Digital inclusion: 5 actions we’re taking to improve accessibility
At accuRx, we believe healthcare is a communication industry. By minimising barriers to communication between primary care, secondary care and patients, health systems will run more efficiently and effectively. This will lead to better outcomes for healthcare workers and the patients they serve. We know that the tech we create and provide to our users has the power to vastly improve these issues, which will make patients healthier and staff happier. However, we realise that there’s a risk of patients getting left behind and it’s our responsibility to make sure that they’re on board as we move to digital healthcare provision.
One of the challenges we face as we continue to grow is how to ensure we are meeting the needs of one of the most diverse workforces in the world and the even more diverse patient population they serve. We know that existing disparities in healthcare access have been worsened during the coronavirus pandemic; made apparent with the disproportionate number of deaths amongst patients living in more deprived areas or from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. For those who are in a position to be able to embrace technology, we also know that features such as remote consultations, patient messaging and patient triage have supported our users to continue to deliver a high level of care safely and helped to minimise the risks of exposure to both patients and NHS staff.
In underserved communities the privileges afforded by technology may be inaccessible, making it more difficult to navigate an already complex healthcare system and worsening health care disparities. The ability to book or change a hospital appointment online is dependent on having internet access, getting access to a healthcare app for smoking cessation is dependent on having a smartphone, requesting a repeat prescription is dependent on having a working mobile phone to call the GP. For populations that are technically isolated the barrier to accessing basic healthcare needs may be set very high. These are just some of the challenges we know patients currently face and we are keen to learn more so we can better understand and build thoughtful solutions.
Everyone at accuRx is passionate about improving healthcare for everyone; we don’t want to build or provide a product that’s only useful to advantaged population groups. We don’t want to cherry-pick the users or patients that will benefit and we definitely don’t want to reinforce or exacerbate existing health disparities. These notions and beliefs are central to our internal and external operations. Here’s what we’re doing to maximise the value of our product as we scale our user base, patient reach and internal operations:
- Listening to your feedback as we iterate on our productA little background on how we approach product development: we use the agile method, meaning we release what is sometimes referred to as a minimal viable product and then build additional features based on feedback we receive from you, our users. Your feedback has been invaluable over the last 3 years, and especially during these last few months. You helped us to realise the urgency and need for an alternative to a patient joining a video consultation from their smartphone. We’re thrilled to share that you can now invite a patient to a video consultation via email. This will help to make setting up virtual ward rounds with care homes easier and give technically isolated patients another option for connecting with you and accessing care.Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning continuous improvement, is one of our core company values at accuRx and means we’ll never stop looking for ways to improve our product. So please keep the feedback coming!
- User research: Everything we build is based on talking to our users. Our User Research team is currently looking at how we can improve the experience for blind, deaf, elderly, and ESL patients using our product. If you’d like to get involved, let us know!
- Inclusive designOur user research findings feed into our designs work to make the patient-facing part of our product more intuitive and inclusive. This ranges from small changes (like increasing the size of a clickable button to support patients with lower dexterity ), to changes in our colour scheme. We push ourselves to conform to the highest standard of WCAG contrast guidelines, so that we can better support patients with colour blindness and other visual impairments.
- Educating ourselves Prior to the covid outbreak, we spent a lot of time shadowing staff in GP practices and hospitals. Every member of the team would visit a GP practice at least once a quarter. This consistent exposure was invaluable in shaping our understanding of what life on the front line, and the challenges many patients face, was like.We’re sad that we’ve had to put visiting you on pause, but are very grateful to those of you who’ve joined our zoom calls to give us more context on the challenges of providing care whilst staying safe during the pandemic. It’s also been extremely helpful to hear your concerns about what public health issues may crop up as a result of continued lockdown, and your suggestions for how we can help mitigate this.
- Changing our approach to hiring to attract a more diverse candidate poolWe are focused on balancing our gender diversity across the team. We’ve used a gender bias decoder to ensure the language we use in our job descriptions is gender neutral and opened up our flexibility around coding languages and seniority in hiring, helping us to attract a diverse pool of candidates. Since moving to remote working we’ve welcomed 20 new team members and improved diversity in our engineering team. In the next six weeks we’ll be looking to understand our current baseline diversity and inclusion and working on a plan to ensure that our values and culture continue to be reflected in our hiring.
If you’ve seen patients struggle to use our products or if there are barriers to access in your practice that you think we can help address, we’d love to know, so please get in touch!