By Maribel Sierra, Senior UX Researcher at Tendo 

Healthcare is undergoing a crucial change. Advancements in consumer technology provide intuitive and user-friendly experiences for many aspects of our daily lives. However, in regard to our health, we face redundant requests, complex processes, and disconnected systems.

But healthcare doesn’t have to be this way. The pandemic accelerated new technology adoption, like virtual care, at an unprecedented pace. Practitioners adapted, patients applauded, and caregivers rejoiced. New technology opened Pandora’s box, leading everyone to ask, “Why can’t healthcare be easy?”

As we strive to be the trusted connection between patients, clinicians, and caregivers by developing software that offers seamless and user-friendly experiences throughout the care journey, user experience (UX) research is one way to understand the motivations and needs that drive tech products like banking, travel, and retail apps or healthcare apps that support patients and clinicians. 

So, what is UX research?

Let’s consider tangible characteristics to hone in on this evaluation.

User research is part science, part psychology, and part design. It’s the discipline that studies people, design, and how they interact with each other to achieve specific goals in different contexts (Tomer Sharon, It’s Our Research). 

In the healthcare space, UX research may be leveraged to connect population health trends with consumer needs. For instance, telemedicine or medical care provided by video or phone is becoming more common as patients look for a way to save travel, time, and cost while conveniently addressing their medical questions and concerns. According to a 2022 Rock Health survey on consumer attitudes and behaviors surrounding digital health, 80% of all respondents reported having accessed care via telemedicine at some point in their lives—that number represents an increase of 8 percentage points from 72% in 2021 (Rock Health). In this example, we see that telemedicine is a solution that people need and are readily adopting. 

UX Research helps product teams dive deeper by asking questions to address what’s missing. How can we improve patient experiences? Who can we include in our research to better understand problems? 

Inclusion Benefits All

Inclusion matters because people matter. We all want to be seen and feel heard, especially in a clinical care context. Because software is an extension of its creators, health applications must reflect how people will interact with those apps in the real world. 

Great things happen when we can take a closer look at use cases outside the norm. For example, OXO kitchen utensils are considered to be great for everyone, but they were originally created because the company founder’s wife had difficulty gripping other utensils because of her arthritis. For a digital product like an app, inclusive features might be simple language (or multiple languages), high-contrast color schemes, enlarged buttons or text, and use of iconography and other visual elements for readability and overall app usability. 

The Problem with Average

Many organizations tend to target their solutions to the largest part of the bell curve of people, not understanding that people within the bell curve don’t all think the same. Sadly, solutions designed for the average person have the potential to cause harm.

In the 1940s, US Air force jets were flying faster than their 1930s predecessors. However, the new jets retained the same 1930s cockpit design, which retained average measurements for a male pilot. By the 1940s, pilot crashes became a significant problem. The Air Force went back to the drawing board; in 1950, they tasked researchers to measure 4,000 pilots to reevaluate cockpit measurements. In all 10 of their measurement dimensions, none of the pilots fit the average numbers that informed the original designs. The jet manufacturers responded by designing adjustable jet helmets, cockpit seats, and floor pedals for pilots to accommodate their needs and improve their safety.

Looking outside of the norm can help teach us where our designs might not be meeting people’s expectations and let us explore ways that we can do better. 


An inclusive approach to UX research supports product development by shedding light on opportunities to reach more people. UX research improves products and builds advantages over less-inclusive business competitors. 

We must go beyond the “do no harm” mantra well known among clinicians. We must seek to understand a range of challenges that people face by listening and incorporating inclusive research and design in the software development process. 

About the Author:

Maribel Sierra: I am an experienced social sciences researcher turned UX researcher who is energized by collaborating with cross-functional stakeholders to understand human-centered challenges. As someone who grew up in a bicultural environment, empathy and resourcefulness are at the core of how I approach research.
My past work in academia and health-focused organizations has strengthened my ability to adapt to change while using rigorous methods to develop research questions, collect qualitative data, and generate insights that inform strategic decision-making.

I love the iterative process of research. It never feels static or rigid but rather ever-evolving in a way that gives rise to new solutions!

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