digital literacy header
Marcie Hopkins, University of Utah Health
Building Our Digital Literacy
How are we building digital literacy? Chief Information Officer Donna Roach and Sr. Director of Patient Experience Mari Ransco share how using design thinking and seeing care through the eyes of our patients is a great place to start.

he past decade has been one of disruption in many industries, and health care may be first on that list. Just recently, Amazon purchased virtual care company One Medical, spending $4 billion to “reinvent the health care experience.”  Digital innovation is changing the way we provide care, and the way our patients expect to get their care. It’s also changing consumer expectations for how they will interact with their doctors, care teams, and the entire health care organization. To keep up with consumer expectations and innovations that will improve care delivery, we need to build our digital literacy. 

When are we patients and when are we consumers? 

We have long considered patients to be a unique type of consumer. The consumption of health care is different from any other service or product we buy—we have limited choices, and limited information at our disposal to select the best care at the best price. Comparing prices or shopping around for the highest quality isn’t feasible, and in some situations it’s impossible.   

In health care, we are both patients and consumers. We are patients when we are on the exam table or in the patient bed. In that moment, we are vulnerable and at the mercy of our caregivers. We expect respect and acknowledgement of this vulnerability. We make decisions based on how much we trust the team.

We want to be listened to, cared for, and treated like we matter.  

And yet we’re consumers at the very same time. We expect that our information is shared between our doctors and that they're working together to deliver our care. We want it to be as easy as possible with the fewest calls or clicks online to make an appointment. We want timely and clear follow-up from tests, results, and next steps. We want the system to value and respect our time. We demand that our personal information is protected and private. We want to know that the clinician has considered the cost of care

We want it to be easy, using the tools that we’re used to in other parts of our lives—the ability to schedule online, easily accessible information, and seamless follow-up with prescriptions and bills. 

Digitizing health care delivery 

Consumer-centric services are popping up in health care models throughout the country. Just a few of the examples we’ve seen: 

This is digital health 3.0, and organizations that are already experimenting in this space will be the ones who set the bar for what patients and consumers expect from health care in the future.  

Design thinking and patients as partners 

Nobody has a perfect solution yet, but applying design thinking principles to these various digital models can help organizations move toward an effective digital health delivery future. The concept of design thinking can provide a framework for examining patient and consumer experiences. Design thinking takes a creative, human-centered approach to problem solving. It incorporates: 

  • Empathy in understanding the problem 

  • Rapid brainstorming to come up with potential solutions 

  • Prototyping to test out the theories and concepts that rise to the top 

  • Continuous testing and tweaking to make it better 

This kind of approach brings patients into the process as a partner, rather than a passive piece of a large health care delivery puzzle. It’s also one of the best ways to incorporate digital innovation to improve the entire experience for people who seek care—both in their roles as a patient and a consumer. 

At University of Utah Health, we actively partner with communities, patients and caregivers to design our future. We’ve engaged in design thinking in hundreds of sessions with our Patient Design Studio and build relationships with community organizations to improve health. We also have the opportunity to deeply understand the patient journey through the "internet of things" devices, such as heart monitors, digital scales, glucose trackers, activity monitors, and more. To best serve our patients, we need to build the architecture that supports capturing the patient's whole journey.

But its not enough, we must all build our skills in design thinking and digital literacy. 

Building our digital literacy 

Building digital literacy requires a conscious effort on the part of health care organizations. That includes people who are not traditionally “tech” people. Digital literacy requires: 

  • Familiarity with common digital technologies and platforms used in health care 

  • Collaboration across multiple parts of our organization to improve the patient experience 

  • Comfort with analyzing data and using it to improve care 

  • Adaptation and flexibility as things change 

  • A “design thinking” mindset to continually improve  

How are you building your digital literacy? Starting with seeing care through the eyes of patients and consumers is a great place to start. 


Donna Roach

Chief Information Officer, University of Utah Health

Mari Ransco

Sr. Director of Patient Experience, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Accelerate, University of Utah Health

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