This year’s San Francisco Design Week showcased a wide range of products and thought leadership created by designers and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley companies. Topics ranged from designing products for homes to forging better tools for digital payments to transportation and more. In particular, one session, hosted by Practice Fusion, turned the spotlight onto the role design has in digital health. One of our own, Autumn Leiker, participated on the panel to discuss health behavior change through design, alongside designers from Fitbit, Omada Health, and Lantern Health.

As a designer at Welkin Health, Autumn works with our partners to help them adapt to the shift toward value-based healthcare. This starts with a deep understanding of each partner’s individual needs and goals for patient engagement, which can range from behavioral to community health care journeys or through trial to permanent medical device implant procedures. While each care journey is unique, our designers and product teams work on developing tools that can be used and adapted across multiple use cases and roles. Because Welkin’s partners work involves changing patient behavior directly, Welkin’s role is more behind the scenes from the patient perspective. Thus, our design team’s goals are to empower our partners with intuitive tools for effective patient engagement.

As Autumn explained at the panel discussion, her team’s work starts with categorizing the types of tools our partners need, which fall under communication, task tracking and data collection. After understanding how each partner handles these three types of tasks, such as routing incoming/outgoing calls, creating custom patient alerts and integrating this data with other sources, such as electronic health records, Autumn and her team work with partners in person to help design workflows that combines these tools to support their unique program.

Although digital health might seem to be moving slowly when compared to how fast the tech industry can be, there is still a tremendous opportunity in both design and technology to improve people’s health and lower costs. While there may be more public awareness on patient-facing aspects of digital health tools, there is also a need to make better tools for health care providers. People who work in healthcare might be extremely empathetic, highly skilled and knowledgeable on how to best serve their patients, but if they are overwhelmed by spreadsheets, faxes, paper forms, support tickets, sticky notes, etc. they are going to be less effective and efficient. In the end, work is needed to change behavior through design for both patients and healthcare workers.

Ultimately, Autumn’s challenge as a designer at Welkin Health is to grapple with the question of how we can ensure our highly customizable platform to accommodate diverse partners doesn’t become too overloaded and unwieldy with features. She’s turned to user research to help answer that question. It’s clear that there is still a lot more work to be done to help optimize healthcare tools. However, panels like this one by SF Design Week highlight and celebrate the progress that’s been made so far, especially in an industry that needs these improvements. By looking at healthcare workflows with a design perspective, Autumn and the team here at Welkin Health strive to build better tools for patient engagement and positive behavior change.