All posts by carlos

Beyond UX: How To Tap Customer Desire For Better Health IT Solutions

User experience research is really important in healthcare. You need those insights to optimize the user experience and make your technology as good as it can be. But how do you know what desires and expectations users/customers bring into the experience? And how do you go deeper and identify what will bring real value to users/customers?


As you know, user experience research in health IT typically focuses on likes and dislikes and problems and opportunities with the interface, which makes sense. After all, the interface is what users use and what feeds workflows. For some technologies, user experience research also includes how providers, patients, and the device all interact.

To understand value, it’s important to go beyond assessing how users/customers interact with the interface and beyond other aspects of the use case.

Before Use

Let’s start with what is involved with users becoming users; that is, how they get to the interaction and experience. This requires understanding and tapping into their desires and expectations.

Consider: Are users coming to the experience by choice? Are they wanting to accomplish what your technology accomplishes? Are they required to use your solution? What are their expectations? What are their desires? How does using your solution fit into the bigger picture of their workflow and priorities?

These attitudinal precursors to use can dramatically affect the user experience. Decades of research show know how powerfully expectations shape experience. So be sure you know the answers before you test usability and the user experience. Do the research to get answers to these questions. A quick and dirty approach is to talk with users just prior to using your software or technology. Alternatively, you can bring them into a focus group facility, and with appropriate props, have them imagine they’ll be using your technology and find out what’s going through their minds and hearts. Just be sure to ask the right questions and without bias.

Observing Value

Another great complement to user experience research within is in-situ/ethnographic research at clinical practices to understand what will truly bring value to healthcare workflows within a broader context than your technology.

Watch at first. Just watch. Then ask questions to understand. Really focus on understanding problems, not coming up with solutions (yet!).

Ask them what they’re thinking as their waiting for data to be processed or for the next prompt. Identify what matters to them emotionally and pragmatically. Doing so will give you tremendous insight into what they desire and value, which in turn will affect what solutions you make and what user experiences you offer to help them fulfill their desires and get done what they need to get done.

This kind of deep observational research reveals what aspects of their workflow providers and administrators find most frustrating, what wastes the most time, what desires are unfulfilled, and ultimately what interferes with better patient care.

As my friend and mentor Don Norman, a noted author and leading Design Thinker summarizes: Observe/Think/Make. This is the critical “observe” step. If it’s done with an eye toward understanding the broader context within which your technology may be used, it will provide you with far more valuable insights.

Do observational ethnographic research in clinical practices whenever you can. If access is a problem, find other ways to observe workflow. Create mock workstations or procedure rooms and invite administrators and clinicians in. Again, you can use focus groups as a place for crudely emulating workflow. As long as the setup puts users into the right mindspace, it can get you valuable insights.

Bottom line, going deeper to tap into customer desire and understand what motivates users and what will bring them real value will make your UX work far more gratifying and effective and lead to better Health IT solutions.

Connecting with Customers: The Value of Making A Mistake

He forgot the words to his own song.

Iron & Wine, a pop/R&B singer-songwriter was performing at an outdoor summer concert we were at recently. In the middle of his third song, he hesitated, mumbled a few words, laughed at himself, then got back on track with the lyrics. Meanwhile, the crowd roared with approval. What was that about?? Continue reading Connecting with Customers: The Value of Making A Mistake

Introducing Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing: A New Paradigm for Healthcare

How do we hunt down our target customers?
What market niches can we seriously exploit with our solutions?
What’s our plan of attack to capture these business partners?

Several med device clients asked me these kinds of questions over the last couple weeks as we were strategizing their business development plans and marketing efforts.

Exploiting, attacking, hunting down… I’ve been feeling disturbed for awhile at the predatory nature of the metaphors commonly used in business development. Not just because our clients posing these questions are in the humanitarian business of serving the healthcare industry and improving care. It’s mostly because this language promotes an adversarial relationship dynamic in which the business aims to overpower, dominate, and subdue its customers. The business “wins” when the customer submits.

