4 Ways to Design for Better Patient Engagement

As the health industry shifts away from financing sickness towards motivating healthy habits, frog helps people take control of their own wellness.

It’s no longer sustainable to finance sickness. We need to build experiences that keep people healthy. And it takes two to tango – we ‘patients’ need to be more engaged and more accountable for our own health and wellness.

At frog, we believe that better health and wellbeing starts in the daily lives of people. Humans are creatures of habit and healthy behaviors need to become part of a daily routine. But motivating a new routine is no easy task, especially in areas like food, exercise, smoking and medication adherence – people easily fall back into their old way of life. Our patient engagement design challenge is: How might we help patients take ownership of their daily habits so they stay committed to healthy life changes?

Here are four strategies we use at frog to design experiences that help people take responsibility for healthy life changes.


1. Interview Different Wellness Archetypes

Help ‘Reluctant Avoiders’ Think Like ‘Engaged Actives
Some patients, especially those suffering from a chronic condition, feel an acute sense of helplessness over their own wellbeing. They may have changed their habits in the past without noticing any impact on symptoms. So now being reminded of their ailments just serves as an anxiety trigger, and they shy away from condition-specific products. The attitudes and behaviors of these individuals are characterized by the Reluctant Avoider archetype.

“I’m afraid to track my symptoms. I’m afraid of what the outcome might be. I should but I don’t.”

frog patient research participant

On the flipside, Engaged Active patients gain a sense of control by actively tracking and managing their wellness with a wide array of products and services. They keep journals of their daily activities, binders full of doctor’s notes, and are always pushing for a new option if the current treatment plan isn’t effective. Conducting design research with Engaged Active patients helps frogs consider new scenarios when ideating wellness solutions, like when designing the LVL hydration tracker for athletes. frog leverages learnings from Engaged Active users to begin motivating Reluctant Avoiders towards life changes.


2. Explore Motivational Strategies from Other Industries

When thinking about ways to motivate sustained behavior change in healthcare, frog also looks at other industries for inspiration.

Accountability to the Group Motivates Loan Repayments
Microlending service Grameen Foundation extends small loans to help women work their way out of poverty. As of 2017, the bank’s nine million borrowers had an impressive 99.6% repayment rate, even with interest rates of up to 20%. Grameen motivates loan repayment by making each individual accountable to a group. Each borrower is part of a 5-person group that self-regulates repayment. If one person can’t make a loan payment, then the whole group defaults. But if all five members pay quickly, the whole group enjoys a boost in credit.

Intimate group accountability is a way frog might design for improved daily health habits. During interviews, we’ve heard that support and tough love from family is a strong social motivator to become more engaged in wellness.

“I was once really into healthy eating. My husband supported me 100% and I lost 50 lbs.”

frog patient research participant


Community & Progress Check-ins Motivate Weight Loss
Attending regular meetings is described as the ‘recipe for success’ in the Weight Watchers program. During meetings, members share stories and tips on what’s working for them in their weight loss journeys. But more than advice, meetings instill a sense of ‘togetherness’ among fellow members, so participants don’t feel they are the only ones having to make those tough daily choices. Meetings are also a time for private weigh-ins that provide tangible feedback on and hold members accountable for their progress.

Creating a community where people can re-energize from others is a way frog might design to motivate behavior change in healthcare. Clear feedback on progress and celebrating small victories also helps many people from falling back into old habits.

“When I would go pick up medicine, they would weigh me and talk. Just going there once every two weeks, I saw the progress. Let’s take small steps, baby steps.”

frog research participant


3. Live a Patient Day-in-the-Life

Practice Radical Empathy and Challenge the Status Quo
frog knows that while a group of patients may suffer from the same condition, their symptoms can vary, and their motivational triggers are certainly always unique—layered with social, emotional and cultural context. We also know being a patient is full of uncomfortable, scary and confusing moments that can often get swept under the rug as the status quo. Patients can feel disconnected from their care—more like a number than a person.

“Sometimes we get lumped together as people if you have XYZ symptoms. But those symptoms might be A for you and my three symptoms might be B.”

frog patient research participant

frog approaches healthy behavior challenges by taking on the perspective of each patient type and designing for a more human care experience. When our Yona team was rethinking the pelvic exam experience, they used a technique called Radical Empathy to build understanding, appreciation and sensitivity for the gynecological examination. Three men shared back stories captured in the field around the exam process—in first person.


4. Consider New Places and Spaces for Health Services

New health service technologies and models are enabling more convenient places to provide care. At frog, we map out the daily lives of patients to better understand where and when patients could engage in their wellness. We then design for care interactions that are fluid, not frustrating, so people stay motivated to continue their care.

Wellness At Home
Accessing health services from the comforts of home offers huge value to many types of patients. In-home services like doctor’s visits, medication delivery, streaming fitness classes and virtual reality (VR) therapy are just some of the recent trends in this space. frog’s Aging in Place design concepting is an example of how we approach ideating health and wellness services around the home. We talked to experts, seniors and caregivers about what it means to grow older in their homes, resulting in concepts like Social Fridge and Health Reflection..

“I didn’t want to leave here. If I need some assistance, they’re going to be there.”

frog Aging in Place research participant

Wellness in the Neighborhood
Healthcare services are evolving away from doctor’s offices and large hospital environments. Newer experiences like retail clinics, urgent care centers, and diagnostic lab chains are offering patients more convenient, cheaper care delivery. And advancements in autonomous vehicles means mobile health clinics will come to every neighborhood, especially those that need health services the most. frog looks to our Places team for deep expertise in both traditional architecture and digital environments to begin imagining what new medical spaces can look and function like.

Daily Habits are Key to Patient Engagement
frog hopes to create real change for patients by designing new products and services that lead to healthier daily habits. When thinking about this design challenge, frog takes a multi-pronged approach, including looking for insight from power users of existing health tools, exploring solutions to behavioral engagement in analogous industries, developing empathy for the patient’s daily life, and considering the spaces in which care is provided.

Caroline Bone
Senior Strategist
Caroline Bone
Caroline Bone
Senior Strategist

Caroline is a Senior Strategist at frog San Francisco. Teams look to Caroline to frame up opportunities, connecting the dots between research and concepts. She crafts visions for how customers might interact in the future, why those interactions are unique and memorable, and what we can do next to bring transformational experiences to market.

Cookies settings were saved successfully!