The ROI of user experience in pharma and healthcare: How to engage your customers

Elisa del Galdo|7th March 2016

Pharma is changing. A 2014 eyeforpharma survey showed 86% of pharma executives felt that a focus on patient-centricity was the best approach for future profitability. But change is never easy. Within the pharma and healthcare industry, the introduction of a user-centred approach that incorporates best practice user experience research and design is rare. Often the world of user experience (UX), its activities, methods, and deliverables are not well understood within this industry. This situation contributes to the difficulty organisations have in becoming truly patient centric.

This lack of understanding of how UX contributes to value, and therefore how it can be measured, means that organisations implementing a user-centred approach get stuck. They want to be more patient and customer centric, but don’t understand where their investment in user research and user-centered design is delivering a return.

In this article, Head of Customer Experience Elisa del Galdo breaks down how to understand the return on investment of user experience.

Understanding user experience

User experience methodology is a collaborative and iterative process that facilitates innovation for the purpose of solving a problem. It brings together multidisciplinary teams to achieve the best solution for all stakeholders – not just the business or exclusively the customer.

The collection of data gathered from all stakeholders informs design and supports decision making when creating a solution. This ensures that critical decisions are not opinion-based, which can lead to the creation of solution that addresses perceived problems, not the ones your customers or your organisation are attempting to solve.

The impact of user experience and its contribution to return on investment is well-documented. UX provides the insights via qualitative research that uncovers patient and customer requirements, and identifies the motivations, drivers, triggers, barriers, pain points, and context that drive behaviour.

Not only does the practice of user experience deliver return on investment by producing a solution that solves a problem via technically deliverable design, it also incorporates the needs of the business. A user-centred process is driven by methodology that supports the effective and efficient creation of successful solutions.

Six clear ways UX delivers a return on investment (ROI)

1.    The insight gained from qualitative user research drives innovation and informs design. Without insight into the problem you’re solving, how would you identify a solution? It is essential that there is a clear understanding of the problem from the perspective of the customer.

2.    Business research establishes clearly defined and documented business objectives and success metrics. Strategically you will know what you are trying to achieve for the business.

3.    UX provides a clear indication of the requirements needed to achieve success as measured by your customer. It also provides the criteria on which to measure it, and methods to prioritise the requirements. It identifies and prioritises metrics to validate the success of your solution from your customers’ perspective.

4.    UX methods facilitate team building and collaboration in a multidisciplinary design and development team. Everyone is engaged, contributing, aware of what is happening and why.

5.    Collaborative decision making based on data, not opinion. UX is based on the premise that decisions are made on data and the implementation of best practice. This eliminates decision-making based on opinion (or the HiPPO), which can quickly derail any project.

6.    Designs are not perfected in a single iteration. UX advocates the development of a design from rough sketches to interactive and visually treated prototypes, with each stage being information by evaluation. Fail fast, fail often (failure early informs design when it is inexpensive to correct) is the motto of UX practitioners. 

How is the ROI of user experience measured?

The metrics to measure ROI and indicate success will differ depending on the needs of each stakeholder. This means that in order to calculate the ROI, you must measure it by the success criteria relevant to each type of stakeholder. For example, the difference in success metrics may include;

1.    The business: success is normally very numerically based and can be easily counted via analytics (e.g. more sales, uplift in business, reduced cost).

2.    Customer A (Payer): success is a combination of the effectiveness and the cost (e.g., the cost of a drug, expected patient outcomes, cost of delivering the treatment).

3.    Customer B (Service Provider): ease of introduction and use, impact on patient outcomes. (E.g. improved adherence, overhead cost reduction, and improvement in patient outcomes).

4.    Customer C (Net Receiver of Care): the impact on overall outcome and wellbeing, the experience, and ease of use (e.g., the success of the treatment, side effects, mode of administration, monitoring, where administered).

5.    The technical partner who builds and maintains the digital service: feasibility and capability to develop and maintain, no need for re-engineering due to unforeseen requirements (e.g. technical feasibility, cost of implementation and maintenance, development time).


In order to get a healthy return on investment from the incorporation of user experience, you need to have a clear objectives and strategy for the business initiative, validated customer requirements and desired outcomes that the solution must deliver, and a solution that is technically deliverable and maintainable to be successful.

Simply put, user experience expertise and methodology is a must have to achieve the delivery of that successful solution. UX will support and underpin the delivery of a solution where the ROI is balanced across all stakeholders- creating a solution that is a success for all from their own particular perspective.


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