If “your health is your wealth,” then why do the vast majority of healthcare digital services still seem hell-bent on making us broke?

The industry is in desperate need of digital transformation, particularly in the U.S. Political issues notwithstanding, the entire experience is an incredibly complex journey for the user: Is this covered by my insurance? What is my out of pocket expense? What surprises will I encounter?
Healthcare providers make finding the answers to these questions as difficult as possible due to poor customer experience in their digital products and services. Can these monoliths adapt to the user-centered approach required to meet rapidly increasing consumer expectations, or will they fold to new players in the space?
Consumers have high expectations of their digital products and services from other industries, and there’s no going back from that. A user doesn’t care if her healthcare insurance is United Healthcare or Oscar — she cares how easy it is to find a doctor, that all her health records can easily be found in one place, and that costs are communicated clearly. The healthcare industry is ready to be disrupted because it’s one of the few industries where brand loyalty doesn’t matter: Sick people don’t care who provides the service, they just want to get well. 
Digital products don’t fail because they’re broken; they fail because nobody needs them. A meaningful service happens when an unsatisfied user need is met. So, how can a provider go about creating a service that is meaningful to its customers?

1. Put user needs first (especially above internal politics). User-centered design methodologies are nothing new — but the healthcare industry has struggled to embrace these processes when it comes to their digital services. Start every initiative with an in-depth discovery and research phase to identify the real pain points in user journeys.
2. Prototype, test, release, and repeat. Large organizations still often treat the launch of a digital product with a “grand reveal” mentality. No matter how much internal testing happens, the validity of a product or service can only be proven when it’s released into the wild. Successful products are prototyped and tested at every stage of development; releases are early and often. Save yourself time and money and get your new shiny app or service in front of users as quickly as possible – then challenge them to try and break it.
3. Create a service they love to use. Even when the functionality is ready, the job is nowhere near done. A truly great digital product goes beyond function; it’s an experience in itself. These micro-experiences bring personality and moments of delight to the whole experience, increasing usage rates and positive brand awareness. For example, while you can obtain a quote from every insurance company’s website, the playful animations and distinct interactions on the Oscar website make what could be a dry experience a tiny moment of delight. And it’s that delight that sets it apart from the competition.
As it stands now, the responsibility to know the healthcare system inside out is entirely on the individual. Insurance providers make it as difficult as possible to have a complete picture of where you stand and the services to which you are entitled.
The good news is that challengers who operate on a user-first model are starting to gain traction in the healthcare space. The traditional insurance monoliths have real competition from startups that have literally built their business models around tackling the pain points that consumers have been complaining about for decades.
There is no doubt that executives at the old monoliths are looking at the rise of digitally native insurance providers – and remembering what happened to the taxi industry with Uber. Technology has leveled the playing field for everyone and opportunities for real change and innovation are there. It’s just a matter of whether it will be the traditional players or a hungry startup that seizes them.
Paul Woods is chief creative officer at Edenspiekermann LA