Spinning Data into Gold: Turning Information into UX Insights

By: Colleen Lowe

Brilliant UX designs don’t magically appear out of thin air. Even though they may seem elegant and effortless during presentations, they actually emerge out of crucial insights that inform the design concepting process. No amount of zippy interactions or beautiful motion graphics will save a digital product if we shortcut discovery.

Our discovery process analyzes the following three areas for insights:

  1. Our client’s business objectives
  2. The needs and expectations of their target audience, most often their customers
  3. Relevant industry, technology, and demographic trends

Similar to a detective piecing together clues to solve a mystery, we look for the interconnected threads among the data that, when assembled just right, reveal a larger truth. And voila, we have insight: the crucial ingredient to uncovering untapped opportunities for our clients.

To see how this process works in practice, let’s look at how we used this system for one of our favorite clients: a global health insurance organization.

Our health insurance client was asked by one of its enterprise customers – we’ll call them Dunder Mifflin (DM) – to help combat the increasing number of high-cost musculoskeletal (MSK) health claims the company was seeing among its employees. Our client tasked us with developing strategic user experience and programmatic concepts that might help DM achieve this goal.

Understanding Dunder Mifflin’s situation and its end users.

Due to federal regulation and compliance standards within the healthcare industry, we weren’t able to speak to DM employees about their MSK health issues, but we were able to talk with people who worked most closely alongside them.

We spoke with members of DM’s executive team, health experts, MSK specialists, and our client’s health coaches. This allowed us to gather information about the issues that contribute to MSK conditions as well as prevention and treatment strategies. We were also able to dive into DM’s workplace environment and culture, and employees’ use of the company’s wellness services.

Epiphany #1: This trend isn’t unique to DM—it’s happening nationwide.

Unlike the real Dunder Mifflin, DM employees are offered a range of fancy health benefits. Like most companies, the bulk of DM’s wellness programs and resources focus on improving a person’s lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and overall well-being.

But despite these health resources, the company continued to see a steady increase in MSK claims among employees, particularly those between the ages of 45 – 64. When we compared these findings to public health information records, we saw an almost identical trend on a national level. This called for some in-depth interviews with MSK practitioners and a closer look at evidence-based research on the topic.

DM’s MSK trends manifest a significant public health issue: the aging Baby Boomer population is staying in the workforce much longer. A large proportion of these workers are employed in sedentary desk jobs, and obesity rates have spiraled out of control.

Pressure on weight-bearing joints creates a lot of pain. In Western medicine, it’s largely addressed with costly knee and hip replacement surgeries, instead of exploring alternative treatment options. It’s a system incentivized on volume (of procedures) rather than value (of a patient’s overall health outcome) and that’s what our client is trying to change.

Epiphany #2: Chronic conditions like MSK call for a different approach to wellness.

Our research revealed that general lifestyle wellness programs are less effective in combating chronic issues like MSK in corporate environments and yield a much lower return on investment.

To reduce MSK claims, solutions must be adaptable and allow for personalization to an individual’s specific needs and preferences, dependent on where they are in their health care journey and their readiness to change.

Key Insight: DM’s employees would benefit enormously from personalized MSK-specific programming.

These findings presented an opportunity for Citizen to design targeted health tools and initiatives structured around the needs of individuals experiencing MSK issues. The range of concepts we developed involved personalizing the employee’s care experience to their condition and their individual preferences.

For example, a digital MSK platform would enable employees to manage their health coaching appointments and set their communication preferences, opting for phone, video, or text exchanges. The platform would also enable a health coach to hand-select relevant MSK content and resources to share with the employee during and after coaching calls. This extended the existing model from a very limited, telephonic interaction to a dynamic engagement which helped employees become more informed, and gave them control and flexibility over the process.

Our discovery process often leads us to larger insights about human behavior and universal human needs that extend across cultures and industries. In this case, while we were designing for those with specialized MSK needs, we ultimately created an engagement model that would benefit everyone—employees, the employer, and the insurer.

Like we said, UX designs don’t just materialize out of thin air, but, when we turn research and analysis into meaningful insight, it still feels a little bit like magic—and that’s what we’re after.