Making healthcare tangible in an intangible world

Brandy Fowler
Strategy Director
Jamie Nicholson
Associate Strategy Director

Your health insurance card is like a security blanket in a wallet, acting as a tangible gateway into today’s complex health care system. Yet, its design is very utilitarian, flimsy and cold; it hardly conveys the idea of security. The information on the card and the transactions it facilitates are mostly geared toward health care providers with little relevant information for consumers to help them feel confident in their coverage for receiving care.

As the health care system becomes increasingly fractured and intangible, and the insurance card basically remains the only concrete connection people have to their health care, shouldn’t the card and the experience it engenders be more thoughtfully designed? We think so.

While most of the world continues to shift from analog to digital, our research with consumers confirms that health care is one area they want to retain some tangibility. So we asked ourselves an important question:

How can we remake the health I.D. card in order to celebrate the security of its physical form while also making it more useful and meaningful to patients?

In addition, is there an opportunity to give patients a stronger sense of empowerment and control in the navigation of their health care by providing useful information targeted at them, in addition to providers?

Although having a physical manifestation of your health care through the card was important, we didn’t want to ignore the opportunity for depth of information that digital solutions can provide. So we came up with a design concept that bridges the gap between analog and digital to create a more meaningful health care experience.

Patients come first

The card, now a simple, clean object designed to be cherished and feel personal to you, only contains the information that matters to you most (i.e. your name and health insurance number). To enhance the significance of the card within the wallet, we subtly altered its form to make it feel more comforting and stand out from the other cards. The card would also come in a range of more durable materials that the user picks when joining the insurance plan, making it feel even more tailored and personal.

Behind the card, though, you find a door to a deeper digital experience.

We envision an app designed with patients in mind to help make navigating health insurance and health care easier for them, and to make their information more accessible, whether they’re at home or on-the-go. As you put the card next to your phone, it unlocks detailed information about your health and your insurance (such as information about the places near you where care is covered, or more info on your policy, co-pays, deductibles, etc.).

In the doctor’s office, it becomes a tool to share information around your health history. By simply placing the card on the “basic” side of the card reader, your payment information is instantly transferred to the clinic to enable more efficient and error-free processing. No more manual inputs, which leads to costly errors.

The card also acts as a medium to have more of a dialogue about your care with your physician, which creates a stronger sense of engagement. When placed on the “full” access side of the reader, the card provides more detailed information to the doctor, which can be shared on a large screen to foster a more open dialogue about your health and promote better engagement in our care.

Vision for tomorrow

As we strive toward creating more integrated solutions, we believe that the health card should play an important role. Its emotional significance makes it a key touchpoint in someone’s care. And in today’s connected world, it has the potential to deliver a lot more value to patients, payers, and providers.

While it may be some years before we see a solution as seamless as what we have proposed here, incremental changes, such as the card redesign itself, can be rolled out today to deliver more meaning to patients and serve as an important step toward a more seamless health care system experience.

This concept was profiled in Fast Company. Designs and images courtesy of Smart Design’s Russell Blanchard, Director, and Maya Lee, Senior Communication Designer.