HxRefactored Sneak Preview: Mary Kate Foley, Vice President of User Experience, athenahealth
What is your burning mission in health and why?
MKF: Here’s what keeps me up at night: creating an experience for clinicians that expresses the complete story of the patient and their health so simply and so elegantly that no essential data is overlooked, the doctor can connect with the patient rather than the computer, and no critical information is lost as the patient moves around and interacts with different parts of the health system. Our industry has been so far from that today: electronic records overwhelm doctors and distract them from their patients with interminable dropdowns and popups, and the burden of constructing the complete picture falls on the patient. That’s why for the past several years our Experience team at athenahealth has been re-imagining an electronic health record that is simple, elegant, and upholds connection and care between patient and provider across the healthcare continuum.
What is your patient story?
MKF: I believe strongly that human-centered design is an incredibly powerful lever for making healthcare work the way it should, supporting informed care and connecting the dots in masses of data. Technology can and should enable, and never hinder, a humane, respectful experience for people and their care team. Several tough patient experiences have shown me how crucial this work of supporting connection is. My sister went to a new doctor who, when faced with my sister’s thick paper chart, didn’t find the most critical piece of her history, which delayed diagnosis and treatment for her returned cancer for months. My husband was told of a suspicious shadow on his brain scan three years after the scan was taken, because, as one doctor said, “I sent it to your PCP’s EMR-but the EMR does have a lot of pretty small text.” Paper or digital, the root problem is the same: critical data gets overwhelmed in the haystacks of information, doctors get distracted by interruptions, and clinically relevant information gets lost during handoffs. Patients who are already deeply engaged like my husband and my sister can’t advocate for their own care because information didn’t flow and because that critical connection between them and their doctors was not made. Patients and doctors need to be aligned around the same goals and focused on the same relevant data, so once again we need to focus on connection, both technical and personal.
What new health-related website, app, or technology do you think will improve health?
MKF: I’m both excited by emerging trends in consumer health, and also something of a contrarian. I love the personal devices that passively collect our data and the social apps that try to keep us all invested in improving our stats. I’ve seen many apps that are promising, but I feel we’re mostly still in the exploratory phase. Health care IT needs to do a better job of curating information and making it flow. The data needs to be more than personal and rapid: it needs to be relevant, secure, seamless, and trusted. And we in UX we need to keep designing for continued engagement: otherwise, the shininess will wear off and that Fitbit will be only as effective as the bathroom scale has been at fighting obesity-which is to say, not very much.
Why should people come to your session?
MKF: I’ve been where they’ve been: seeing so clearly how UX could help in visualizing health data, removing kinks in care delivery workflows, and engaging patients-then getting stymied either by team resistance, or by regulatory requirements, or by discovering that the lovely UX I’d designed was actually rejected as irrelevant by its target audience. I’ll share my stories of fighting through those barriers and coming out the other side, starting from when athenahealth was barely out of start-up stage, and tracking its growth to a $7b company and our path to this year’s launch of our reimagined EHR experience. I’ll talk about what’s worked, where I built up scar tissue, and what I discovered about how best to wield our human-centered design and development techniques so we truly contribute to fixing health care.