| May 16 2019

Try the ‘Sensitive’ Approach When Evaluating Benefits Tech

Stephanie Henkenius
Principal, Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation and the US Healthcare Reform team

The next time you’re faced with selecting the best technology to engage your employees in their health and wellbeing, I encourage you to apply the Lippincott design principles. Immerse yourself in the technology offerings and ask the questions listed in An Employers’ Guide to Evaluating Benefits Technology – A Cheat Sheet, which are adapted from the authors’ cheat sheet for identifying sensitive technologies.

You’re more likely to embrace new technologies if they’re sensitive to your human needs and desires, according to an article recently published by the creative consultancy Lippincott. Successful technologies like Uber and Amazon’s Alexa, the authors say, incorporate principles of behavioral science — they’re designed to be “understanding, compassionate, perceptive, attentive and delicate.”

As I read the article, I kept thinking about flipping the script and using the “sensitive design” approach to evaluate the many benefits technologies flooding the market and vying for our attention. Could the design principles help us determine which technologies are best for our employees and their families and therefore increase engagement? I think so — in fact, sensitive design may be key to selecting the best benefits technologies on the market.

Here’s my brief summary of the authors’ five principles to make technology human. But don’t rely on my summary, read the full article!

  • Welcome me. We all know the importance of making a good first impression — it’s no different for new technologies. They should be intuitive, make people feel comfortable and provide instant gratification while matching consumers’ expectations. Remember how popular Pokémon Go was a few years ago? The app mastered the long game by beginning with instant gratification — catching your own Pokémon — and then encouraging you to go beyond that first catch.
  • Reassure me. We all struggle with the unknown. By providing reassurance, reducing anxiety and showing users the way, technologies can build user confidence and increase repeat usage. Sometimes reassurance presents itself in small ways — like the sound you hear when you send an e-mail — or in more obviously ways — like the ability to track your Uber as it moves closer to you.
  • Protect me. Protecting users from real danger is just as important as protecting against perceived danger. Sensitive technologies infuse experiences with safety cues to assure users they’re safe. An example is the closed padlock that appears in an internet browser’s URL bar when you’re shopping on a secure website. The financial trading platform IG knows that users won’t try new things or act on their curiosity if they don’t feel they’re in a safe environment, so the company created a risk-free zone with a $20,000 virtual demo account to allow users to practice trading.
  • Connect with me. Sensitive technologies form connections and build trust when they go beyond simple transactions to touching on the personal. Google has been able to establish this personal trust, and now people ask it things they’d never ask anyone else. But technologies can also be aware of context and respond appropriately — Alexa responds in whispered tones when answering a whispered question. Understanding and anticipating what a user needs is the foundation for building a connection. Technologies that go beyond expectations and give the unexpected often experience a reciprocal relationship with their customers.
  • Be good to me. The authors note that “[a]t its best, technology can be a unique and empowering partner for changing our behavior to make progress in life. At its worst, it can feel like it is preying on our weakest impulses.” Sensitive technologies know that sometimes motivation isn’t enough, but timely nudges can help users achieve their goals. Fitbit does this by telling you how many steps you need to take to win the hour. Technology can use personal data to help a user understand the impact of their decisions. And if used with sensitivity and the right tools, the information can change lives.

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