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How Design Can Improve the Healthcare Experience

On Monday, March 25, 2013, I attended the Healthcare Experience Design Conference (hxd) in Boston, MA. The conference was attended by designers, technologists, product managers, researchers, entrepreneurs and patients who are passionate about improving the health care experience. The conference’s tagline was “where healthcare and design intersect.” It was an amazing day full of insights on how to improve the health care experience. It made me reflect in new ways about the intersection of design and provision of health information. It made me think about how to take better care of my own health and the health of my family. I would like to share what I learned at the conference.

Reality is Broken, SuperBetter

In the Opening Keynote, Jane McGonigal, creator of SuperBetter, and the author of the book, “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” shared how games can help solve the world’s most urgent problems, including hunger, poverty, climate change, and obesity. She wants us all to learn how can we take feelings from games and apply them to real life. She hopes we can take the superpowers we learn in games and integrate them in our lives and world. Superpowers from games – secret identify, power up, allies, bad guys, quests – teach us important life skills like how to take power of a situation, deal with trauma, bring support to our experience, become psychologically flexible, commit to action, and feel good every day. She said lessons learned in games strengthen positive emotions, make us happier, more confident, and more determined. View her inspiring TEDTalk, “Gaming can make a better world.”

Reader-Centered Design for Health Communication

Sandy Hilfiker and Molly McLeod of CommunicateHealth shared six strategies to create easy to use health websites and applications from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Health Literacy Online Guide. Tips include: 1) Learn about your users and their goals; 2) Write actionable content; 3) Display content clearly on the page; 4) Organize content and simplify navigation; 5) Engage users with interactive content; and 6) Evaluate and revise your site. CommunicateHealth recommended involving users with limited literacy in formative research by partnering with community organizations to recruit special populations.

How to Design User Habits

Nir Eyal of Stanford University discussed how to use a hook to take people from states of low engagement to high engagement. He discussed the four parts of the hook – a trigger, action, reward and investment. He said, “habits aren’t created, they are built upon.” Some triggers are external, like alarms, calls to action, emails, stores, and authority. Internal triggers are in users heads. He discussed the Fogg Behavior Model and the six motivators of behavior. Nir referred to Skinner and how creating intermittent rewards increases response rate. Creating an endless search leads to rewards: for the tribe (social), for the self (mastery, consistency, completion and competency), and for hunt (food, money and information). Technology products that store value get better the more you use them. Eyal charged the audience to create preference and cultivate meaning.

Inclusion by Design

Dr. Ivor Horn of the Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine shared that what matters is how we communicate with patients, families and parents. She said “trust and listening matter in the health and design process.” She taught two don’ts and one do. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t just take, give. Do collaborate. She told a moving story about how frustrations with helping her father navigate the healthcare environment inspired her to become a doctor to facilitate change. In her experience, parents who had a greater self-efficacy are the parents who talk a lot and ask questions. She said to always think, how can what I am designing help those that need help the most.

Health Behavior Change and Beyond: The Health Benefits of Success Experiences

David Sobel, MD, MPH, co-author of the book, “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions: Self-Management of Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema and Others” asked us to think of a change we had made. What helped us make that change? Why did we make that change? He talked about roads to behavioral change including pleasurable change, breakthrough change, environmental change and incremental planned change. The key indicator to making a healthy behavior change is a sense of confidence, self control, and self efficacy. One approach to behavior change is to encourage patients to make small steps, which leads to a gradual increases in confidence, mood, and efficacy. He asked important questions: Do we really know what motivates people? Where should we focus? Which curve can we shift? How can we strengthen self-efficacy? His message urged participants to move beyond boring health education programs. He talked about Eliza’s research on the “unmentionables”—that what makes it hard to manage health conditions, and often results in them, are life issues like stress, sex, sleep and a crappy boss – the very things that don’t get discussed at the doctor’s office. There are many ways to increase self-efficacy including persuasion, modeling, cognitive reframing, and mastery experiences. However, many prescribe failure by their general, long term, unpleasant, and difficult delivery and nature. His recipe for prescribing success is to choose behaviors that are specific, personal, easy, rapid, and pleasurable. He urged the participants to celebrate successes. His three powerful final thoughts encourage us to: 1) Help people find their passions. Screen for pleasure. Discover what drives and motivates people. 2) Help people discover their own solutions. Ask – what do you think will work for you? 3) Celebrate successes! His final message — everything that feels good is not bad for you.

By Michelle Eberle, Consumer Health Information Coordinator

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