Designing the digital bedside manner

Designing the digital bedside manner

After a decade collaborating with companies at the forefront of the disruption, we offer some key takeaways about how to design for the rise of the brand in the future of healthcare.

There’s a seachange afoot in healthcare. Yesterday’s passive patient is now the savvy healthcare consumer and in the emerging vista, the brand is crucial. After a decade collaborating with companies at the forefront of the disruption, we offer some key takeaways about how to design for the rise of the brand in the future of healthcare:

Keeping it real

Research confirms that the new generation of patients wants brands that share their values and contribute to the greater good. In short, integrity counts. Authentic brands come from immersive design processes. Mucho partner Brett Wickens confirms ‘Healthcare brands must communicate conviction about why they exist rather than just what they do and how.’

When we developed the new brand strategy and identity for Paradigm, the US’s industry leader in managing the care and recovery of patients with catastrophic workplace injuries, we travelled all over the country to meet patients, their families and carers. We then worked with a photographer to capture their unique personalities and their remarkable stories of recovery. The new brand’s philosophy is to never show a photo of a person you can’t put a name to.

Technology is the new carer

As the pandemic dissolves deep-seated resistance to telemedicine and wearables place self-monitoring at our fingertips, technology is infiltrating every aspect of the healthcare sphere. “The companies we work with are often not changing healthcare with medicine”, explains Director of Strategy Joan Picanyol, “They are changing it with technology.”

This can mean product and service providers need to redefine their audience and their field of competition. Our rebrand for Paradigm involved resolving intricate brand architecture and product communications issues. Given the complexity of their caregiving system, it became apparent early on that the new brand needed to attract not just patients and the best doctors, nurses and carers, but the best IT talent in the world. Paradigm were no longer competing with hospitals and insurance companies but with Silicon Valley start-ups and tech giants such as Apple and Google. We designed the new brand with this in mind.

The companies we work with are often not changing healthcare with medicine. They are changing it with technology.

Trust us

If digital and physical interfaces are going to stand in for white coats, brands themselves must administer the most credible bedside manner. ‘If we are going to visit our doctors less often,’ adds Picanyol, ‘brands must offer a certificate of reliability.’

Cue is a home health monitoring kit that uses innovative molecular testing to deliver fast, accurate results for everything from fertility to influenza straight to your iPhone. We designed both the product and the app’s interfaces to be easy to use. Colour coding, iconography and clear instructional design all contribute to positioning the brand as authoritatively medical grade.

Healthcare 2

The wellness continuum

Our ability to monitor all kinds of health data ourselves is the next step in the evolution of healthcare from treatment to prevention which began with the fitness craze in the 1980s. ‘The old polarity of sickness and good health is now a spectrum of wellness and we must conceive of brands in line with this,’ observes partner Rob Duncan.

This fundamental change in mindset influenced partner Brett Wickens’ rebrand for The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), the world’s leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation, biomedical engineering and neuroscience. Having observed that the word ‘rehabilitation’ is often associated with substance abuse, the name AbilityLab was coined. The new name shifted the emphasis from fixing something that is broken to a more positive, proactive vision. It highlighted the power of research at the institution and successful patient experiences. The hospital became a beacon for possibility, in line with inclusive, progressive thinking.

A human face

Sometimes clear instructions are not enough. Partner Pablo Juncadella explains “Even Pharma is no longer about selling as much aspirin as quickly and cheaply as possible. It’s about caring for humans.”

When Swiss company, the ZurRose Group wanted to integrate a number of national online pharmacy brands into a single e-commerce platform, we knew the new parent brand would have to play the role of your friendly local pharmacist.

For the DocMorris visual identity, we purposely injected the online world with the warmth of offline conventions. We developed a house typeface that combines a serif with geometric elements to achieve a balance of clarity, credibility and humanity. We also abandoned the iconography of pharmaceuticals past, the mortar and pestle and mythological symbols, which are no longer meaningful to the 21st-century consumer. We even deviated from the rationality of the green cross introduced as Europe’s uniform pharmaceutical sign in the early 20th century. The new logo is a succinct unfurling flower bounded by a heart.

Even Pharma is no longer about selling as much aspirin as quickly and cheaply as possible. It’s about caring for humans.
Healthcare 3

New visual languages

New business models and areas of scientific research and innovation are forging new connections between the natural and human-made, traditional and alternative treatments, biology and chemistry. These require new visual languages.

Antheia uses synthetic biology, informatics and fermentation processes to harness plants’ most beneficial molecules to create medicines that present a viable alternative to traditional agri-business supply chains. Its visual identity had to offer a new promise and tell a complex scientific and technological story. We achieved this together with an art-radiographer who laid bare the hidden life of plants with a dramatic series of x-ray images. Together with a typeface which echoes the tapering forms of plants, we took a resolutely feminine stance in contrast to the often anonymous identities of the monoliths in the biotech industry.

The upshot

As tech opens up burgeoning areas of scientific research and steps in to alleviate the strain on both public and private health systems, today’s healthcare brandscape presents exciting visual frontiers. In this new scenario of the empowered patient, however, the brand now bears a heavier responsibility. The 21st-century healthcare brand must make sense of complex organisational structures, offer seamless efficiency and combine credibility and authority with emotional intelligence. All this, of course, in the blink of an eye.

Illustrations © Asier Belloso