Live from HxD: Designing for Health Fluency

Designing for Health Fluency, by Dana Ortegón

Logo for the Health Experience Design conferenceAs a content strategist, Dana listens to peoples’ stories. She listens for what’s being told, in addition to what’s being said. She watched her mother struggle with the language when they lived in Columbia (her dad spoke the language fluently, but her mother did not).

Navigating the health care system is like being dropped in a foreign country. If you know how to speak the language you can navigate things, bargain, get good prices, and speak nuances. If you don’t… you can’t.

Our job as content strategists is to simplify.

How Do You Build Experiences for All Levels of Fluency?

At Mad*Pow we start with user interviews, participatory design workshops, and other methods for learning about peoples’ lives and experiences. We do a lot of things:

  • Listen – we ask general questions and specifics
  • Build journey maps
  • Craft “magic objects” that get people to talk about why they create the things they do

Listen for common themes:

  • Confusion (I don’t know what I’m supposed to do)
  • Frustration (I think they make this hard on purpose)
  • Fear (I don’t know how I can pay for this without going bankrupt)

These emotional states lower our ability to process information.

Health Literate People Don’t Understand Insurance

Dana personally struggled with how to use the Health Connector. And she is someone who writes health content! It’s confusing: what’s a health event? Does mine qualify? Then comes frustration: a warning is at the start of the application. It’s hard to read! And it gets worse.

But there are guidelines for health literacy:

  • Don’t use jargon
  • Define terms simply
  • Be specific and simple when involving numeracy

But there’s more:

  • Make sure tools deliver actionable results
  • Use real life examples
  • Give people the content they need, when they need it – don’t overwhelm them!
  • Meet people where they are
  • Empower people to take control of their health
  • You cannot create great content experiences without talking to the people you are designing for

Paying for Care is Also Complicated

We don’t know how much it will cost, or when the bill might come. That’s terrible.

EOBs and bills are super complicated. We need more of Oscar, less of the multi-line, multi-charges, etc. Mad*Pow sponsored A Bill You Can Understand about a year ago, to help people not only understand their bill but also how finances play into their health.

Billing is an important topic. When people don’t understand their medical bills, they avoid care. Mad*Pow’s process was:

  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Research findings – people are overwhelmed, they don’t understand terminology, and they find mistakes that erode their trust in the system
  • Design and content improvements that focus on actionable steps (how to save money next time), context (why payments are denied), and whether insurance has been billed yet

Design for Health Fluency

  • Promote healthy behavior
  • Boost self-efficacy
  • Ease “culture shock”
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