by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

We’ve a saying at HES: People buy with their eyes, but they become repeat clients/participants based on their experience. In other words, to attract interest and excitement for a product or service it has to look good, but that only works once. If the user doesn’t have an awesome experience with your offering, you’re going to have a hard time attracting them again. And awesome experiences are the result of design thinking, not just how pretty something looks.

What Is Design Thinking?

It starts with the desired outcome. In worksite wellness that translates into improved population health or well-being. That’s a big nut to crack. But if you approach it like other great designers of complex products or systems (think Apple, Amazon, Facebook) with a single end-user in mind, the job becomes less daunting: How do we design everything we do around the end goal of creating an environment where individual health improvement can happen?

Achieving great participant experiences requires design thinking by everyone on your team from ease of use and utility of your wellness portal, to quality of your education programs, to the way people answer the phone. Here’s how to get started.

Outline each step in the process from how someone learns about your services all the way through a behavior change; address these questions:

  • Is this appealing? Why would I want to do this? What’s in it for me?

  • Is there any emotional draw? Lowering cholesterol doesn’t interest me. Wrestling with my kids on the floor does.

  • Is it simple? Do I “get it” right away? Don’t make me have to figure it out.

  • Are there any obstacles or hurdles to learning more, signing up, getting started? Participating on an ongoing basis? Make it drop-dead easy.

  • Is there easy access to support along the way? What if I have questions, need extra help? Is it easy to get back up in the saddle if I don’t succeed at first? Behavior change often requires repeated attempts.

  • If there’s a reward component, is it really motivating or is it demotivating? Does it focus my attention on the goal — improved health behaviors — or does it distract me?

Keep going until you’ve identified every touch point and element of your wellness program, then interview potential participants and ask them to react to each, stating what would be a better approach for them. (NOTE: This is more time-consuming than a focus group, but it also eliminates the chance of group-think, and will likely produce purer results.) Interview 10, 15, or more until you see patterns develop and opportunities emerge.

At least 2 things will surprise you:

  • What you didn’t know (or may have known, but never took as seriously as you should)

  • How quickly you’ll identify things that make it very unlikely (if nothing changes) some people will ever take advantage of your services.

Design thinking from top to bottom in your wellness program is a lot of work. And it strips bare a number of things you could do better. But that’s a good thing. If you’ve struggled with voluntary participation up to now, design thinking won’t solve all of your problems, but it will help you get better at what you do and a step closer to improved population health.


# wes weller 2017-02-07 13:18
Excellent article! My wife is an educator and certified Design Thinking trainer (Ford NGL). I am a health insurance actuary with over 30 years of experience. I am intrigued with the problem of presenteeism in the workplace which is estimated to cost employers more than twice as much as healthcare. I think you may on to a solution for both problems.
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