How UX Design Plays a Vital Role in Preventing Medical Errors

In a recent article published in Fast Company’s Co. Design, Jonathan West of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design was interviewed about a project he worked on called DOME (short for “Designing Out Medical Error”). The entire DOME team is comprised of designers, clinicians, psychologists, and human factors experts all focused on studying and designing solutions that could reduce medical mistakes made in hospitals. What is especially interesting is how the article sights many of the same methods and activities UX Team often uses on our software design projects, such as:

  • Shadowing: The DOME team shadowed doctors and nurses to learn more about the real-world challenges they run into when examining and treating patients in hospital rooms. Nothing provides a clearer understanding of user needs like seeing them work live. If we’re designing a software product that our clients will use internally, our UX Team designers will often spend a few days working along side their employees just to watch them perform their daily jobs. Often times we will reveal things that even our clients didn’t know that could be solved with either a business process improvement or software design solution.
  • Prototyping: Before any final products were constructed or developed, the DOME team created prototypes that were shown to potential end-users. In software development, creating non-functional prototypes prior to development is still not as common of a practice as it should be. A prototype not only helps all team members and end-users visualize the final product but it also helps reveal potential issues at a point when they can be easily corrected.


Jonathan West is quoted at the end of the article as saying “I speak at a lot of medical conferences, and they never even considered that a designer could be involved in this sort of thing,”. This kind of response is not at all surprising, yet it should be. The DOME project simply highlights the importance of involving a designer in the creation of anything that people will use and interact with — whether it will save a life or not.