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No matter what side of the Affordable Care Act you’re on, one thing is certain–things are about to change in healthcare. Almost 40 million Americans are anticipated to go online for healthcare needs when that January 2014 action date rolls around. 40 million. 

Traditionally, enrolling people in state-covered health plans is a cumbersome, paper-based process. States spend millions (or more) on administrative costs processing documents–a truly cumbersome and overwhelming process.

The California Health Care Foundation recognized the daunting task of enrolling the uninsured in one fell swoop. Clearly, a user friendly, accessible online interface needed to be designed to enroll the millions that will be covered under the Affordable Care Act. That’s why they enlisted the help of one of the world’s leading design innovators, IDEO, to design the exchange that will guide users through the daunting–and for many, unfamiliar–process of signing up for healthcare coverage.

Fast Company explains IDEO’s human-centered approach to the project, entitled “Enroll UX 2014”. (For those of you unfamiliar, UX stands for User Experience.) Project Christian Palino calls Enroll UX 2014 the “largest infrastructure change that [states] have had on the digital enrollment level in 35 years.” Team members interviewed people from a broad range of socio-economic levels, bringing the varied backgrounds to the table when designing the interface. Think about it–the majority of people who will be covered have never enrolled in insurance before, and may be unaccustomed to going online to enter private information. That’s why designing a friendly, usable platform was so important to IDEO and their project partners. Think of it as “Welcome to Healthcare” instead of “Welcome to Enrollment Hell.”

The team at Enroll UX 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was most impressed by how the UX team embraced people’s real-life stories, asking “human-centered questions” to write the prompt for the project. Some insights they gleaned from users from all over the United States:

  • Health care coverage is complex and expensive.
  • Eligibility is a moving target.
  • It’s hard to prove eligibility.
  • People want to get health care coverage right.
  • Big decisions often come at a bad time.
  • The system is slow and unresponsive.
  • It takes a great deal of effort to feel heard, supported, and understood.
For some who may think that web development and interface design is all about code and technology–it’s not–it’s about user experience. The more we humanize these processes, the more effective they’ll become.

And if you think this is just about public healthcare enrollment, think again. Enroll UX 2014 aims to improve the way we all enroll in coverage, publicly or privately.

Check out Fast Company’s article here, and hop over to Enroll UX 2014’s website to read more about the project. It’s inspiring to see design being used to improve outdated systems that affect so many people on both sides of the coverage debate.