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The Wonderful World of Clinical UX Design

Every week on The UX Blog Podcast, Nicholas Tenhue interviews user experience professionals about current trends, hot topics, and their careers. Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music!

Dr Gyles Morrison is a new breed of UX Designer having worked as a medical doctor for three years. Now he applies his knowledge and experience healthcare to digital health projects, bridging the gap between the clinical and tech worlds.

In this episode, we hear Gyles talk about his journey from being a physician to becoming a UX Designer in the Wonderful World of Clinical UX Design. Below you can find a selection of photographs of Gyles in action, some of his presentations, and some bonus material from 'Say It Loud'.



Click the images to download a PDF of Dr Gyles' presentations 'From Medicine to UX' and 'Clinical UX & Design Thinking'.

Say It Loud Anthem


Nicholas Tenhue: So hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the UX blog podcast. Today we are joined by Dr. Gyles Morrison who is going to introduce us to the wonderful world of clinical UX design. So thanks, and welcome to the show Gyles.

Gyles Morrison: Thank you.

Nicholas Tenhue: Gyles, here, is a new breed of UX designer who's worked as a medical doctor for three years, and now he applies his knowledge and experience to healthcare in the world of digital health products, and he bridges the gap between clinical and tech worlds. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about what exactly that means, and how you got into it in the first place.

Gyles Morrison: So, as you said i’ve worked as a doctor for a few years. I’ve always enjoyed working in IT, working with computers, designing websites, and I am starting to learn a little bit more about code during my teenage years. I’ve realized that I actually love doing IT so much, and being creative through visual design work, and computers so much that I needed to change careers, so I made that leap a few years ago, so working as a UX designer now, a clinical UX designer, I try to apply the knowledge, experiences that i’ve gained from my clinical years to make the way we use technology in the IT in the healthcare sector much more efficient. There’s so much software that we use as technicians, as administrators, as managers within the healthcare sector, and it’s confusing, it’s clunky, it’s frustrating, makes you want to pull your hair out, and we don’t have enough expertise, and understanding of IT within the healthcare sector, broadly speaking, for us to really drive a change within IT, so I thought actually, if I want IT within healthcare to be better, I need to get involved with it, and learn skills, learn academic side, and theoretical side of IT, and apply that to different healthcare projects, and try to get others to do the same, and i’m loving it. I really enjoy it a lot.

Nicholas Tenhue: That’s really great to hear. So, as a doctor, you were pretty much fed up of these 90s or 80s looking interfaces with horrible buttons and designs, and you were like, I got to do something about this myself.

Gyles Morrison: Yeah, that’s right cause I am definitely not the only person within the clinical community that’s thought that this software is not very good. The thing is that it is very hard to find the time as a doctor full time to actually devote to making changes. It’s a mindset, it’s also a foundation of theoretical knowledge that’s just very very different to working as a doctor, you don’t work as a doctor and then go into IT just like that, there is a lot of other knowledge that you need to know about, technology and computer science, in order to do anything significant. Just having an opinion is not enough because everybody has an opinion, it’s actually what skills and expertise do you have to use your opinion, and your understanding, and resource that you do rather than just relying on your own understanding to then bring about change, so I think that is what is most crucial really, having the opportunity to learn, and apply what i’ve learned to make change.

Nicholas Tenhue: So, let’s go all the way back then, what made you want to become a physician in the first place rather than a UX designer, why did you want to become a physician.

