Beyond the numbers: Designing for wellness in a messy world

Associate Strategy Director

The digital health revolution has us glued to our phones and wearables, bombarded with metrics on steps, sleep, and even blood sugar.

Were initially thrilled by the ability to quantify ourselves, but a key tension emerges: metrics aren’t the be-all and end-all of health. Current health apps often struggle with this tension. They excel at data collection, but stumble when faced with the messy reality of life. Novelty fades, setbacks arise, and motivation wanes. Apps get abandoned, leaving a treasure trove of untapped health data and frustrated users behind.

At Smart Design, we believe true transformation comes from meeting people where they are, in the flow of their daily lives. Its about understanding the millions of tiny choices (and hurdles) that build long-term wellness, not just focusing on optimizing every data point.

The disconnect between data and behavior change—our research with clients highlights four key hurdles users face:

1. Paralysis by analysis:

With so many health paths (diet, exercise, sleep), starting feels overwhelming, especially for those with chronic conditions.

2. Information overload

Everyones a social media health guru these days, making it difficult to separate fad from fact and find personalized advice.

3. Setback swamp

Life throws curveballs. Healthy eating plans get derailed, and workouts get missed. How can users adapt and get back on track?

4. Motivation mirage

Energy and willpower fluctuate. Wellness isnt about constant willpower, but about finding ways to stay centered amidst lifes ups and downs.

The future of digital health: from data to companions

Many health tools focus solely on data collection, leaving users to interpret the information and navigate the maze alone. This approach misses the mark. Imagine health tech that goes beyond tracking. We envision tools that learn and adapt, becoming true companions on your wellness journey.

Transforming data into actionable insights

Meaningful nuggets, not data

Advanced health technologies should prioritize delivering actionable insights in context, ensuring they are relevant and timely. Imagine technology that knows when to track certain metrics and how to connect the dots effortlessly, offering insights that seamlessly integrate into your daily life.

 

Frictionless engagement

Health tech should minimize user distraction by utilizing burden-free tracking technologies like smart cameras and sensors. These tools can automatically monitor food intake, physical activities, and vital signs, providing accurate, timely insights without interrupting daily routines.

From generic to personalized guidance

Tailored health plans

Move beyond one-size-fits-all advice to ultra-personalized insights that transform user data into strategic health plans. This could include customized meal plans based on metabolic type or real-time advice on managing stress, informed by the user’s personal health history and predispositions.

Early risk detection

Predictive analytics can identify potential health issues before they become serious, allowing for early intervention. For a user with chronic pain, the system predicts potential flare-ups based on weather forecasts and activity levels, automatically adjusting their schedule and suggesting preemptive pain management techniques.

Evolving alongside your wellness journey

Adaptive algorithms

Develop tools that grow and adapt with the user as they change, offering interactive, real-time guidance for exercises or cooking healthy meals that vary in complexity and focus, making the experience more engaging and practical while refining functionalities to cater to evolving needs.

 

Proactive support

Technology that anticipates challenges can be transformative. Imagine preemptive nudges to prioritize sleep or healthy meals before a stressful event, or in-the-moment contextual recommendations for managing stress during a busy travel week.

The future of digital health isnt just about tracking, its about interaction. Better health technologies help users navigate the myriad of small decisions they need to make daily and weave data into a story that chronicles their unique wellness journey. Meaningful insights, guided journeys this is where data transforms into lasting, holistic change.

About Morgane Le Beguet

Morgane is an Associate Director of Strategy specializing in business design and mixed methods research. With experience spanning Big 4 consulting and SaaS startups, she drives strategic initiatives for clients including Google, Meta, and OXO. Prior to her current role, she led go-to-market strategy at Dataminr, an AI platform leveraging real-time data from public sources. Morgane holds a BComm from McGill University and an MS in Strategic Design & Management from Parsons.

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