Design parallels in Legal and Healthcare

In listening to a new podcast on the cost of healthcare in the US, I was struck by the many parallels between consuming healthcare, in particular in the US market, and consuming legal services. The parallels span much of the dysfunction of the US healthcare system and go to some of the classic gripes about the legal industry. However, to the extent there is cross-over between the industries on these dour considerations, then designers in both professions can learn from each other as they design better, more user-friendly systems.

Both healthcare and legal services:

⦁ are expensive, potentially devastatingly so;

⦁ have opaque cost structures;

⦁ are often critical to the patient / clients life, liberty or solvency;

⦁ can appear to function arbitrarily to an outsider;

⦁ can appear to retain control over the treatment / case decisions, ceding precious little decision making control to the actual patient / client;

⦁ are complex systems which need to be navigated whilst under significant personal stress; and

⦁ use technical jargon.

New fashions in the legal industry touch on some of these issues. Legal design thinking is beginning to address the use of technical jargon and to make the complex legal system more intuitive and easy to follow. Firms implementing ‘value pricing’ have made significant inroads into removing the cost and scope uncertainty that once came with engaging a lawyer.

On a brief search there also appears to be some movement in the healthcare sector to implement design thinking, focusing on everything from service coordination, physical design of hospitals and ambulances, tech applications and patient communication.

However I was unable to find little discussion of the parallels between the two industries. I imagine legal designers and healthcare designers could draw upon many of the same lessons as these skills sets are developed in both industries. Examples of cross-over between legal design and healthcare design might include:

1. the ability to create a price, or range of prices, of a complex and partially unknown procedure or service in advance and then to clearly communicate that to the user;

2. building and service design at the physical interfaces between a user with healthcare and the law, such as the emergency room or the Court house. Both sites are visited by people who often have never been there before, under high stress, and sometimes in their first real interaction with the system. Systems such as triage, ticketing, live waiting time advice, wayfinding and maps are amongst several design tools that could be used in both settings;

3. the alignment of different service providers so as to improve the overall interface between the patient / client and the system as a whole. In healthcare, that might be the ambulance, the general practitioner, the specialist and the pharmacists. In, say family law, that might include a private solicitor, barristers, the judge, counsellors and financial planners.

It will be interesting to see if there is any formal industry collaboration or exploration of these parallels in coming years.


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