Member Engagement Begins with UX

UX Design for Member Engagement

By Deb Strzeszkowski, UX researcher at Healthx

About User Experience

User experience (UX) is important anywhere humans work and interact with their environment. Healthcare, in particular, is a domain where understanding the user experience is crucial to accomplish necessary tasks. Barriers that exist in the healthcare domain include healthcare literacy, accessibility, understanding the needs of different groups, and how to define those groups. Understanding the factors involved in optimizing UX can mean the kind of successful engagement that drives both a healthier member community and improved cost management for your organization.


Healthcare has its own language that includes insurance, medical, financial and industry terms. Experts in the field often forget that the general population does not share their knowledge and use terms that are meaningless to patients and insurance plan members. That means literacy can become a barrier to positive outcomes when terms are not understood. For example, members who do not understand how a deductible is applied to their insurance plan may incur costs that they cannot afford. If a service requires prior authorization but the member does not call in before having a procedure there will be financial ramifications. Even at a base level of obtaining and maintaining insurance, literacy is a known problem with young people who transition from covered dependents to primary insureds and do not understand their responsibilities. If interacting with their health plan is too hard, members will stop interacting with it, and may not get the care that they need until it becomes an emergency.


Accessibility – ensuring that tools and environments are usable for all levels of physical and cognitive abilities – is important to all domains and is a government-mandated regulation. In healthcare, this issue is compounded by the fact that many people who engage with the systems are ill or otherwise at diminished capacity.  This makes accessibility problems more common and more severe. It’s easy to imagine a blind person trying to navigate a provider directory to find an in-network physician or facility. Now imagine a distraught mother trying to find an emergency room while in the car with a child who may be having a seizure. If a patient is in the hospital, a room may offer a voice assistant to respond to requests for information and control of the environment – lights, temperature, window covering. But what if patients cannot speak? How will they interact with the system? Or insurance members with arthritis who only have access to their plan information on mobile because their computer was lost? Is the mobile app designed with large targets and voice response for individuals with limited use of their hands?

Understanding the Needs of Different Groups

Stakeholders are diverse and to serve them all we must understand the needs of different groups that may include: people with low language and healthcare literacy; with physical impairments; with limited financial resources; with children; on Medicare; who do not act until a pressing need arises; who are healthy; and those who are sick.      

UX is the process of taking our own experiences out of the equation and using the experiences of our stakeholders instead. If a persona – “Taylor,” for instance – is created, then as decisions are made around tools and environments we can say, “What would Taylor want to do in this situation? Does our solution work for her?” This is a user-centered approach, where our solutions are based on what a real target user wants to accomplish.

Defining Target Audiences

How do we define our target audiences? UX offers many tools to accomplish this. Subject-matter experts can be the first stop, where a view of our ‘expected’ targets can be crafted. Through interviews of real people who are interacting with healthcare, we can create maps that show actual journey experiences. For example, a young mother takes her baby to the ER for a suspected ear infection and then has an upsetting interaction with her insurance company. We can map the breakdowns in that journey, and then compare that with what was expected. We see a big gap – what we expected is very different from how real people experience life. This area provides opportunities to craft solutions to help people, like creating the persona of a young mother with commercial insurance. When we are designing a mobile app we know that there will be times when she is scared and wants to get to a doctor as quickly as possible. We can design to support that. By understanding that one size does not fit all, we can develop personalized tools that will work for each different persona.

Why UX

User experience is human experience and common sense. If we apply the process to our own lives and work, we’ll easily see that we are experts in understanding what we do and that our needs should be at the center of the tools and environments that are designed for us to interact with. User-centered design empowers designers and developers to make decisions based on real evidence from actual, target users. And it empowers those users to accomplish their work more effectively and efficiently.

Learn more about how Healthx uses real data from our team of UX experts to craft seamless solutions to simplify the healthcare journey.

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