Gyles Morrison: That is a good question. Well, before even that, cause I was about 14 when I decided to be a doctor, before then I actually wanted to be very creative, when I was 5 or 6 year old I loved drawing, and I liked trying to draw what I could see, I wasn’t much of a draw from my imagination, I had to draw what I could see. I became very proficient actually at drawing, and I like to do photo realistic portraits, by the time I got into secondary school, I realized that if I was going to have a successful career as an artist, most of my success is probably going to come from when i’m dead. The great artists that we think of they are all long, dead and buried, you know what I mean, so as the nature of going into secondary school, you start learning more about career options, and seeing other professionals, and so I started getting more involved in IT, and I loved IT lessons at school, I really enjoyed learning more about what you could do with computers through discussions with IT teachers, they promptly, very quickly, made me realize, at the time that is there would be no jobs in IT by the time I became of age which we both now know, is a lot of rubbish, by the time, they said that the industry would be saturated, so at the age of 14, I had to think deeply actually, what am I good at, what do I enjoy, what do I want to achieve in my life, so I loved science, I loved human biology practically, I was so fond of plants, I wanted to help people, I wanted a job that would pay me well, maybe be able to travel, and then I thought of being a doctor, and there is no doctors in my family, there’s a couple of nurses in the midway, but there’s no doctors in the family for generations, so the idea of becoming a doctor was definitely not pushed by my family, but once I came to that conclusion, I was very much supported, and I have no regrets about going down that path, because when you’re able to treat the sick, to help someone during the most vulnerable period of their life, helping people literally on their deathbed, whether that person knows that they are dying, or even is awake to even know what is going on, that’s very humbling, that is a privilege, it’s an honor, so definitely no regrets, but I realized actually with combining what i’ve learned, what i’ve had to go through, working as a doctor and combining that with skills and interests in IT, and graphic design, and vision design, actually I can do more, a lot more, if I can make the lives of doctors and patients easier, more efficient with the technology that they use, that can impact the lives of millions of people, whereas, when you look at a shift at a hospital, a doctor might be able to deal with a dozen or so patients, depends on the actual work environment, but there is only so many people they can deal with, but if I create an app that is used by thousands of people every hour, that’s a lot more impact. The idea of working on such a large scale was very attractive to me as a UX designer now, so it was good being there, but I like where I am now.

Nicholas Tenhue: Yeah that’s really great, and I like that whole idea of net value as well, even though there is this incredibly deep, almost immeasurable value I guess, to helping an individual patient, you have this whole idea of mass population scale kind of impact with UX design.

Gyles Morrison: That’s right.

Nicholas Tenhue: Okay, so Gyles, you started a part time study of human computer interaction at UCL, I also completed my masters degree over there, so what do you think the benefits of going back to school to get a formal education in HCI is?

Gyles Morrison: Well, I found it quite invaluable if i’m honest, because there’s so much that i’m learning, where if I try to do it on my own, I have no idea how long it would have taken me, definitely years. It’s been able to see things from a very academic point of view which is very different to when you’re learning things through experience, when you’re having to take time and devote to learning from different sources, and you’re guided and journey, the learning is definitely going to be quicker, and it’s definitely going to be more constructive, a bit more focused, it still gives you the freedom though to explore other resources alongside the formal learning, but it allows you to build a foundation which you then build on further as you put what you’ve learned into practice. That’s something that I definitely needed, because it’s a career change for me, I never worked professionally within IT, before I started doing that in late 2014, so having that as a foundation was really really important, because if I was ever progressing my career, and actually do my job properly, I need to have that foundation, because don’t get me wrong I was doing really good work before I started doing the masters, but there’s so many instances where you don’t know what you don’t know until you know. So, it’s being put in that environment to start seeing things, learning things, that you may never would have stumbled across on your own. Like one thing i’ve really enjoyed learning is social technical systems, and a methodology called soft systems methodology which is a means of problem solving, it allows you to find the right problem and then the right solution to it, and that as a concept is a little bit mind blowing because you don’t really see problem solving quite like that as a doctor, as a clinician you will gather as much information as you can, which is kind of similar to soft system methodology, but then you quickly home in onto common problems and then just give solutions, whereas with what I was learning in that module, and with soft system methodology, actually it will say go further from that point, when you actually feel comfortable and secure in your final diagnosis, keep going, keep investigating, and that at first was a little bit unsettling, especially when the problem we were trying to solve in the first place was already really very very confusing, but when you keep going through it’s like you suddenly get this rekur moment, and so that whole technique of problem solving was very very new to me, and I loved learning it, and I put it into practice now, and it’s definitely made me a better UX designer, so I can’t sing the praises enough of my masters, I love UCL, I think the lectures there, and the way the course is being delivered is exceptional, and I highly recommend it, highly recommend it.

Nicholas Tenhue: Yeah, likewise, likewise, and I think that’s great that you said that, you see tracks and normally you think the horse, but then you look a bit further, and there’s a herd of zebras running around.

Gyles Morrison: That’s right.

Nicholas Tenhue: And also what you said about the unknown unknowns, like you don’t know what you don’t know, cause sometimes you’re looking for an answer to a problem that you know exists, but sometimes you don’t even know that there’s a problem to solve in the first place so it can get very kind of meta there as well, but yeah really good takeaways there I think. So, when it comes to being a clinical UX designer, that phrase there, clinical UX designer, what is the difference between a clinical UX designer, and somebody that has worked in healthcare as a UX designer?

