Digital health solutions are poised to transform our paradigms of care for the better. People are demanding healthcare that’s more conveniently integrated into their lives, delivered by the brands they trust. A CVS Health survey revealed that consumers want to receive medical care on their own terms—with ideal experiences being ones that are convenient, accessible and affordable. The shift toward hybrid care models, accelerated by tech advancements and the pandemic among other factors, creates an opportunity to improve health outcomes and reduce costs through delivery of more streamlined, multichannel and equitable products and services.
The opportunity to lead the market in the delivery of digital health services is ripe, and the competition is rising. Big Tech companies have been increasingly open to collaboration (e.g., Alphabet’s Verily and Mayo Clinic), building in-house and growing through acquisitions (e.g., Amazon Clinic and One Medical).
From a patient or care provider’s point of view, healthcare products and services are often intertwined. But from a development standpoint, they differ significantly. Healthcare products are tangible goods (e.g., monitors, surgical tools, medicine and other consumables). In contrast, services are the interactions between products, people and their environment. The key differentiating factor is people—products are the things we use, and healthcare services involve the people we need.
Through our experience working with life sciences (LS) companies and healthcare delivery networks, we at frog understand the barriers to deploying digital health products and services swiftly and effectively. Challenges include integration with healthcare systems, overcoming tech complexities and adopting new ways of working. Also, building a digital solution targeted to treat a single disease is often difficult, given the complexity and nuance of managing co-morbidities. Yet, to effectively service today’s growing population of discerning patients, healthcare providers must attend to their demands and deliver services to them with intention.
LS companies and healthcare delivery networks must embrace three core methods to deliver successful digital health offerings. The first method uses service design and system thinking to orchestrate holistic ecosystems that enable critical value exchanges among service providers, end users and organizational stakeholders. A second tactic is designing for behavioral change to drive positive health outcomes and achieve problem-solution fit. A third approach executes agile learning experiments to test and iterate the end user experience in real-time, de-risking product and service development.
When designing a new service, especially in complex healthcare systems, it’s necessary to design the environment and connections among users and touchpoints. It can be tempting to build a digital solution rapidly without a clear plan. Instead, teams need to define the transformative value the new service should achieve across the entire ecosystem.
There are inspiring examples of well-executed connected health ecosystems. Tia, a women’s healthcare solution that unites digital and physical touchpoints (such as virtual care and in-person appointments), operates in a way that responds to patient needs more holistically.
To create solutions that truly address people’s health and well-being, we recommend approaching ecosystem design through the following steps:
Map the current-state ecosystem. First, define the primary roles that influence end users and organizations (e.g., patients, caregivers, clinicians). Map out the key nodes (e.g., clinics, patient digital portals) and cluster them by categories (e.g., digital tools, home health services) to help organize elements logically.
Draw and label lines that indicate the type and direction of value exchanged among players. Value flows may include exchanges of material, data, information, money or labor. The goal is to clarify complex relationships, identify gaps and opportunities in the current ecosystem and make strategic decisions about connections to build or strengthen the intended value.
Design the future-state service system. When identifying the solution, use inputs from surveys, ethnographic interviews and other human-centered design methods to map out the future-state ecosystem using the same method outlined above. This method can help to remove friction and add value in a service by redirecting a value flow or identifying a need for a new node or role in the ecosystem.
Designing for behavioral change is critical to driving positive health outcomes. frog has worked with pharmaceutical companies and healthcare delivery networks to successfully design and pilot behavioral interventions in applications ranging from preventative health to chronic condition management, and from hybrid service models to digital medicines and therapeutics.
We recommend taking these two approaches from frog’s behavioral science and innovation methods:
Determine the best way to influence behavior change. Health outcomes are influenced by a complex web of factors—everything from our individual actions to the social determinants of health. To drive change in this complex space, frog employs iterative mixed methods research. This involves mapping the factors (promoting and inhibiting pressures) that make a person more or less likely to act, and then designing behavioral interventions that incorporate the strongest combination of these pressures to increase the likelihood and magnitude of change.
