Amy Heymans: Innovative Design Inspired by Empathy

Amy Heymans: Innovative Design Inspired by Empathy

The ‘care’ in ‘healthcare’ symbolizes the significance of ‘care and empathy’ in the everevolving healthcare sector. The inclusion of “care” as part of our health process has become an essential element of the changing healthcare ecosystem. Meet Amy Heymans, Founder & Chief Experience Officer at Mad*Pow. Because of her background in design, Amy understands the importance of empathy in the design process. She believes that design, along with bit of care, can help improve the human condition. Under her guidance, Mad*Pow has achieved many milestones in helping improve the healthcare ecosystem.

Below is her story: 

Amy pursued a career in design because it requires a keen eye to look at things from a different perspective and find new ways to solve problems. Her expertise in web design, experience design and research helped her identify people’s needs and then use design to meet those needs. After working as a freelancer, Amy teamed up in 2000 with business partner Will Powley to start Mad*Pow. The company focused on making digital solutions more useful, usable, and desirable. Eventually, Mad*Pow extended its focus into innovation, service design, and behavior change design, which Amy believes is the next frontier in design.

As Mad*Pow grew its client base, Amy developed a passion for using design to improve health experiences and had a desire to build a community around that passion. Amy’s passion motivated her to start the Health Experience Design (HXD) conference 10 years ago, then create the Center for Health Experience Design (CHXD) three years ago. Both the HXD conference and the Center draw participants from industries across the health ecosystem to share resources and collaborate on patient experience problems. Recently, Mad*Pow was acquired by Tech Mahindra, boosting the company’s ability to not just envision amazing experiences, but also bring them to life in a completely holistic way for its clients.

Amy was inspired to pursue a career in design because she knew she could help improve lives on a large scale. Under her guidance, Mad*Pow worked across a variety of industries, but some experiences with early clients inspired Amy to put a larger focus on health and health care. As a result, Amy established a health practice, working with organizations across the ecosystem–from health tech, pharma, nonprofits, government agencies, retail, providers, and payers. “The community in health is so rich and diverse,” Amy says. She is inspired by the amount of empathy in this industry, and the shared purpose of driving toward better health and improved quality of life.

Mad*Pow leverages strategic design and positive motivation to create innovative experiences and digital solutions that are good for people as well as for business. The company aligns business strategy with experience strategy by creating a path that puts empathy and the understanding of human behavior at the core of its clients’ operations. Human-centered design activities help the Mad*Pow team identify what motivates people, what they desire, and what should happen next as they interact with clients, their customers and other organizations. These insights fuel creative approaches that allow Mad*Pow to collectively envision new and exciting experiences. It leverages an in-depth understanding of behavior science to create products and services that help people achieve greater health and wellness. Mad*Pow identifies target behaviors for change, uncovers their underlying modifiable determinants, and draws on techniques best suited to shift behaviors into new patterns. It also designs and builds scalable, usable, and accessible digital solutions that deliver seamless and compelling experiences while producing measurable business results for clients.

Mad*Pow brought empathy and patient centricity into the health care industry ethos before it was in the limelight. Now, 10 years later, empathy and patient centric-solutions are well known and embraced by the design and health communities. Amy founded the Health Experience Design (HXD) conference 10 years ago because there was an unmet need to bring the health and design communities together to share experiences and collaborate on solutions. The success of the HXD conferences spawned the Center for Health Experience Design (CHXD), a free online community where users can share information, continue learning and foster collaboration year-round. Amy has been able to create multi-stakeholder collaborations among organizations that are serving the same types of patients. For example, CHXD was able to connect government and non-profit organization with companies that want to collaborate on better solutions to address tough challenges.

Amy believes, through empathy and collaboration, one can easily prevail in the intensely competitive health care sector. In business, and when it comes to delivering care, experiencing the same pain point again and again can feel defeating, like the problem is unsolvable. Amy’s goal as a leader is to see a problem from all sides, to inspire empathy in others, and to paint a picture of what is possible.

Amy believes that business leaders need to involve all stakeholders who will be affected by a solution in the process of creating it. Businesses need to consider personal perspectives – the patient, doctors, caregivers, and families. Companies should not assume they know what’s valuable to the end-user, even if they are or were a practicing doctor or patient. In fact, that’s a handicap because they will automatically assume that their target audience thinks as they do. When business leaders engage with doctors and patients on a continuous basis, the solutions will become clear. They will come to understand what motivates people, how the solution fits in their ecosystem, how it can connect with existing resources, how data should flow in and out, and with which entities they need to cooperate.

As volatile changes in technology can be witnessed daily, Amy prefers to set goals and keep pursuing them. She knows that reaching these goals is going to take time. Her stubbornness can be a positive thing, because it makes her diligent and helps her persevere to meet her goals; it drives her success. She reminds herself to consider, what does she really need? What does she want? She works hard to keep learning about herself and the business by reading and staying current on industry trends and standards. She is not afraid to create the resources she needs to succeed, even when they don’t exist yet, e.g., the CHXD, Mad*Pow’s Financial Experience Design (FXD) or HXD conferences.

Amy states that the next evolution of health care is blending behavior science, motivational psychology, and public health frameworks with human-centered design, data science, and technology. And the beauty of human-centered design is that it’s interdisciplinary. Mad*Pow will continue exploring new frameworks to pull all the parts together in a way that will create the most impact for its clients. Yet, Amy still believes that Mad*Pow has some work to do to push things forward.

Partnership with UC Berkeley School of Public Health 

Amy is proud, under Mad*Pow’s banner, to stimulate innovation industry wide by bringing together multistakeholder collaborations to address important challenges. For example, in 2018, Commonwealth wanted to better support lower-income employees who enroll in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), so they set out to run a design and innovation challenge in partnership with Mad*Pow’s CHXD to grow awareness of this problem space and crowdsource novel solutions.

A team of students from U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Health Technology won the top prize for their app called the “Plan Picker.” Plan Picker lets employees complete a questionnaire about medical use, financial assets, and risk tolerance; this information directs employees to the plan that best fits their health and financial needs, and even screens users for Medicaid eligibility. Post-enrollment support features within the app include educational videos, a deductible calculator, a prescription drug price checker, and a doctor visit copay estimator. “This kind of collaboration is the future of the health industry, and Mad*Pow takes pride in facilitating that collaboration,” says Amy.