Melissa is CEO of Access Afya, a chain of low-cost micro-clinics in Nairobi, Kenya. Melissa spoke at Digital Health Week 2014 in Singapore on the organisation’s user experience design framework, and how it takes a forefront in Access Afya’s technology development strategy.
At Access Afya, we always start by thinking about our users. When designing a better healthcare experience, we started by talking to potential patients before building our clinics or selecting our services. Now that we are focused on establishing scalable technology systems for information management, analytics, clinical learning, and patient engagement we remain committed to focusing on user needs and experiences first. As articulated in a recent Forbes article, technology for the sake of invention is worth nothing. Technology starting with the goals of end-users improves lives.
Our technology strategy is to implement technology solutions in a modular way, focusing on the largest business pain point, solving that, and learning what works and what needs to be improved on still. Our sales system, which this post focuses on, is one example of a challenge we used technology to help solve.
This simple diagram shows key areas to consider when tackling a new challenge. The business goals are important, the specific requirements of the type of information we are managing are important, but the user needs- that right corner, is what we lead with. It is this emphasis on user experience that makes our system strategy unique as compared to many healthcare technologies.
As a company we used to waste a lot of time recording sales and managing our inventory levels. This is Mike. Mike works as a pharmacy technician at our Kisii Village clinic. He communicates treatment plans to patients, explains the importance of appropriate medication, and oversees the pharmacy quality processes. Mike used to spend a lot of time checking various sources of stock information. He would even waste time on visual checks. Mike is one example of the users that we designed our sales system for.
We observed and evaluated various user groups at the clinics that interact with sales and stock and analysed their current operations, pain points, skill levels, and attitudes towards technology.
From here we still examined those other two circles; business needs and information attributes. Some business constraints included low bandwidth and heightened risk of theft. Some information attributes included a large inventory necessary for primary care, and multiple physical locations with centralised ordering and pricing.
We considered not just business constraints, but also values and vision. Our technology systems must fit within this values framework:
- The patient is our client and their experience fuels our company
- Our health workers are our team members and the systems must empower them to do their jobs
- We generate the data we can learn from
- Maintain scalability as a goal
After collecting needs, desires, skill, attitudes, and articulating values we were ready to select software and hardware that met our needs. For software, we have implemented and adapted shopify. This is an existing point of sale and ecommerce software with a track record of customers, venture funding, and a support and development team. We did not have to reinvent the wheel, just creatively adapt it to our context.
For example, the images are all pictures taken at our clinic of the exact brands and packing on medication and hygiene products that we do stock. Instead of colour options or sizes, the item variants show different brands that have the same active ingredient. The item tags reflect product type or top sellers. The system works online, offline, and will be able to add new sites quickly. The game-like interface was intuitive, and the clinical team picked up the system in a matter of minutes. This was really important given that we do not have a full-time technology training and enforcement team. And with our approach, hopefully we won’t need one.
The above image might look familiar to anyone that has visited a coffee shop in New York or San Francisco recently, but it is certainly not status quo for sales systems yet. As a contrast, the image on the left here shows the experience of selling through quickbooks, the system that we used when we first set up operations.
Our hardware also looked quite different because of our context. While the ipad is normally selected for its appealing interface, and has elegant, sleek hardware to match, we took that interface and locked it inside of a locally made box that was intentionally bulky, signalling that the tool was immobile.
An essential component of our technology strategy is to evaluate how any new device or system will live within Access Afya’s operations, and even the Kenya healthcare system. The humans in the organisation and the operational processes must support the technology, and a successful technology installation will support the humans in the organisation, and the operational processes. This partnership between frontline workers, operations, and technology systems is ultimately what will make any new technology improve business and health outcomes.
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