A Frontend.com moderator places sticky notes at a medical innovation workshop.

Facilitating User-centred Innovation for Healthcare

Delivering user-centred innovation to create solutions that reflect the needs of the broader healthcare ecosystem.


Written by Frank Long and Aiden Kenny.

In today’s world Pharmaceutical companies know that innovation is not confined to the lab. Each new drug therapy comes with a full complement of services – from drug delivery support and monitoring for patients at home to education and tools for healthcare professionals. Pharmaceutical innovation is becoming more service-orientated with an increasing emphasis on the end-user’s experience.

But creating user-centric therapy solutions in the healthcare environment is complex. There are many different users with different needs. It is not just about the patient; you need to consider every member of the healthcare team. One of the greatest challenges is to identify the right problem to solve, and then to structure that problem in the right way so that it addresses the needs of all.

Frontend.com has collaborated with many global Pharma companies to help them deliver more user-centred innovation, to create better solutions that address the needs of the broader healthcare ecosystem.

Contributors at a Frontend healthcare innovation workshop.

Contributors at a Frontend medical innovation workshop.

Reframing the Problem

One of the common starting points is to identify the right problem to solve. While it sounds straightforward, in reality, it can be the biggest challenge. It’s common for clients to arrive at an innovation workshop with a prepared list of problems. However, these are not always the problems that need solving. The healthcare industry is a complex one and there are many stakeholders involved with different goals and agendas. The stakeholder list is a long one: patients, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administration, insurance companies, payers, and more. Solving problems from one unique perspective is unlikely to be successful. In fact, it is more likely to create new problems for several other stakeholders. To be successful in Healthcare, solutions must address the needs of all stakeholders. To achieve this we need to reframe the problem to include a broader perspective.

From Clinical Pathway to Patient Journey

User Journey Mapping is a useful tool within the UX toolkit and is an excellent method of understanding the physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of the user. We have developed a specific variation for the healthcare context which incorporates the clinical pathway and the patient journey – acknowledging that there are many end-user needs to be documented.

Frontend.com simplified healthcare customer journey diagram helps reframe the problem from a user perspective.

Frontend.com Healthcare Journey Mapping tool helps reframe the problem from a user perspective – Copyright Frontend.com 2021

Beyond the Patient-Centred

The healthcare industry has been described, perhaps unfairly, as “the industry where the customer always comes last”. However there is a grain of truth, Healthcare is a hierarchical system, and while everyone strives for the best patient outcome, their needs can tend to be subservient to those who do the work. When it comes to choosing a therapy pathway, physicians and nurses are often the gatekeepers and will make decisions on their patients’ behalf. Above them, there are other forces at work such as insurance companies and healthcare payers. So, for a patient-centric solution to succeed it needs to work for the healthcare professionals as well.


Through analysing the needs and pain points within the patient journey and the clinical pathway, we can understand problems for each of the stakeholders involved. Some are unique, while others are shared. The ideal scenario is to identify a common problem: where a solution can improve the patient experience as well as that of the healthcare professional, while also addressing a commercial goal of the Pharma company, creating a win-win-win scenario. Addressing problems with a shared relevance greatly improves chances of success and will represent a better return on investment.

Frontend.com simplified healthcare venn diagram.

Win-Win-Win – In healthcare contexts – identifying problems across user groups increases the chances of success – Copyright Frontend.com 2021

Onsite Participation to Remote Innovation

We have over ten years of experience delivering innovation workshops to healthcare clients in the US and Europe. In pre-Covid years we delivered these workshops on-site, where teams rolled up their sleeves and set about filling boardrooms with journey maps, pain points, and solution ideas. In more recent times our methodology has evolved to work within a pandemic world, by using remote tools and technologies. Indeed, our most recent such workshop involved over 20 client contributors from twelve different European countries delivered over 3 separate days.

Get in Touch

If you find the ideas we have explored in this article to be interesting and relevant to your corporation then contact Frank Long, our expert on this topic.

Our multidisciplinary healthcare design team is based in our studio in Dublin, Ireland. Unlike most design consultancies, our healthcare research is conducted by professional researchers while our design team draws on their experience in medical devices, industrial design, usability, psychology, computer science, and business process improvement. We engage with patients, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, understanding their environments and creating solutions that work at every touchpoint. Contact us to collaborate on your upcoming healthcare project.

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