The Illuminist Blog

Watch Your Speed: Feedback Loops in Healthcare

Posted by Jon Thompson on September 28, 2016

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We’ve all seen the “Your Speed” radar signs that tend to pop up on busier roads near schools or residential neighborhoods. The blinking warning of your speed causes you to take notice of your speed and slow down if necessary. These signs were first implemented as an experiment, but the stats have since shown that they are quite effective in reducing speeds overall—cutting down on accidents and making neighborhoods safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. The important takeaway from this example is that when we are presented with information about our performance, we tend to notice and improve. Even though we already have speedometers on our cars, calling out our speed and presenting it to us in this manner makes us take notice and change our behavior accordingly. Seeing the immediate feedback of our speed dropping is a reward itself.

When working in projects involving User Experience Design, we are very aware of using system or environmental feedback to deliver valuable information to help guide a user through a process. But a feedback loop happens when the feedback that is delivered actually influences the input for it to eventually influence that same node again… and again. The radar scenario is a perfect example of a feedback loop, but equally impactful examples can be found in the area of health and wellness. Fitness trackers may be the most obvious and successful example of this in action, but Skype’s founding engineer, Jaan Tallinn, alluded to how they can be used to improve healthcare systems at WIRED Health 2015. This ambition is being pursued by both giant and upstart healthcare organizations now, as they look for ways to use feedback loops to improve individual outcomes, save money, and create healthier populations. But without a perfect loop, many of these approaches have failed in past years. Tallinn blames this on our history of not acting as consumers when it comes to healthcare. Two of Bolster’s clients, RedBrick Health and ClearCost Health have been turning that on it’s head by empowering consumers to take charge of their own health outcomes and healthcare costs.

Having the ability to create and shape that loop so that it functions best is a large task. Here are a few small steps any business can take to begin to make impactful changes which will feed off of their own successes:

  1. Evaluate your customer experience
  2. Take a look at your company’s mobile experiences
  3. Conduct an audit or user test on your site
  4. Shape your brand to be more relatable and human

Bolster my brand


Topics: Health & Wellness