Design for Money and Health

If great design can improve smart financial decision, surely it can do the same in healthcare. Jon Stein wrote a great article on how our irrational selves can be reigned in with constraints, safeguards, and a few tricks.

We all know people aren’t saving enough money for retirement and I’d argue that American’s are doing just as little to live a healthy retirement. Realistically (and sadly), we may not even have to worry about a huge chunk of our population’s financial well being in retirement – they won’t make it there. Richard Thaler, a leading behavioral economist, commented that fear and anxiety have taken over our mindset when it comes to investing and saving. 

How can we reduce psychological resistance to healthy living? You’d do it the same way we’re trying to make it easier for people to save.

  1. Reduce Choices: break the paradox of choice and make the focus clear. Remember the old video projectors? No? I grew up in the family of a photographer, so remember the impossibility of feeding the film through the projector. If you didn’t have a technician on hand you may as well forget about watching the movie. This was easily solved for by VCR tapes. All of the complication in feeding the film became the responsibility of engineers. There was one way to put the tape in the VCR – one easy choice.
  2. Make options understandable: make relevant info consumable even when you’re in a hurry.
  3. Make it automatic: you’re much more likely to save when your financial institution does it for you. People are good at recognizing the long term needs of their future self and studies prove that humans are terrible at saving money today. Save more tomorrow? Yes! Today, I’m going to Starbucks.
  4. Provide instant feedback: how does a slight change in behavior improve or worsen the results? People want to know so make it easy to get this info as soon as possible to the behavior in question. Consider the hybrid car with the on screen feedback loop – tests prove that people watch their acceleration when the MPGs are right in their face.

Now we just need to find the rights tools that encompass all four design traits – got any ideas?