Gyles Morrison: I think the big difference for me, part of it is bias because it’s a term, it’s a title i’ve coined, is a fact that you have come from a clinical background, and want to focus within the healthcare sector, so there are many UX designers that i’ve worked within the healthcare sector, digital health, for many many years, much longer than even i’ve worked as a doctor, and a UX designer, so they’ve got a lot of experience, and I would argue that they have some knowledge that actually I don’t have yet cause I am still working in this field, but it’s the fact that I really understand the language that doctors speak, and other clinicians speak, I really understand the workflows, I really have ideas of the solutions, and some of the problems that are being faced by the clinical community, and by patients, I think the other thing that really helps is the fact that, because i’m still a doctor, I have a lot of credibility within the healthcare sector, and I can get a lot of clinicians on board, and non-clinicians, but those within healthcare on board with projects that I am working on, because they trust me, because of the fact that I am coming from a clinical background, and they believe in me when I say that I actually understand what it means to be a doctor, and I understand the needs of patients, and I think that’s something that we need more of because actually, you will find a lot of I.T. professionals, they can struggle to work with clinicians, because there’s a lot of times where clinicians are not happy with the I.T. solutions they are given, and so there’s a bit of a rift there, there can be a lot of frustration amongst both groups actually, when they have to work together, and that’s really unfortunate, because digital health, if we really put our hearts and mind to it can revolutionize healthcare more than we are already doing so, people should be able to go to a phone, and actually come to conclusions about their personal health, not just do this doctor google business, and find out that maybe that chest pain they have is the first sign of cancer and they start panicking, but actually when they put in data about themselves, and the system looks back at their medical records, and actually looks at the signs and symptoms that they have right now, and their heart rate, and their blood pressure, and their temperature, it actually gives intelligent, personalized information, and responses to that person using it. This is something that we should be using regularly, but it’s not become mainstream, it’s not like we don’t have the options or the resources to do that, but actually the clinical community, and the technological community were not really working together properly, I don’t think. We need to have more people from both sides, from both worlds, understanding each other's world, working together. I think that’s the only real way where we can bring about some change here.

Nicholas Tenhue: Absolutely, and I think building up repur with any participant that a UX designer, or user resourcer is working with is of utmost importance, building that trust up, it’s the only way to get genuine interactions that are going to give you the right data, and you’re going to get people that will want to work with you overtime to create a solution to the problem that they’re facing. 

Gyles Morrison: Yes.

Nicholas Tenhue: And then also to your second point with the whole personalized medicine piece, I think that it is so close now that we’re going to see a really big paradigm shift, I mean I myself work in precision medicine in healthcare as a UX designer, it’s a matter of time before we see it becoming very common, we’re going to have data collection from all of our devices like tele-healthcare as well as in the hospital, we’re all going to start getting sequenced for our G-gnome, we’re going to be working with a lot of data, and if we don’t have the systems to support that, we’re be kind of like ostriches with our heads in the sand. 

Gyles Morrison: Yeah. No, I agree. No, definitely. There’s so many ideas that the clinical community have, and patient groups have, and other people that are related to health care, there’s a lot of ideas, but it’s turning those ideas into reality, I think that is another major issue actually, is that there’s a lot of doctors specifically, there’s a lot of doctors that have ideas, but have no idea how to make them a reality because they specialize in treating the sick, not making websites, or mobile apps, or new devices, and that’s one of the other reasons why i’m quite passionate about being a clinical UX designer is to then be in a position to actually support that group quickly, and efficiently, you know.

Nicholas Tenhue: Yeah. So we talk about physicians, but let’s visit the patients for a second, really concerned about patient centric care today, but more and more we’re seeing something called patient driven care, where do you think that user experience is going to fit into that paradigm, where we see a lot more patients taking charge of themselves, I think especially in the U.S. where it’s more of a marketplace, healthcare is, rather than let’s say in the U.K. where it’s the NA chess, and it’s a public system, but where do you think that is going?

Gyles Morrison: I think a lot of companies like, well Google, Apple, big big ones, very obvious, and in your face about it, they’re very much about getting the average joe trying to record data about themselves, and trying to be mindful of themselves. I think that’s useful, that being driven by the private sector, and also providing some resources, or a lot of resources these days that are actually free or very cheap. I think that’s helping to change peoples perceptions, to know that they actually can take charge, I think as UX designers, we need to capitalize on that momentum, and start working with projects, working to design products that actually focus on what is it that the individual needs to collect, to process, and how they can then use that information to make either more informed decisions about their health, or how to actually start interacting with the clinical community differently, so I think it’s actually understanding what is it that users need to be doing, there’s a body of research that needs to be done, there’s an amount of engagement that needs to be done, and I don’t think that’s been done enough, there’s always some people doing PHDs that might be looking into that space, we need something that starts on a slightly larger scale, and doing that research, and truly understanding the users, understanding people, and understanding what’s going on now, and where do people want to be, and how to bridge that gap, I think we’re not getting enough information about it, because again Google, and Apple they’re providing solutions to collect that data, but it’s actually what they then do with it for what end, what purpose, and so I think that’s perhaps the opportunity that UX designers have to make change in that space.

