healthcare experience design conference: small steps, grand intentions

March 28, 2012

in behavior change,health care,mobile health,wellness

healthcare experience design conference (hxd) was held on monday, march 26, in boston, bringing together UX designers, game designers, startups, health plans, academics, the CTO of the U.S. government—basically, an eclectic group of people passionate about health and pulled together by amy cueva and the team at mad*pow. (disclaimer: mad*pow is my partner in developing hotseat, so yes, i’m biased. i’m also knowledgeable!)

there’s been lots of coverage about the conference. for that, i steer you herehere and here. i want to focus on the speakers and concepts that inform the work we’re all doing to improve employee health and well-being.

alexandra drane, eliza corporation. alex drane is a powerhouse. i met her when i accidentally threw my phone at her. well, towards her. alex and her team have been investigating what gets in people’s way of better health—the unmentionables. the unmentionables consist of money concerns, caregiving struggles, a bad sex life or other relationship problems, trouble sleeping. alex and her team have figured out these are the derailers. these are the issues employers need to focus on more acutely so employees can get and stay healthy. these are also the issues where employees would gladly welcome more help from their health plans and employers, according to not only eliza but edelman, the APA, metlife and others. the effect of the unmentionables echoes what i’ve discovered about why employees don’t use wellness resources. i covered it in a storybook presentation, jane and the ceo.

gary hirshberg, stonyfield farm yogurt. gary spoke mostly about the food industry, but he did spend some time talking about how they live their mission. stonyfield’s employee wellness program offers employees a fitbit program, full gym membership, onsite chiropractic and massage, onsite composting, healthy vending and onsite CSA (cooperative farm share), and a program he’s behind and piloted with stonyfield employees: the full yield. (stonyfield, if you’re listening, i’d love to learn more and include you in my free-ranging conversation series.)


BJ fogg. BJ fogg is the director of stanford’s behavior design lab. he routinely pokes at how behavior change works. at hxd, he discussed “motivation waves,” those cycles of high and low motivation we all feel, and how to leverage high motivation peaks for those times when motivation inevitably wanes. fogg’s concept is that we can help people succeed by having them use their high-motivation peaks to complete actions that’ll carry them through their low-motivation valleys. his call to action was to guide people in how to create the structured behaviors that’ll carry them through the valleys, to focus on baby steps and to trust that tiny habits grow naturally into bigger behavior change.

trapper markelz. trapper is the head of product at meyou health, a subsidiary of healthways and the creator of daily challenge, a corporate wellness solution that falls into fogg’s “baby steps” mode with its focus on small, daily habits. trapper shared some of the design thinking behind daily challenge. daily challenge uses appointments, accountability and progress, among other things, to create a social journey toward health. appointments are the daily “touches” users receive that keep them in contact with the product. accountability involves various methods to create a mechanism for support: smiles (like facebook likes) for ways someone completes the challenge and additional touches to users when someone in their network goes AWOL. daily challenge invites users to bring wayward users in their network back to the product via email and other nudges. and progress includes social recognition (e.g., badges) that makes short-term gains tangible to users and interaction that makes it rewarding. he’s spoken with me and cohealth about this before, so for greater detail, i point you here.

trapper referenced the forgetting curve, which could stand behind every communication professional’s cry to tell them. tell them. and then tell them again. he also shared the provocative idea of attention cost, which states that your product should be easier to use than to stop using. imagine that of your employee wellness programs.

there were more interesting talks than i could attend and a real sense of urgency and excitement among the participants. kudos to the mad*pow team.

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