I don’t mean to discount the value or need for warlike thinking – it has its place.  I appreciate the wisdom in Sun Tzu’s classic treatise The Art of War and have applied it in our work. However, even in in war it is not all about aggression or attacking, as evidenced by this seminal Sun Tzu quote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

Bottom line for business development, a violence-based paradigm is self-defeating. It perpetuates a negative mindset and wears people down. And mostly, it doesn’t genuinely meet customer needs or sustain customer relationships. I believe it also greatly reduces profitability over the long haul.

The alternative is what I am hereby dubbing “Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing” – greatly inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication process (more below).  It starts with righting our language, because our words reflect our thoughts and shape our actions.

Let’s try it by reframing the business development questions above into the Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing paradigm.

This: How do we hunt down our target customers?
Becomes: How do we find and make welcome our target customers?

This: What market niches can we seriously exploit with our solutions?
Becomes: What market niches can we seriously benefit with our solutions?

This: What’s our plan of attack to capture these business partners?
Becomes: What’s our plan of action to meet the needs of these business partners?

Do you feel different when you read the new versions — more optimistic, connected, energized? I do. Might the new way you feel change the decisions you make, actions you take and the way you interact with customers? Might you get better results? I hope so!

This is just the very beginning. Much work is needed to expand and apply this thinking. The good news we stand on tall shoulders – Marshall, MLK, Ghandi, to name a few – and we have a rich history of nonviolence to draw upon and apply to business, especially to marketing. We also can apply the work of leading business minds who promote infusing love (yes, love!) into business as the way to be more successful and profitable. I’m thinking of the practice of my friend and banking executive Neville Billimoria whose email signature is simply “Love Neville” as well as leadership guru Steve Farber’s Radical Leap books (FYI, the “L” in Leap is for Love). If you know of other work in this space, please let me know. This will be an ongoing collaborative effort.

May Nonviolent Marketing become an influential and positive paradigm shift in business. May it serve you, your company, and your customers well.

Note: Marshall Rosenberg created the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) process in the 1960s. It’s also referred to as Compassionate Communication because the core premise is about understanding, valuing, and meeting people’s basic human needs. NVC is far from a touchy-feely philosophy divorced from reality. Check out this video (showcased here on Upworthy) where Marshall is demonstrating how to apply NVC to very hostile situations including terrorism. I first learned about and applied NVC when dealing with communication and respect within my own family. I try to apply it at home and in my consulting work everyday.

“Wrong Reason” Marketing Wins Again!

What is “wrong reason” marketing? It’s when you the marketer flip the benefits you’re pitching from the right reasons to the far more effective wrong reasons.

Great example was highlighted in a recent UPWORTHY post with this striking headline:
When Their Sad Ads Stopped Working, One Animal Shelter Tried Out A New Idea. It Saved 5,000 Dogs. Continue reading “Wrong Reason” Marketing Wins Again!

Marketing “Be Good to Yourself” the Smoothie King Way!

I was craving a healthy snack after a day of meetings at CDC in Atlanta recently and happened upon Smoothie King, a new-to-me chain. Which is where I saw a sign with this Be Good to Yourself slogan.be_good_to_yourself
It was compelling, made an emotional connection, and tied to an important personal value. Who I can disagree with it?! Continue reading Marketing “Be Good to Yourself” the Smoothie King Way!

Baseball, Bobbleheads, & “Wrong Reason” Marketing

Why do people go to ballgames? To see great players, to support their team, for the love of the game, right? These are the “right” reasons.
Sometimes “wrong” reasons work better. Take Dodger fans. The Dodgers are barely playing above .500, not so good for the most expensive pro team on the planet. Yet they’re consistently winning in attendance. Continue reading Baseball, Bobbleheads, & “Wrong Reason” Marketing

Blast Off! Branding & NASA’s Area Code

Guess what part of the U.S. has the area code 321 (think countdown 3-2-1 liftoff!)? Yup, it’s the “Space Coast” in Florida where NASA launches take place. The story goes that a savvy citizen wanted to honor the space program by acquiring the uniquely appropriate area code of 321 (which had been designated for somewhere in Chicago).

This is very clever example of implementing a brand strategy that recognizes that everything about an organization- even its area code, speaks. And can be harnessed into an asset.

How can you extend your brand in clever and effective ways?