Analogue Lessons for a Digital World, by Ricky Stoch
Treatment adherence is when a patient takes their medicine as prescribed. It can happen due to access, cost, side effects, or stigma. But for most people, we just forget.
“Increasing the effectiveness of adherence interventions may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than any improvement in specific medical treatments.”World Health Organization
It costs health systems billions to get people to take their medications.
Context is key to the success of an intervention. For example, you can come up with something brilliant, but if it’s not affordable in the community you’re trying to use it, it’s not useful. A fancy pill dispenser is less useful than a weekly Monday through Sunday pill package.
In general, analogue lessons can teach us a lot about how to build digital products.
Three analogue lessons
- Make it simple.
Providers often don’t have time to teach patients. That means our solutions need to be incredibly simple. It needs to fit into the patient’s routine, rather than on top of or in addition to their routine.
For example, an adherence app is just a glorified calendar. But digitally we can add reminders to simplify the person’s life.
2. Make it fun.
Scratching off a check mark on a bottle feels satisfying. One thing that’s very satisfying is when something engages more than one sense. In the digital world we can use visual, audio, and tactical (buzzing, etc). Is there also a way to show when someone has succeeded, so that they get that satisfaction?
3. Make it work.
Of course it needs to work, but it needs to specifically work for the patient that is using it. If it looks bad, people won’t use it. If it doesn’t work, people can’t use it.
There’s no silver bullet solution. Sometimes there are a combination of things. Different people will respond differently to different interventions, and we often need a combination of strategies. We need to design with that in mind.