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August 04, 2005

Life-or-death design issue in healthcare

In the UK's National Health Service, billions of euros (the published figure is two, the likely total is 15) are being spent in a new attempt to digitise and integrate patient medical records. Insiders tell me the latest project is doomed to fail, as did previous attempts, because turf-wars between professionals and managers in different parts of the country remain unresolved. A forthcoming Healthcare Communications Forum in the US steers well clear of treatment issues to concentrate on essentials: invoices for payment. 'Healthcare providers are spending fortunes producing bills and statements that baffle and frustrate most consumers' says the blurb for the seminar. The motto of the Forum's Platinum Sponsor, Art Plus Technology is: 'Financial Documents Are Fun. Financial Documents Are Exciting'. I have to agree with the second part. My daughter once spent 17 days in intensive care in St Vincent's Hospital, in New York City. When the time came to leave, the print-out of the invoice - single spaced, ten point type - was about 60 pages long. But I have to say that the total - being huge - was clearly visible, and no amount of information design would have rendered it more palatable or easy to pay. But the hospital took Amex, I was insured, and they saved my daughter's life. Who needs Good Design at a time like that?

Posted by John Thackara at August 4, 2005 09:43 AM

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