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Shaping the Future of Digital Health for Government: Lessons, Learnings, and a Leap Forward

Learn how OXD works with government health organizations to increase interdepartmental collaboration and deliver better digital health services.

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Emerging from emergency

The COVID-19 Pandemic put pressure on governments and health providers across Canada to rapidly design and deliver a wealth of new digital health services: workplace safety guidelines and protocols, mass immunization scheduling and delivery, and vaccination passports to name a few.

Many institutions turned to the practices of service design and human-centred design to ensure success of these initiatives. The focus was on designing for the front-line workers and clinicians as well as the millions of citizens who lined up to receive their vaccine. 

In the time that followed the emergency response and success of 2020 and 2021, health organizations also had to deal with organizational debt, the people, process, and cultural compromises that resulted from “just getting it done” during those early months of the Pandemic. 

Designers and digital teams are not immune from this debt. The Pandemic had proven the power of human-centred design and had also demonstrated the organizational challenges faced in delivering digital services at such a fast pace. OXD helps government health organizations research the practice of digital health delivery teams, their ability to collaborate with other teams, and learn from the lessons of the past few years. Now that the pressure of the Pandemic has diminished, organizations want to earn their COVID dividend and improve their digital health practice, rather than reverting to pre-COVID ways.

Mapping challenges and opportunities with in-depth research and collaborative work

Our journey begins with a comprehensive approach to understanding the intricacies of the digital health service ecosystem. We host a series of interview sessions, both one-on-one and group, with key project partners, including digital delivery teams, executive directors, and product owners, across multiple health authorities and government divisions. 

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These sessions allow us to understand the nuances of digital design and delivery, uncover bottlenecks in service delivery, and pinpoint opportunities for improvement. This exploration also provides us with valuable insights into the varying definitions and interpretations of "patient experience," the fragmented nature of research practices, and the role of large healthcare system vendors in shaping patient interactions.

Shaping the future of digital health solutions

The collaboration between OXD and government health organizations can initiate a movement towards better alignment among government health units and teams seeking to optimize their patient-centred services.

Key takeaways for government health organizations are:

  • Enhanced team and user-centred alignment: Through research, foster a collective understanding of patient experiences, bridging gaps between teams and aligning their objectives for patient-centric digital services. 
  • Collective knowledge sharing: Advocate for increased sharing of design research insights. This empowers teams to leverage the knowledge gained from other teams’ user interactions, fostering creativity and the design of more responsive services.
  • Capacity building: Our insights underscore the importance of strengthening service design and user experience capabilities across teams, allowing them to craft more effective and impactful digital health solutions.
  • Vendor dynamics: The role of external product vendors impacts patient experiences. Striking a balance between vendor-offered solutions and internal design expertise is vital.
  • Collaboration: Through intentional workshops we can address structural and policy-level challenges to collaborative efforts that reshape how digital health services are delivered.

The research we conduct allows healthcare leaders to better understand how their teams are collaborating on patient-centred digital health initiatives. By working across digital teams, sharing research, and using common language, we work with government health organizations to improve patient experiences and provide better digital health solutions for everyone.

OXD illustration concept of 3 people collaborating on patient-centred digital health services in shades of blues and skin tones.