Notes from Trust & Design in healthcare

A few weeks ago we held our second Trust & Design meetup. It was a timely event, with the focus on healthcare: last week, Georgina wrote about the healthcare challenges we're starting to explore. I wanted to write about some of the things that jumped out at me from the evening.

Understanding what you're working with affects every design decision

Mollie's showcase of SH:24's design approach was real food for thought for anyone who works with sensitive information. In SH:24's case, it's sexual health testing.

Watch Mollie's talk on Vimeo, or read the transcript.


At each step the team were considerate and sparing about what information to collect, display and reveal. As the team tested the kits – and responses to them – personal information became increasingly separate. They developed a technical architecture that could support people's need for privacy. Samples are uniquely numbered, and no-one handling a sample will ever know who the specific person is who sent it in for testing. In that sense, the anodyne packaging is the icing on the cake: it's the visible layer of an approach to privacy that has been baked into the service.

Post Samples
SH:24's test kits are designed to ensure people's names and samples are kept separate


The kits don't rely on any one design decision to reassure people their privacy is being taken seriously. The goal of all of this is to reduce the stigma attached to sexual health testing. They've thought about people's needs and the material they're working with, and worked hard to design a system that makes the most of the data without compromising individuals.

Introduce friction to help people think twice

With Echo, the goal is to make ongoing healthcare proactive, simple and engaging. The prescription ordering service places a lot of emphasis on direct communication with patients, as Echo becomes a patient's partner pharmacy.

Watch Tom's talk on Vimeo, or read the transcript.


This involves designing friction into the process: using swipe gestures to slow people down, changing gestures during the sign-up process, breaking people's routine. The aim is to help people notice what they're agreeing to as much as possible: 'Why do I need to do something different here? What does this mean?' The same is true of notifications. For patients who are more sensitive about notifications, it's important to give them space to tailor what pops up on their phone.

With healthcare, the seamless design that's become a hallmark of modern digital services isn't always appropriate. Helping people understand what's happening is paramount. People care deeply how information about their conditions and treatment are used. They also need to have space to think about what they're agreeing to when their health (and the health of others) is at risk.

Your assumptions will be wrong

Both Mollie and Tom told stories about initial assumptions the team had made while developing the service that proved, through testing, to be wrong. For SH:24, it was an assumption that online accounts would form an important, desired part of the service. But that proved more problematic for the people using the service than anticipated.

As well as being a useful reminder that digital infrastructure has to be able to support multiple channels, it underscored how important it is to note your assumptions and test them.

Trust & Design on the road

We've got two Trust & Design events coming up in the next month. The first is a session at Mozfest exploring the tools people need to build better services. We'd love to see you there. After that we're heading to Berlin for Underexposed.

Huge thanks to Mollie and Tom for giving their time last month, and to the Trust & Design community for joining us. Sign up for news about the next event at trustanddesign.projectsbyif.com.