Over the past eight years or so, the movement to transform healthcare has seen incredible technological advances addressing some key population health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Technologically, we as consumers have never before in history been so intimately connected with our wellness through wearables, remote monitoring, smartphone apps, etc. While there have been great strides to enact change and reform the delivery of healthcare, for the most part, these reforms have been driven politically and centered around providers and payors – neglecting the essential element of the equation: the consumer.

It is old news that the health care system in this country is broken. It is a deeply rooted, complicated behemoth that has proven to be high on cost and low on value – for the provider, payor, and consumer.  Many organizations, not comfortable with the idea of innovative disruption, have not fully embraced the reality that in order to enact dramatic improvement that addresses both the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of our current healthcare system, the entire system must be redesigned, not simply reengineeredWe must meet the consumer where they are – not build it and expect that they will embrace it and call it a day.

In order to redesign the model, we need to ask a couple of key questions. First, how can we do more with less? It is not always about reinventing the wheel or adding technology on top of technology. Take what is working or has worked and build new solutions off those platforms.

Secondly, how can we evolve the mindset of the consumer from one of consumption to one of active participation? To change behavior, the user must feel engaged with the solution. It must meet their needs, make sense, and the value must be high enough to encourage adoption and retention.

These questions are part of a valuable tool known as Design Thinking. According to Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO, “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Design Thinking offers a myriad of opportunities to better understand and empathize with the needs of patients and consumers. This is crucial in order to develop an innovative and transformative healthcare marketplace that is desirable for the consumer/end user, financially viable and technologically feasible. Design Thinking creates an atmosphere where consumer empathy fuels the insights that lead to health-improving innovation.

To engage the end user, you must first gain empathy for them. While simple in context, the idea is to garner a clear understanding of what motivates your demographic – their cultural norms, their wants, needs, desires around healthcare and their individual wellness journey. In essence, you need to walk in their shoes – experience health care from their level. Engage with them through brainstorming sessions that allow for ideating on solutions and rapid prototyping – followed by real-world testing. This is a critical part of the human-centered design thinking process. As this process evolves, you will hit the sweet spot and be able to engineer a wellness experience for your consumer – not just a technological advancement.

Our health care system is indeed at a tipping point for sustained growth and maximum impact. By working to understand the thought processes, emotions, and behaviors of the consumer, our industry will find the path through this highly significant stage.  Design Thinking is a proven, time-tested toolset that can deliver the right information in the right format to the right person at the precise moment of need. It is up to us to design a brighter, more meaningful future for healthcare.

About the Healthways Innovation Living Lab:

The Healthways Innovation Living Lab (The HILL) brings the concepts and tools behind design thinking to bear on improving the well-being experience by leveraging the power of interpersonal connections.

Gaining insights directly from our users and collaborating with forward-thinking partners, we are able to continuously improve and evolve our approach.

Our vantage point allows us to better empathize with our consumers and gives us the insight to surprise them while making well-being improvement effortless.

The HILL isn’t just a place; it is a human-centered mindset.