Human-Centred Design as a Lever for Accessible Kenyan Healthcare

Human-Centred Design as a Lever for Accessible Kenyan Healthcare

Human-Centred Design (HCD) is a-product design approach that focuses on customers’ and stakeholders' needs and challenges. Developing a product or service typically starts with an idea. A company develops a product or service and launches it with the hopes that it will be a success.

This approach can lead to failure if it doesn’t take into account the needs of the consumer or product/service end-user. Designing products with the end-user in mind helps you build a product that is both meaningful and relevant to them.

Approaching your product innovation and design using HCD does just that. It enables you, the product owner, to empathise with users, to question your assumptions, and innovate solutions that solve your customers' problems. HCD requires you to clearly understand the problems people face within their specific context.

WhatIs Human-Centred Design (HCD)?

HCD is an innovation technique that centres problem-solving and solution creation around the stakeholders and end-users during a product design process. It is an iterative approach to ideation and rapid prototyping with potential users of a product. 

With this technique, you collect insights from the different stakeholders and end-users as well as contextual information on the environment your product will be competing in. It is these insights and findings that help you create product prototypes that you can test and rework over multiple iterations to develop a minimum viable product (MVP).

The HCD approach views every step of the design process from a human point-of-view - understanding their contexts, challenges, needs and motivations to create innovative solutions. This point-of-view helps drive value creation for all stakeholders, not only for the end users. On top of that, the HCD approach contributes to a more sustainable product or service.

Through HCD:

  • You get to know and fully understand the person using your product.
  • You fully recognise the problem, even if your customer can’t exactly tell what was challenging to them.
  • You improve people's lives while improving your product.

Case Study: More Accessible Healthcare for Low-Income Populations in Kenya

We brought this model to practice in collaboration with FSD Kenya and PharmAccess. The project revolved around medical healthcare access to Kenyans. We were commissioned to provide a solution that helps Kenyans get medical care when they need, and not only when they can afford it. Here’s a little bit of contextual information on the healthcare scene in Kenya.


Research showed that more than a quarter of the Kenyan population doesn’t seek medical aid when they need it because they are financially incapable. Additionally, the majority of Kenyans don’t possess health insurance because of its high cost. The COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent economic impact exacerbated this situation, resulting in even more Kenyans being unable to deal with unexpected health-related bills.

Initial research on the project also highlighted that:

  • Kenyans usually use informal financing for their health bills such as loans from shylocks, family and friends.
  • In spite of the explosion of digital lending in Kenya, there are few digital healthcare finance products.
  • While Kenyans save money, they have other priorities, leaving little to healthcare.

With this in mind, our objective for this project was to create a viable solution for low and middle income groups in Kenyan to access new finance and digital lending solutions for healthcare.


The process began with market research to understand the existing solutions available and how Kenyans respond when health shocks occur. We used HCD to develop and test different value propositions such as features, messaging, incentives, terms and conditions etc on Afya Credit (the solution).

Using contextual interviews, participatory concept design sessions and key stakeholder interviews, we got a better understanding of the issues, opportunities and challenges regarding health credit uptake and use.

Our Findings:

Some of the insights from the project highlighted important elements that needed to be a part of the solution.

  • The research showed that there is a crucial role for community-based healthcare facilities because the public has built relationships with them and trusts them.
  • Most households are aware of digital loans, but most rural communities are hesitant to use these lenders because they don’t know them. They are also aware of the sometimes harsh and aggressive way of collecting outstanding debts.
  • Flexibility in repayments of healthcare loans is important. Most rural communities have unpredictable incomes making them rely on agriculture. They desire longer repayment periods for financing which gives them time to adjust to financial setbacks.

Our Digital Loan Solutions

We, therefore, had two recommendations for the final product:

  1. Loans should have a longer tenor than the usual 1 month. Tenors of 3 months create time for clients to pay back more comfortably.
  2. Grace periods should be introduced towards the end of the repayment period rather than the beginning. This takes away the stress of strong penalties if/when deadlines lapse.

From the recommendations we developed a solution with a revolving line of credit for financing out of pocket expenses or a loan for NHIF financing. These were later developed, tested and optimised to get to an MVP.