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Three Challenges in Health Care.


This month we headed to the Health Experience Design Conference in Boston to learn more about how human-centered design is sparking improved patient experience and systemic innovation in health care. It got us thinking about three challenges that we, our clients, and other research and design practitioners are tackling across the health care world and beyond:

How might we strike the balance of authentic but appropriate communication?

Patients respond positively to seeing their own language reflected in health care communications, rather than intimidating clinical jargon. At the same time, they expect their health institutions to be the experts—to earn the trust placed in them. We see this challenge in the financial sector as well. It takes thoughtful user research to find a warm, authentic tone that does not cross too far into informality.

How might we prompt long-lasting engagement?

Patient engagement is a priority across the health care industry. But increasingly, research is showing that trendy engagement techniques like gamification do not often lead to lasting change. Behavior change models tell us that the most successful interventions are those that help people connect to personally meaningful goals and that satisfy deeper psychological needs: patients’ sense of autonomy, competence, and belonging.

How might we reverse the course of the river?

As Steve Downs of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted, the health care system often asks patients to essentially swim upstream—to practice healthier behaviors in an environment that makes all of the unhealthy behaviors more convenient and more affordable. Rather than telling them to swim harder, our job as researchers and designers is to help “reverse the course of the river”: to find ways to alter the environment and building blocks of daily life to make healthy choices the easier option.

Do these challenges resonate with your organization? Connect with us to continue the conversation.

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