity

Diversity and inclusion featured in many of the sessions at Intelligent Health UK, but the panel discussions, particularly on women’s health, were both intriguing and thought provoking. To overcome the lack of data and evidence about female bodies, we need a mindset shift in how we plan research, but also in the language that is used in daily communication and much more. The panel discussion made clear that we have a long way to go in recognising and understanding the diverse needs in our society. Whilst we are making steps in the right direction, there is still a long way to go to challenge traditional narratives and activate change through the design of inclusive healthcare solutions.


Reimagining human experiences

Dr Junaid Bajwa, Chief Medical Scientist at Microsoft, talked about how ambient intelligence technology is shaping interactions in the consultation room. These digital approaches can help healthcare professionals (HCP) to create greater empathy with their patients. Via ‘listening intelligence’, the system listens to doctor-patient conversations, integrates this with contextual information from the patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR), and automatically generates a clinical note. This allows the HCP to have a sole focus on the interaction with the patient, without having to worry about recording and documenting all verbal and body language. Via this approach, detailed data and analytics on patient experiences can be collected. This helps to broaden the understanding of different therapy areas, shaping the interface between HCP and patient.


Overcoming the challenges

Whilst most conversations focused on the positive impact of AI and other digital platforms, there was a consensus that there are still a lot of ‘unknowns’ in this space, so we will need to learn and adapt. Some challenges focused on the practicalities of tech: that it must have a purpose and a clear use, compliant with NHS standards and processes. The right people need to have access at the right time. Other challenges are perhaps not unique to the healthcare industry but remain pertinent, such as securing investment, keeping up with the speed of change, and perhaps most importantly, building trust in the ‘machines’.


Defining a human-centric approach

Throughout the conference, a lot of the conversations revolved around the importance of really understanding the patient perspective. In fact, this might be one of the most critical questions of all: is tech changing human behaviour and interactions, or are people accelerating change because tech is an enabler? Our own workshop also tapped into this theme. We explored how brands can navigate this changing environment and create space for putting people at the heart of the healthcare system, services, and solutions. During the workshop, we shared the work we did with Philips, a brand that understands very well the value of a human-centric approach towards innovation. Together with its healthcare division, we designed a truly human-centric piece of research, adopting a holistic approach towards understanding people’s healthcare experiences in cardiac care.


This is just a taster of some of the themes that stood out at the Intelligent Health UK Conference. Key take-away for us as a research agency was the focus on patient, or human centricity. Everything starts with understanding humans, their behaviour, needs and wants. We are proud to be part of this conversation, joining the debate with our approach for human-centric research. In our view, designing with purpose through a human-centric approach will be key to realizing these opportunities in the health space and helping make a difference to people’s lives.

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