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What is patient-centered design in healthcare?

Last updated

12 October 2023


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Patient-centered design requires a new way of doing things. That means saying goodbye to paper and moving into the 21st century. Enter tech solutions. 

Integrating information and communications technology (ICT) solutions in healthcare enhances patient care and experience. It increases accessibility to health information and improves patient outcomes

A factor contributing to the success of ICT in healthcare is patient-centered design (PCD). 

We’re exploring the concept of PCD, its applications in various settings, and its challenges. Let’s look at how PCD is transforming the healthcare industry.

What is patient-centered design?

Patient-centered design (PCD) is a unique type of user-centered design. It focuses on patients and develops solutions for their unique needs, preferences, and experiences. 

Patient-centric design improves upon the more traditional provider-centric design. The latter focuses on healthcare professionals and their processes. It relies on standardized treatments and protocols that don't consider patients’ individual requirements.

PCD involves the patient in the solution by actively seeking their input, feedback, and participation. For example, healthcare providers and product teams directly interact with patients to understand their challenges, preferences, and goals. 

They conduct user research to continuously gather feedback during various product life-cycle phases. This ensures the final solution aligns with the patient's needs.

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Importance of including patients in designing healthcare solutions

Including patients in designing healthcare solutions ensures:

1. User-centered design

Involving users in development allows you to create a more intuitive, user-friendly design that’s: 

  • Right for their needs

  • Easier to interact with

  • Accessible

  • Engaging

  • More satisfying for users

  • Less likely to result in errors

2. Personalized care

Patients have different experiences, perspectives, goals, and challenges. Including them in the design process allows you to deeply understand their unique needs and preferences. This enables more personalized care solutions.

3. Identification of unmet needs

Patients have crucial insights into their healthcare experiences. They understand the challenges of navigating the healthcare system better than professionals. These insights can help healthcare professionals identify unmet needs and areas of improvement.

4. Enhanced treatment compliance

Patients are more likely to adhere to treatment regimens when using healthcare solutions that align with their preferences and lifestyles. Additionally, involving the patients in designing healthcare solutions empowers them to actively manage their health. 

5. Faster adoption of solutions

Patients are more likely to adopt healthcare solutions developed with their input because they understand the rationale behind all healthcare decisions.

What are the applications of patient-centered design in healthcare settings?

PCD has various applications for improving the quality of care and patient outcomes, including:

Healthcare facility design

You can apply PCD principles in designing healthcare facilities and waiting areas with the patient's comfort and convenience in mind. 

Electronic health record (EHR) systems

Product teams can incorporate PCD principles into EHR systems to make them more user-friendly, intuitive, and accessible to healthcare providers.

Telemedicine platforms

Patient-centered design is crucial in the development of telemedicine platforms. Good designers create seamless and user-friendly virtual healthcare experiences for users.

Mobile health applications (health apps)

Healthcare providers can use PCD to design health apps. This gives patients easy access to health information, appointment scheduling, and medication reminders.

Patient portals

Patient-centered design ensures that patient portals are user-friendly and secure. This allows patients to access their health records, communicate with healthcare providers, and manage their healthcare journey efficiently.

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring solutions with PCD are easy for patients to use. They provide valuable health data to healthcare providers for timely interventions.

Patient education materials

Creating patient education materials needs a patient-centered design approach. PCD ensures clear, understandable information that caters to patients' diverse backgrounds and health literacy levels.

Medication packaging and labeling

PCD principles can improve medication packaging and labeling, making it easier for patients to understand dosages, instructions, and potential side effects.

Chronic disease management programs

PCD in chronic disease management programs can provide personalized interventions that are engaging for patients, leading to better adherence to treatment.

Patient support groups and online communities

Patient-centered design ensures patient support groups and online communities foster a sense of community, empathy, and shared experiences among patients.

Incorporating PCD principles into healthcare settings creates a more compassionate, effective, and patient-centric care environment. 

It empowers patients to actively participate in their care decisions, promotes better patient engagement, and improves health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Challenges and considerations in patient-centered design

While PCD in healthcare offers numerous benefits, it has challenges and considerations, like:

Diverse patient populations

Patients in healthcare settings come from diverse backgrounds with varying cultural, social, and economic factors. Designing solutions to accommodate various patient needs is demanding.

Health literacy and accessibility

Not all patients have the same level of health literacy or access to technology. PCD must consider these factors to present healthcare information and instructions clearly and accessibly.

Time and resource constraints

Integrating patient-centered approaches may require additional time and resources to engage patients actively, which can be challenging in resource-limited environments.

Resistance to change

Healthcare providers and administrators accustomed to traditional healthcare models may resist change.

Balancing patient preferences and evidence-based medicine

While patient preferences matter, they must balance with evidence-based medicine and clinical best practices.

Interoperability and integration

Different systems and technologies need to work together seamlessly in healthcare. PCD solutions should be interoperable for information to move between providers and systems.

Measuring patient outcomes and satisfaction

Developing meaningful and relevant evaluation methods to measure patient outcomes and satisfaction is crucial to assessing the impact of PCD efforts.

Patient empowerment and engagement

While patient empowerment is a central goal of PCD, not all patients feel comfortable or equipped to actively participate in the decision-making of their treatment plan.

Recognizing and addressing these challenges and considerations helps healthcare providers and designers focus on what matters: Creating more patient-centric, effective care environments. These can lead to improved health outcomes and patient satisfaction.


Patient-centered design in healthcare prioritizes patients' needs, skills, and experiences. PCD principles are applicable across the industry, from apps to hospital design. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement, though. 

Healthcare providers may come up against challenges, but PCD implementation is crucial. Creating a user-friendly, accessible experience boosts patient satisfaction and health outcomes.


How can healthcare providers overcome resistance to adopting patient-centered design?

 Some strategies for overcoming resistance include:

  • Providing education and training to healthcare providers about the benefits of PCD

  • Discussing successful case studies and outcomes from patient-centered care initiatives

  • Involving healthcare providers in the design and planning of PCD implementation

What role do patients play in the patient-centered design process?

Patients are actively involved in choices related to their care and treatment. They can set treatment goals and provide valuable feedback on their experiences. Their input and perspectives inform the design and improvement of healthcare services.

Can patient-centered design be applied to all areas of healthcare?

Yes, patient-centered design applies to all healthcare areas, including research and policy-making.

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