Jonathan O'Donnell | 03.15.17 | Insights

Human Centered Design Can Improve Medication Adherence

  • healthcare
  • service design

If I were to ask you why medication adherence is generally so poor among patients, what is the first barrier that jumps to mind?

Most likely, “the patient did not remember to take their medication.” Not to diminish the importance of this ultimate activity, but so many other factors influence medication adherence:

  • How was the trip to the doctor that resulted in the prescription? Was it a good experience? Did the patient feel she understands the reason for the medication and how it works?
  • How was it traveling to the pharmacy to pick it up? Did the staff treat her with courtesy and respect? Was it busy and crowded? Did she have a chance to ask all the questions she had? Did she have to wait?
  • How much did the medication cost? Is this a one-time prescription or a chronic medication?

You get the point: there are many factors that ultimately influence medication adherence, not merely remembering to take the medication at a particular time. That memory is in fact shaped by a multitude of experiences of various services along the way. It’s a much bigger process that one initially realizes!

In our discussions with clinicians and researchers who study a particular clinical problem or intervention, it is no different: it is often a challenge to appreciate and characterize the full extent of the underlying issue at hand. It is important for stakeholders to think about the subject’s whole experience, from initiation through all of the various touchpoints that result in the final step.

Service blueprinting is one methodology that can comprehensively shine light on the many sequential touchpoints and actors for a given service. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming: there are templates that are expandable to help guide you in being thorough and organized. Go ahead and take a look at one example we created for pharmacy operations.

Click to open Service Blueprint in a new window.

Like what you see? Print off the image for inspiration and fill it in for your problem or intervention. Even better, work on it with others to bring different perspectives to bear.

Want even more practical tools for designing great services in healthcare? Download our ebook!


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