Q&A: American Specialty Health, Inc.

Sep 20, 2021

The UX & Product Design team at American Specialty Health creates experiences that empower 1 out of every 4 American adults to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. The team discusses the secret sauce powering their success: human-centered design.

Who are you?

We are an award-winning team of innovators crafting experiences that empower millions of Americans to live healthier lives.

We believe human-centered design is the key to helping people create healthy habits that lead to positive behavior change. Some of our services include musculoskeletal health, fitness networks, and goal-based programs for health plans, employers, and consumers.

We've been named among the “Best and Brightest” companies and “Top Workplaces” in San Diego for the last five years.

What is human-centered design?

It's typically described as having three phases: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. But let's set aside the buzz words for a moment. It all boils down to empathy. Human-centered design starts with getting to know people and understanding their needs. We talk to them. We listen to them. We ask a lot of questions. We share ideas. We build prototypes and test our assumptions. We do all these things before we even use the word "solution." We believe in this process because if people can't or won't use our products, then we're not supporting positive behavior change.

How can design help improve lives?

Design has the capacity to make a difference when it focuses on the user and their needs. Our pain management program, EmpoweredDecisions!, helped 76% of enrolled members reduce chronic back pain and experience clinically significant improvement in daily activities. Following a human-centered design process helped us identify and develop an effective combination of live coaching and educational tools that made a real difference in people's lives. As another example, through interviewing members we discovered the cost of gym membership led to many people putting off or altogether avoiding exercising. With this in mind, we designed our fitness products to help people access a network of affordable gyms, daily workout classes, home fitness kits, and other benefits that lower the barrier of entry to staying healthy.

What role does research play in the process?

Research is central to our process. Our team understands the value of understanding our customers. Yes, we're total research nerds 🤓 and we love getting to know our customers, but conducting switch interviews, creating behavioral archetypes, running participant-observation sessions, card sorting, etc. all help us hone in on the right problems to solve and how to solve them in the right way. When we focus on understanding customer problems instead of solutions, we build better products that deliver actual value to our customers. Research informs usability, information architecture, content hierarchy, voice and tone guidelines, design systems, and much, much more. It's safe to say we couldn't do our jobs without it.

How do you create positive behavior change?

People don't usually enjoy being forced to do things. Real, long-lasting behavior change comes from within. Gift cards and other extrinsic motivators only work for so long. That's why we focus on helping people do what they already want to do. Our products help empower our members to incorporate healthy habits into their lives through realistic, repeatable actions instead of trendy or fast fixes. We keep things simple and never talk down to anyone. We also provide trustworthy information without telling anyone what they have to do. In short, we're like a smart, caring friend instead of a demanding, pushy salesperson.

How are you involved in the San Diego design community?

We love San Diego and we're active members of our community. We support the bid for the San Diego-Tijuana region to become a World Design Capital and we promote projects that lead to sustainable urban policy and innovation. Members of our team help organize local design treks, work in residence at UCSD's Design Lab, and volunteer with organizations like Design for America to help address human rights issues impacting the San Diego community.

Are you hiring?

Glad you asked, learn more about us. We're always keeping an eye out for passionate people interested in building products that change lives! Check out our open positions.

More about American Specialty Health, Inc.

American Specialty Health, Inc. is among San Diego’s fastest-growing private companies. Our Wellness Technology provides benefits and programs to health plans and employer groups nationwide. ASH has more than 1400 employees nationwide and empowers 42 million members to live healthier and longer.