Design and run behavioral intervention pilots. These experiments test and measure whether the intervention changes people’s behaviors in the intended ways. Given that the purpose of the experiment is to test the core behavioral mechanism, they can be run before and/or in parallel with product development to maximize learnings and reduce costs. Behavioral mechanism refers to the process, technique or system designed to encourage people to think and act differently. For example, one could design an experiment in which people with a heart disease have weekly honest conversations about care plan compliance (e.g., maintaining a medically recommended diet) to see if this new activity translates to them reducing other behaviors that are counterproductive to their health (e.g. eating foods their doctors recommend avoiding.) In this case, the behavioral mechanism is the weekly honest conversations.
Pilot experiments are used to assess and iterate interventions across three key dimensions: (1) Validation: Did we identify the right pressure? (2) Effectiveness: Did our interventions change the pressures? (3) Impact: Did we create enough behavioral change? Teams should iterate and incorporate the behavioral interventions into the digital health product and service.
To learn more about using behavioral science in product and service design, check out two of frog’s Design Mind frogcasts: The Science of Behavior Change, featuring Matt Wallaert, former frog Head of Behavioral Science and How We Venture: Bayer Consumer Health, featuring insights from the Bayer Consumer Health and frog teams on shaping a behavior-driven platform.
Bringing new digital health products and services to life requires real-time testing of the product and service delivery model in conjunction. We recommend running these two activities to improve the effectiveness of digital health solutions, de-risk the process and reduce development costs:
Shift the mindset and advocate for experimentation. In working with top 10 global pharmaceutical companies and premier academic health systems, we’ve observed that organizations often struggle with the most critical step in bringing digital health solutions to market—experimentation.
For LS companies, a key challenge is obtaining organizational buy-in for experimentation methods outside the traditional drug discovery, development and clinical research paradigm. For healthcare delivery networks, a key challenge is rallying a team of clinicians willing to try new tools in their workflows and to coordinate with product development teams to share feedback and iterate in real time. In either case, piloting requires teaching stakeholders to embrace uncertain outcomes as valuable learning experiences. To build a compelling business case for investment, create an experimentation roadmap that sequences experiments in a way that maximizes learnings and reduces development costs.
Launch iterative service experiments. Before investing in a full product development cycle, consider running service experiments that test for product and service-solution fit. Unlike other assessment methods such as clinical trials or usability tests that test aspects of the experience in silos, service experiments aim to test the end-to-end experience for key users which integrates not only the digital product, but also the roles, systems, processes, data points and technology that tie the service all together. It’s also important to design a process that enables the ongoing collection of user feedback.
In a changing healthcare landscape, it’s vital for healthcare and LS organizations to embrace new ways of working, business models, organizational structures and skillsets. When we employ these three methods—service and behavioral design and testing—to launch new digital products and services, we not only create new business value streams, but also and most importantly, we all benefit as communities and individuals. We improve the healthcare system through more accessible and affordable channels for care. We equip healthcare providers with more effective tools to deliver personalized care and make their jobs more manageable. We give our family and friends more comfortable ways of caring for themselves and their loved ones to improve quality of life.
frog has a unique team at the intersection of its practices in Service Design, Healthcare, Behavioral Science, and Product Strategy, Design and Delivery ready to take on new digital health challenges. Connect with us to discuss your needs around developing digital health solutions and the potential opportunities for your organization.
As Co-Managing Director, frog North America, Jess is responsible for leading the frog business in North America. Jess is focused on making frog the place where designers, strategists, technologists, product managers and creative project managers want to work and learn the most. With a background in Service Design, Jess has spent the past 15 years leading teams in the design and launch of new products, services and businesses from scratch. Prior to frog, Jess was the Head of Service Design and Head of Studio at idean. Originally from Sydney Australia, she lived in London for a number of years before moving to the US in 2019. In London, she received her Masters in Service Design.
Sara is a service designer and one of the leaders of the healthcare practice at frog. She is passionate about designing healthcare experiences that make people feel good and that transform health and business outcomes for a more equal, secure and balanced future of healthcare.
Lauren works with interdisciplinary, international teams to build new products and ventures in tech, healthcare and the circular economy. She is passionate about helping teams navigate the riskiest stages of innovation through experimentation and testing. Lauren is also part of the new Behavioral Science practice at frog.
Carissa is an Associate Design Director based out of the San Francisco studio. As a service designer, Carissa is committed to creating holistic solutions for complex systems. She’s tackled numerous healthcare projects, including designing telehealth experiences for patients and caregivers in both the hospital and the home space, integrating digital health offerings for patients living with COPD and developing provider pathways and materials for preventative firearm safety in pediatric primary care.
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