Nicholas Tenhue: Yeah, I think that we’re still kind of trying to figure out how to use all of this data as well. User experience and usability is going to play a huge part in the future of healthcare as is automation just because of the pure scale of the problem we are dealing with, and then also, especially in the U.S. I think interoperability, once these systems, and apps, and smartphones, and everything else they’re talking to each other that’s kind of where we’re going to see the ability to actually be agile with this data and be able to make decisions based off of a lot of different types of data from a lot of different sources, and we’re not seeing that quite yet, but there’s some technologies like fire, for example, that are driving that change which is great. So, just to switch gears a little bit here, can I ask who is Dr. Hyphen?

Gyles Morrison: So, Dr. Hyphen is one of my many nicknames it would seem, and I use that as a brand name, so Dr. Hyphen is about being a clinical UX designer, and also as a career coach for doctors. 

Nicholas Tenhue: Okay, that’s really interesting. So you’re a sort of coach and mentor transitioning out of full time healthcare into other roles, or to help them understand user experience a little bit better, or what exactly does that mean?

Gyles Morrison: Well both of those. So, definitely doctors who are looking to leave medicine, those who are, in particular, wanting to go into digital health in some capacity, some as developers, as UX designers, as entrepreneurs who have got a good idea, but need to be working with a team, definitely some of my clients, also just need support really looking at other opportunities, and other options that they have to satisfy a sort of hunger or craving that they have to do something a bit different, so you don’t want to leave medicine completely, but they’re very very creative, or they’re very entrepreneurial, they have a special interest in certain things, and they want to use their interests, use those skills which can keep them happier, or even be an additional source of income. 

Nicholas Tenhue: Great. So, I mean Dr. Hyphen sounds like you’re superhero name then, just helping physicians to find new walks of life, that’s pretty great. 

Gyles Morrison: I like that. I might start using that now. 

Nicholas Tenhue: Alright, I guess another one of your aliases is the CEO of Say it Loud. So, what is the goal of Say it Loud, and what do they do?

Gyles Morrison: So Say it Loud is a not for profit company I set up whilst I was at a medical school. So over the years we have done a number of projects, the main aim of Say it Loud is to encourage creativity as a means to combat youth crime, so the main way we engage children and young people is through music, in particular through the african djembe drum which is like a goblet shaped african drum, it has roots in West Africa. What I love about the african drum is that anybody can beat a drum, everybody's got a heartbeat so everybody actually does know rhythm, and it’s one of those instruments that is very very easy to literally just pick up and play, very challenging to master, but every Sunday you would hear has got a beat to it, you can beat a drum to it, and it’s a great way of getting a group of people, doesn’t really matter their age, i’ve had children that are about one years old joining in with a session with those that are in their 80s, we’re all just having fun as a massive group, so it’s just getting people to break down barriers and connect with people they may not normally connect with, be it because of race, gender, one of the big things you will find in the U.K. is this concept of postcode wars, so people coming from slightly different areas of London, and they’re there for in a different gang, and this sort of nonsense talks, things that we don’t, at Say it Loud, appreciate. We understand that’s what goes on, but to us, we’re all Londoners, we’re all in fact one race, the human race. So we all just need to get along which stems into the second half of why Say it Loud exists which is this notion that you don’t have to be apart of violent gangs, there’s nothing wrong with being apart of a group, but you don’t have to be committing crimes, you don’t have to be anti social, you don’t have to be limited in your ambition, and your opportunities in life because of the fact that you come from a benefits household, single parent households, in an area where there is drugs or violence, you can still actually live a very successful life. I’ve come from a home where my mom had to raise me primarily on her own, and I think i’ve done alright for my life.

Nicholas Tenhue: I’d say so. 

