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Introducing Health+: An Iterative Collaboration Tackling High-Impact Health Issues

The healthcare space innovates slowly and is failing to meet the ever-increasing need for improved service delivery.

Hardworking clinicians, policy makers, providers, and government personnel often work in silos, engaging patients and families separately and neglecting their cross-disciplinary perspectives in the collective effort to improve outcomes for patients and their families. The healthcare space could benefit from introducing Human-Centered Design (HCD) approaches to help professionals in the space solve complex problems through thoughtful interactions and research methodologies. With this challenge in mind, Coforma developed Health+ (“health plus”): a program that utilizes HCD research to better understand the high-impact health issue placed in focus.

Building Service Delivery Solutions

Each Health+ engagement is part of an ongoing series of research and healthathon cycles, with the first engagement being sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Health+ constructs a more supportive infrastructure around the most medically vulnerable populations in the US through private-public collaboration, cross-industry dialogue and collaboration, and creative problem solving with the potential for policy, code, and systems solutions.

The program outlines accurate personas within populations affected by targeted high-impact health issues, identifies needs for specific groups, develops journey maps that capture support infrastructure pain points and opportunities, and creates tools that will ultimately be leveraged through policy, by clinicians and providers in healthcare spaces, and in other support areas in order to directly improve the lives of those living with the targeted health issue through the most effective means possible (validated through our research).

A Typical Health+ Cycle

The main activities of each Health+ engagement include:

  • Workshops with participants, stakeholders, and patients
  • User interviews with patients and providers
  • A roundtable of cross-discipline Subject-Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • A healthathon, in which participants prototype creative solutions for specific audiences, problems, and opportunities identified by the roundtable
  • Healthathon outputs that may include policy initiatives, technical products, white papers, and more.

During the workshop portion of the program, a greater understanding of the focus area is achieved by presenting participating SMEs with interactive prompts. At the end of the workshop the team leaves with a better understanding of the stakeholders in this space, the types of information that exist, how information is perceived, and a clear sense for how to communicate information as it is learned.

User interviews are then conducted with a diverse set of patients to help in the creation of initial personas, journey maps, and themes.

These materials are then fed to the roundtable, where experts who are often siloed in their aspect of care come together to validate key themes, identify audiences, and compile relevant data.

Before the healthathon kickoff, all of the information identified through the preceding activities is synthesized. Using this direction, healthathon participants prototype creative solutions for specific audiences, problems, and opportunities identified by the roundtable which may include policy initiatives, technical products, white papers, and more.

Up First: Health+ Sickle Cell

The first high-impact health issue the Health+ program is serving is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).

Why SCD?

A group of designers partnering with health care professionals to learn more about sickle cell disease.
  • SCD is the most common inherited blood disorder.
  • About 100,000 Americans currently live with SCD, but the disease disproportionately affects African Americans.
  • SCD is costly; expenditures for patients with SCD are estimated to be six times higher than non-SCD patients in Medicaid and eleven times higher than non-SCD patients with private insurance.
  • African Americans disproportionately experience challenges with access, quality, and affordability of care.
  • Patients with SCD may encounter racial discrimination when seeking treatment for acute pain crises, including accusations of “drug seeking,” extended emergency department wait times, and difficulty filling prescriptions.
The first high-impact health issue the Health+ program is serving is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).

Through Health+ SCD, Coforma strives to provide insights, stories, personas and journeys to inform HHS’s overall goal of accelerating the identification and implementation of innovative solutions to increase the quality of life for patients living with SCD. Ultimately, we’re working with HHS and the Office of the CTO to develop solutions that are not only impactful, executable, and efficient, but also that enable the most amount of good for those most in need. Health+ is a way to meet that standard. To follow Health+ program happenings, visit the HHS Office of the CTO’s website, and track #HealthPlusGov on social media.




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Angela Palm Hopkins

Angela Palm Hopkins

Director of Strategic Communications at Coforma. Author. Editor.

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