Health 4.0 Has Caught Up with Industry 4.0 (and Needs UX Design) Part 1


In 2019, Healthcare UX Designer Chris Kiess called healthcare UX “the other UX Design.” In a Pre-Covid19 era, when healthcare had yet to embrace digital innovations and ease of use as readily as other industries, such as Uber, his assessment was spot on. 

And then came The Great Pandemic that changed it all.

What are Industry 4.0 Technologies?

Around 2011, the fourth stage of industrialization was coined Industry 4.0. In terms of manufacturing, it refers to the ongoing trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. For Health 4.0, it means healthcare innovation marked by the use of cyber-physical systems (CPS), which most of us refer to as “smart” technologies. The term “smart” is an overly vague (but convenient) way of referring to integrating computational digital components with any products or interface. For our purposes, it is how these CPS play within the healthcare devices, products, or services space.

How the Pandemic Changed Healthcare

Not only did the sudden outbreak of the virus highlight the need for improved healthcare systems, but indelibly thrust Industry 4.0 technologies into health 4.0 technologies. Several innovations only needed a nudge to rise and shine during the pandemic (telehealth). Others just needed a reason to exist (hospital robots). The collision was swift and--for Health 4.0--disruptive. So much so, Health 4.0 technologies, which existed before the pandemic (albeit far from popular vernacular), have become nearly synonymous with Industry 4.0 technologies. 

The Thing About Health 4.0

COVID-19 was an inflection point where Industry 4.0 inserted itself into the course of Health 4.0 history, where it will likely be staying. Born from the need for urgent, widespread, and remote care, diagnosis, and treatment, Industry 4.0 made good on its long promise to revolutionize healthcare innovation, just like it did for manufacturing. Long-awaited, much anticipated, and likely inevitable, these technologies owe their implementation to barriers broken by The Great Pandemic.

The Healthcare Barriers Covid Broke

Machine learning, big data solutions, virtual realities, and autonomous technologies all saw a steep rise in implementation during the global pandemic due to dire circumstances. A primary factor was a reduction in previous barriers to implementation. Pre-pandemic, the cost vs. benefit of these technologies was often questioned. When weighed against the cost of human life, the answer became apparent. Also, several regulations were eased, allowing for the quick adoption of telehealth and vaccine innovations. 

However, the most radical change of all came from a human perspective. Doctor and patient reluctance to adopt cyber-physical innovations eased considerably. In short, the only options quickly became the best options and innovations we now can’t seem to live without. A common theme in technology once the genie is out of the bottle.

Why Industry 4.0 Merged with Health 4.0 Needs UX Design 

Now, Industry 4.0-infused product design for Health 4.0 has all but taken over. A steady drip of physical and digital innovations merging the two is only starting to touch our daily lives. And it is already having an immense impact. The promise of what to come is more profound, if not high-profile, than ever. And yet still, this confluence presents as many hurdles as opportunities and problems as solutions. In particular, with machines supplanting humans in several patient-facing tasks, human-centered design has become more challenging and essential than ever. 

Prioritizing Humanity in Health 4.0

While the emerging industry 4.0 technologies associated with Health 4.0 are virtual and digital, there must be a collective understanding that every innovation is tethered to the real world and, more to the point, a human experience. This reality not only opens the door wide for applying UX and human-centered design principles but also offers nearly unlimited opportunities for UX Designers and UX product design companies.

In part two of this article, we will look critically at some Health 4.0 technologies accelerated by COVID-19 and how UX design can and must shape their implementation moving forward. 

About Speck Design Medical Device and Development

At Speck Design, we have been creating the future for 25 years, helping our clients build lasting connections with their customers through compelling and innovative product design. We believe the catalyst for effective design is passion, diversity, and partnership. We work with organizations big and small, local and global, start-up and legacy to bring their dreams to life and their vision to market. Our mission is simple: use design to guide our clients in creating compelling and transformative products and experiences for their customers.  To learn more about or human-centered processes or our deep proficiency in medical device development for FDA approval, reach out to us to start a conversation today.

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