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Healthcare Digital Engagement Tools: If You Build It, Will They Come?

A Digitally Enabled Healthcare Story July 18, 2022

People who are engaged in their healthcare tend to have better experiences and outcomes, which has led many health organizations to build healthcare digital engagement tools. For these tools to improve health, they need to become a part of people’s everyday health journey.

People will adopt a new technology or product if they can clearly see how it will improve their lives, without a lot of extra effort on their part. So, putting the end users at the center of everything — from concept to implementation — is key to increasing adoption, engagement, and health.

Human-Centered Design

Human-centered design is the foundation for creating digital health solutions that people will adopt and engage with. This approach develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the process.

“We first plan the consumer journey or experience and research user needs. Then we figure out how technology can make the experience easier or solve their needs,” said Anil Bhatt, global chief information officer at Elevance Health.

Sometimes that planning and research leads to new digital tools, like virtual primary care for easier access to preventive care. Other times it leads to a technology solution that consumers benefit from without using directly. If a pain point is long phone calls, the answer might not be building digital tools as a replacement but rather upgrading and streamlining call center technology and tools to improve efficiency.

“We leverage human centered design to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that our consumers and communities face,” said Omid Toloui, Vice President of Innovation at Elevance Health. “By falling in love with the problem first, we are able to identify, incubate, and scale the right solutions to solve those challenges and achieve the greatest impact.”

Once a solution is identified, working with focus groups of end users helps ensure that the solution is effective. When adding virtual primary care to the Sydney Health app, focus groups informed everything from what information needs to be presented first to where to place various buttons.

Human-centered design fits technology into people’s existing habits and behaviors.

Focus on Key Values

Why do people quickly adopt some technologies and not others? It comes down to the value the technologies provide.

The iPod became the leading MP3 player not because it was the first or the most technologically advanced but because it was the easiest to use. iPods reduced the effort and cost associated with listening to music and were fun and well-designed. These are some of the Elements of Value that research has shown to matter in consumer adoption of products, services, or technologies.

Keeping specific values in mind when creating consumer-facing digital health technologies can improve their adoptability. In healthcare, we can think about how tools provide access, save time, simplify, reduce anxiety, and offer motivation.

Telehealth tools provided access to a range of health services when normal access channels were limited during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Solutions like TytoCare medical exam kits take this a step further. The kits include monitors and guidance so people can send exam videos to their doctors anytime and from anywhere for many common ailments. The values offered include providing access, saving time, and simplifying because the kits eliminate the need to make an appointment or go to a clinic.


Once a healthcare digital engagement tool is designed to fit a consumer experience and offer value, personalizing the experience is a good way to keep people engaged.

People might open the Sydney* Health plan management app to find a doctor or get a digital copy of their insurance card, but they will be greeted with information relevant to their wellness journey. This could include:

  • A reminder that they are overdue for a medication refill
  • An alert about a doctor that might best fit their current needs
  • An article about the importance of a colonoscopy after age 45

“The goal of digital health tools is to help people manage and improve their health,” said Bhatt. “We can do this by building the tools that makes sense along their journey, engaging them in the build process so we truly solve people’s problems, and giving them personalized nudges that help them more easily take care of their health and wellness.”

* Sydney is offered and operated by our affiliate Carelon Digital Platforms

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