Healthcare Research at Change Healthcare
The skills and tools I've learned at Change Healthcare have inspired and evolved the way I conduct user research.
Healthcare is one of the trickiest, most complex industries in existence. Every day we ask consumers to navigate a system full of loopholes, policy numbers, and codes that most professionals do not have complete knowledge of. As part of my role on the User Experience team at Change Healthcare, I help conduct and analyze hundreds of consumer interviews to better understand how we can solve for the most pressing challenges facing healthcare consumers.
Conducting user research does not start with an interview; it is essential to understand the goals of research work before even deciding whom to speak to.
I am not just a problem solver, I’m a problem definer.
At Change, I define research and project goals in order to ask the right questions and recruit the most relevant interviewees. This leads to productive conversations with people who often humanize abstract problems. Our discussion guides give us a useful roadmap in steering conversations during interviews, but I know the importance of exploring topics that surface without any prompting. My training in empathy interviewing and active listening always comes in handy as I work to uncover stories and experiences that will reveal needs and pain points.
In July of 2019, I led a team conducting user research on healthcare consumer financial care in Florida. Our goal was to better understand key needs, pain points and moments of truth when it comes to navigating the payment journey with a healthcare provider. Within the span of one week, we interviewed a diverse set of 18 participants, for an hour and a half each. I went on to lead the analysis of the interviews and produce a report of the key themes and insights.
insights & analysis
A fundamental part of my UX training at Stanford was rooted in understanding what we heard in interviews beyond what was said aloud. A famous quote, cited often in the world of UX research and analysis is as follows:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford
Another anecdote begins with a user asking a researcher for a ladder. Instead of blindly building a ladder, the researcher asks “why?”. The user tells the researcher it is to climb up. The researcher asks why the user needs to climb up. The user answers that they’d like to get a box from a high shelf. Even here, two levels of “why?” deep, the researcher has discovered an entirely new problem (to get something off a high shelf) with an entirely new solution set (a crane, a forklift, a human chain, etc.). This scenario could go on much longer, but the point is that a skilled researcher continues to ask “why?” even after the interview is over. This leads to a new, more fundamental set of needs that allows for much more creative solutioning.
In my work, I strive to see the patterns and themes that emerge across interviews. I create frameworks to think about things differently and ask questions that push past what we heard and into what was said without saying. Qualitative research can be incredibly rewarding when commonalities start to leap out or you gain an entirely new perspective after a team discussion.
As a member of the UX team at Change I’ve been given many opportunities to be part of and lead research analysis. My work in Florida (see Consumer Research) led to an 8-page summary document with key findings and actionable insights. These insights gave project stakeholders concrete steps for improvement.
Conducting research, creatively analyzing information and drawing out actionable insights is all for naught unless we, as UX professionals, can share out effectively. Once I am ready to share findings, my goal is to transform into a storyteller who deeply understands my audience and can deliver compelling narratives.
During my time at Stanford, in addition to earning my bachelor’s degree, I also worked toward a Notation in Science Communication. My work today is typically much less scientifically technical than the ideas I was striving to communicate then, but the notation track laid the groundwork for how much I now value expressing ideas in the right way. My presentations at Change are often to cross-functional teams and need to contain both carefully weaved stories of specific healthcare consumers as well as big-picture takeaways that convey ROI.
Storytelling is the most valuable tool we have to build empathy for others.
Not only do I work to tell stories to increase empathy, but Change has also shown me how impactful it can be to co-create narratives. By giving stakeholders that are not part of the UX team the opportunity to join research interviews as observers or aid in shaping questions for the discussion guide, I have seen their passion and investment grow firsthand.
One of my favorite paraphrased stories to tell is about a consumer I interviewed for a project on healthcare finances. As we went through the interview they were very honest and straightforward and our team was gaining a lot of valuable knowledge. We were near the end of the interview when I reached a question that I thought was straightforward and would have a very straight forward answer. I asked, “if you could see how much a certain procedure would cost for three doctors and at one office it was $500, at another it was $700 and at the last one it cost $1,000, which office would you choose and why?”
I was ready to jot down a quick answer when the participant leaned back in their chair and stroked their chin. Several moments passed in silence as I watched them think. Finally, they said, “well probably the middle one there.”* I was shocked that the lowest price had not been an automatic answer. “Why’s that?” I asked. They explained that the lowest price indicated a lack of quality and that if they charge the least, they are probably not going to do as good of a job as a more expensive doctor’s office. On the other hand, the most expensive option was likely more costly than it needed to be, so the middle price would be the best option.
This is just one example of how interviews have completely reshaped the way I think and talk about healthcare. Each new conversation is a privilege and an opportunity to give a voice to the consumer.
*This story and the included quotations were paraphrased.
User Experience today does not and can not operate in a silo. Incorporating UX strategy into a company’s overall goals is an excellent path to a better business. According to a 2018 report by InVision,
“Companies in our study reported that when design takes center stage, it can have a direct impact on tangible business results, like revenue, valuation, and time to market.”
This research indicates that the more integrated a design team is to other parts of the business, the more everyone benefits. When users thrive, so too does a business. It also demonstrates the importance of measuring success. Just because so much of user research is qualitative does not mean that metrics should be disregarded. Defining success in UX may require creativity but the results can still be tangible. My experience has helped me understand many ways to think about and define success for research projects.
As we do more research and design work at Change Healthcare, more value is placed on long-term road mapping. Our strategy includes standardizing our design language so that both healthcare customers (like insurance companies and hospital systems) and consumers have a consistent experience. And we use the entire body of research across projects to build on instead of starting from scratch for each project.
There is always more work to do, but as long as the voice of the customer comes through we can adjust our strategy and find success.
Ask Me About...
Published White-Papers on Healthcare Research
Facilitating Design Thinking Workshops & Brainstorming Sessions
Conducting B2B Customer Interviews & Leading Usability Tests
Remote Interviews and Quantitative Research
WHY "HEALTHCARE CONSUMER"?
In my work, I’ve learned the power of language. The words we use have an effect on how we view others and how they view themselves. Instead of calling those who participate in the healthcare system “patients” we refer to them as “healthcare consumers.” This reminds us that we are designing for people, even when they aren’t sick, and that they are our customers so we should always be striving to impress.