Innovating for tomorrow: how design thinking is crafting health solutions

Martin Sandhu
December 2023

In the dynamic landscape of healthcare, a paradigm shift is starting to occur. We are moving from traditional practices to an innovation-driven approach to patient care. The days of one-size-fits healthcare will soon be a thing of the past, as technologies like AI enable us to access and distil the essence of huge amounts of data, which was previously impossible.

High levels of automation and digitalisation allow us to see the individual in its entirety and provide treatment that is tailored to them and them alone. This is the complete opposite to the thousands of years of medicine that have come before, when each patient was shoe-horned into the two existing default templates - of the average male and female body. Because if recent history has taught us anything is that nobody actually fits that 'average human' stencil!

At nuom, we stand at the forefront of this transformation by integrating service design into healthcare. We create solutions that are not just technologically advanced, but deeply empathetic and user-focused. Our philosophy is rooted in the importance of primary research, engaging with diverse user groups to truly understand their needs. This commitment to design thinking in healthcare is more than a methodology; it's a commitment to crafting solutions that are human-centred, empathetic, and effective.

Co-Creation in Health Solution Design

Co-creation is the cornerstone of effective health solution design. It involves a collaborative process between patients, healthcare professionals, and designers to develop digital tools that meet genuine user needs. We are looking more and more towards understanding the “voice of the patient”, and what that has taught us is that people want wrap-around care that takes their anxieties and emotions into account.

A diagnosis sheet is just one of the many a healthcare provider encounters throughout their working day, and it bears little significance in their lives. But for the patient who’s at the receiving end of this diagnosis, the impact is huge, and it can alter the course of their lives. The same goes for any other services such as testing or investigations of various conditions – and this anxiety is compounded if the disease carries some sort of social stigma or is misunderstood.

This idea was at the core of our work on the NHS hepatitis C self-testing platform. Through extensive research and engagement with at-risk groups, we gained invaluable insights that shaped the design process. We learned about who our target audience is and what their anxieties, worries and misconceptions relating to testing are.

This collaborative approach is resonating globally, with countries like the Netherlands and Denmark setting benchmarks in involving patients in e-health solution development. In a recent paper on the importance of including patients in designing healthcare, Bertalan Meskó and Dave deBronkart emphasised the shift towards active, collaborative patient-centric design, advocating for engaging patients as true partners in healthcare design.

AI in Healthcare: Challenges and Opportunities

The integration of AI in healthcare presents both immense potential and significant challenges. To design successful AI-based services, we navigate many hurdles, including patient experience, data ethics, technical challenges, and socio-political complexities. As data about individuals is now the most valuable commodity, many users are unsure or apprehensive about handing over such personal information concerning the intricacies of their bodies or their medical history.

What’s more, there are now ethical issues to consider, especially in places where this data might be used to the detriment of the user and to limit their autonomy to their bodies. American states where the Roe v. Wade decision that generally protected a right to have an abortion was revoked, are just such examples.

On a separate note, users worry that parting with their healthcare and wellbeing information may lead to them being bombarded by marketing materials targeting their health goals. So secure apps that subscribe to purpose limitation are a potential solution to patient’s lack of trust or reluctance when it comes to AI powered platforms.

At nuom, we use service design to support the AI transformation of healthcare through patient-centric co-creation. This approach ensures that AI systems are not only effective but also understandable and trustworthy. Building trust in patients and users is essential for the wider adoption of AI in healthcare. As AI systems become more prevalent, addressing evolving barriers and concerns that individuals may face within the healthcare space is essential for optimal integration of AI.

User Experience Optimisation in Digital Health

The digitalisation of healthcare has led to ever-improving products and services, but it also requires the constant optimisation of user experience across these digital health tools. Good user experience in healthcare is essential and can save lives, while poor UX can turn users away or create problems. Lack of time is often cited as the reason many fail to attend appointments and medical tests, so the possibility to have video consultations with a GP or healthcare practitioner, or include self-testing whenever possible would be highly beneficial.

Users now have higher expectations of streamlined and straightforward digital services, based on their experiences in other sectors. UX in healthcare has traditionally lagged behind, but as technology evolves, it's essential that digital health meets and exceeds these expectations. Users are now calling for more options to communicate with practitioners digitally, to access to their files online or simply get their test results by email as soon as they become available, without being stuck in a phone queue.

In the UK, the NHS is increasingly focusing on intuitive interfaces for health applications, but accessibility for certain demographics is slowing down the process. In the USA, companies like Epic Systems and Cerner are refining the UX of their electronic health record systems. The usability of MedTech, from AI-enabled tools to robotics, is constantly being improved via user and stakeholder feedback. The old adage 'the more we know, the more we understand' is very fitting here.


The future of healthcare lies in solutions that are technologically innovative yet grounded in human-centric design. Design thinking in healthcare is about understanding and catering to patient needs and preferences. It’s about creating an ecosystem in healthcare that is empathetic, efficient, and patient-centred.

Our ability to succeed lies in the skill with which we effectively combine technological advancements with a human-centric approach. Empathy and humanity should be at the core of our work, because otherwise we risk of alienating the very people we’re hoping to help. So as we continue to embrace these innovations, the future of healthcare looks not only more advanced, but also more human and humane.

Companies like nuom are instrumental in shaping this future, championing innovation, empathy, and patient-centred design. We help healthcare companies harness the power of AI, digitalisation and mountains of data in order to present a comprehensive solution that responds to customers’ needs. We do this by leaving our egos at the door, unlearning traditional methods and antiquated ways of thinking, and letting patient insights and needs guide our approach.

Digital Health Horizon: 24 trends for 2024

Discover more about the intersection of design thinking and healthcare. Visit our Tech Trends Website for in-depth insights and access our comprehensive "Digital Health Horizon: 24 trends for 2024" report which can be downloaded free of charge here.

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