Gyles Morrison: Well thank you. I attribute to that to the way that she’s raised me, and so the lessons i’ve learned, and the success that i’ve now been able to enjoy, I want to share that with others so that they can learn the lessons that i’ve had to learn the hard way, or sometimes the easy way from having the support of a loving mother and family, so that they can then have a successful life too, I think it is really important that, when you have success, when you learn lessons that you share it with others, and so through Say it Loud, that’s a big way that I do that, and I love it. You get so much joy when you get a student who picks up an instrument for the first time, and they see you as a teacher, or one of the other teachers, or one of the other students who have gotten really good, and they want to be like them, and they are determined to get good, so that they can then be apart of the fun that we’re having cause I had one student who was playing the violin, that’s one of the other instruments that I play, and he broke his wrist playing football, now his wrist was in a cast, it was in a cast for about a month, he still came back to lessons, and he was playing the violin ready for the concert in a few weeks later, and i’ve never seen that in my life, i’ve never seen a violinist play a violin with their hand that they’re holding the violin with in a cast, and he did it, and he was playing.

Nicholas Tenhue: That is dedication right there.

Gyles Morrison: It is. I am not going to take all the credit for it, but I see that, some of the actions i’ve done have created the environment, and brought the people together to allow that to happen, and being apart of that movement really really rewarding. I love it. 

Nicholas Tenhue: Great message of unity there. Like a lot of the other guests on this show so far, it just goes to show that a lot of UX designers, and user researchers are doing so many other great things either on the side, or have come from doing great things in other walks of their life. And just going all the way back to something that you said earlier, I really liked that you said, everybody has a heartbeat, so everybody knows rhythm. 

Gyles Morrison: That’s right.

Nicholas Tenhue: It’s a great thing to say as a physician and as a drummer. Alright, just as our short of closing remarks, if you could give maybe one or two sentences about where you think user experience in the healthcare field is going to be in let’s say two years time.

Gyles Morrison: Two years time. We’ve already seen a lot of healthcare apps on the market, some for free, some for cheap, some that have got serious amount of money being put into research and development, and into marketing, there’s definitely a lot of solutions that are rubbish, that are not being tested, that are not being vetted, not really being scrutinized enough, I think that’s going to change. I think governments are becoming more conscious, the healthcare sectors being more ware of what’s going on in that space, and I think that’s going to change. I think UX designers as well, they’re going to be demanded by the healthcare sector to be making changes.

Nicholas Tenhue: So a lot more sort of ISO standards and things like that that have to be met.

Gyles Morrison: Yeah.

Nicholas Tenhue: Right, a lot more standardization, and I guess a lot more evidence based outlook for consumer apps.

Gyles Morrison: Yes, definitely.

Nicholas Tenhue: Yeah, that’s a really really good point. And then the last closing question that I like to ask all my guests is what is your definition of User Experience.

Gyles Morrison: So, user experience to me is a combination of experience and usability, so when you look at usability that is about the ease of use, and the ability to learn how to use something that’s been designed, combining that with experience which is your motion skills, and not gained from interaction, so to me, user experience is what are you gaining from using something and how do you learn to use it.

Nicholas Tenhue: Okay, yeah, that’s great. That’s really great. Everybody that we have on the show has a different definition, and after, I don’t know, maybe 100 or so episodes, I would love to just combine them all together, and see where the overlaps are, and where peoples pasts and experiences have influenced what they answered with. But, yeah great. Thank you very much for being our first clinical user experience designer on the show.

Gyles Morrison: It’s been my pleasure.

Nicholas Tenhue: You’ve had very very interesting career paths so far, and i’m pretty sure it’s going to continue to be extremely interesting, so will be following up with you for sure.

Gyles Morrison: Thank you.

Nicholas Tenhue: In our blog post that we’re going to put up to accompany this episode, would love it if maybe we could hear a bit of your drumming from Say it Loud, or maybe we could get a recording from the group.

Gyles Morrison: Yeah. There’s actually an anthem that we recorded a few years ago, so shouldn’t be a problem to share a link to that on Youtube. 

Nicholas Tenhue: Alright, fantastic. So why don’t you tell the listeners how they can reach you, whether it’s on Twitter, or Email, or anything else.

Gyles Morrison: Yes, so you can reach me on my website so that’s, you can also find me on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter just search my name, Gyles Morrison, or even just googling me, I come up quite quickly in Google searches which is encouraging.

Nicholas Tenhue: The old superhero name there.

Gyles Morrison: Oh yes.

Nicholas Tenhue: That’s great, and you can reach us on Twitter at TheUXBlog, and we will see you on the next episode. Thank you very much Dr. Hyphen. 

Gyles Morrison: Thank you, bye bye now.

This post first appeared on The UX, please read the originial post: here

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The Wonderful World of Clinical UX Design


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