Paperwork is a pain, and largely becoming a thing of the past. With the passage (and upholding) of the Affordable Care Act, almost 40 million Americans are anticipated to go online for health care needs come January 2014. The California Health Care Foundation, along with a coalition of nine public and private organizations, enlisted Ideo to create an exchange—or online interface—that will simplify the intimidating, overwhelming, and labyrinthine process of exploring options and signing up.
As ever, Ideo applied its signature human-centered approach to Enroll UX 2014. The team talked to people on all sides of the federal poverty line to "establish empathy" for those who will be bringing their disparate backgrounds to the table. "Those at different points on the income spectrum have had different experiences because of what they’ve been eligible for," project leader Christian Palino tells Co.Design. "Going out into the world helped us to synthesize and develop our design principles." They looked at analogous models like the social security administration and financial services, but also more wide-ranging sites; yes, your future health-care exchange was partially informed by OKCupid and Match.com. "All of those deal with the same issues when people are going through a complex application enrollment process online," he says. Early sketches and prototypes were made and tested, taking into account the needs and input from a growing number of stakeholders.
The result actually represents a huge opportunity for states that extends beyond this particular bill. "This is the largest infrastructure change that they’ve had on the digital enrollment level in 35 years," Palino says. "A big part of the innovation is to develop a ‘federal hub,’ where ultimately, a consumer won’t have to enter in the same information for different organizations across the federal government." Benefits like food stamps and energy tax credits will all be linked, using this same database.
The federal government is also building its own exchange—this will be used by any state that chooses not to develop one, or any state which doesn’t meet the deadline to create its own—and its close work with Ideo means that it’s likely to share some of Enroll UX 2014’s key characteristics. "We’ve also had some states that have reached out to us and said, hey, we’re interested in leveraging what you’ve done," Palino says. "For us at Ideo, those materials are done and those deliverables are out in the world, but they’re a springboard in a way, to help the way forward."