“The language on the website is ambiguous," explains a small business owner in her late 30s.

“It’s really hard to find specific plan info," notes a dental hygienist in her late 20s.


“Nothing is useful on the site except finding the customer service phone number!" exclaims a firefighter in his early 40s.

It's 8pm on a Friday night and I'm conducting guerilla user research on health insurance at a local bar. As I talk to subscribers affiliated with different local and national health insurance carriers, a common theme emerges...Users are struggling to understand their plans, and companies are largely failing to rectify the issue.

In the highly competitive insurance industry, where there are myriad carrier and plan options, how does a company differentiate itself? In addition to providing quality care, how can insurers support their users, while also keeping costs and prices down? 

Human-centered, digital products and services are one potential answer.


Working in partnership with 3 graduate students, I designed a UI solution for an archetypal health insurance company. An amalgamation of several national insurers, ACME Health desired a mobile solution that would increase customer satisfaction, while meeting the company’s most pressing short- and long-term goals. These include providing users with better self-service, reducing customer support center calls, and growing both the company’s young (ages 25-44) and self-paid member bases.**

With this in mind, our team entered into a month-long user-centered research and design sprint. We defined key business and user requirements, conducted competitive analyses and user research, and engaged in sketching, wireframing, prototyping, and frequent iteration.


The end result: a medium-fidelity, mobile app prototype that met the aforementioned business goals, while differentiating ACME Health from real world competitors such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, AETNA, Tufts Health Plan, and Harvard Pilgrim by providing users with a superior mobile experience.

View the prototype.

*Based on market research conducted at the time of the study (November 2015).

**Business goals based on those of several national health insurance companies.


  • Spearheaded ideation phase 

  • Conceptualized and designed "Ask ACME" feature

  • Co-designed "Care Finder"

  • Designed navigation bar

  • Co-wrote final report


  • Understanding the problem space

  • Defining key business and user requirements

  • Conducting competitive analyses

  • Conducting (guerilla) user research

  • Conducting usability testing

  • Sketching and wireframing on paper

  • Wireframing in Balsamiq

  • Generating a functional mobile app prototype, compatible with iOS devices

Want more detail? Read on...


The ACME Health UI solution will reduce the overwhelming complexity of the typical health insurance experience. The UI will behave as a friendly companion that makes it easy to find and understand plan information, with a specific focus on such on-the-go tasks as:

●  finding affordable, covered care options nearby,

●  checking insurance balances (e.g. deductibles),

●  viewing action items and notifications (e.g. referral statuses),

●  confirming coverage for services or medical supplies, and

●  understanding health insurance plans and terminology (e.g. coinsurance)

The UI will show users that the majority of their health insurance inquiries can be answered without calling customer service. It will also build members’ trust and confidence, providing them with useful and reliable plan information, all of which is catered to the mobile experience.


Week 1: Discovery - First, we defined business and user requirements, assessed the market, analyzed current research, and conducted guerilla interviews. This foundational work helped to inform our persona and initial designs.

Week 2: Initial Design - Next, we brainstormed a unique mobile solution that would improve the health insurance experience for users, as well as meet the business goal of reducing call volume. After two design iterations, the team tested the design with users, analyzed findings, and prioritized revisions for the next phase.

Weeks 3 & 4: Refinement and Presentation - Finally, we revised the prototype, per user feedback, and refined data points, messaging, interactions, iconography, and navigation to be as clear, intuitive, and efficient as possible. We reported our process, findings, rationale, assumptions, and future explorations to a principal user researcher at a design consultancy specializing in healthcare, as well as 20+ UX designers/researchers.

Improving the UX of Health Insurance

Designing a UI that helps subscribers better understand and utilize their health insurance plan

ACME Health: Onboarding screen
ACME Health: Main Menu
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Ask ACME Tool
ACME Health: Your Account
ACME Health: Your Account
ACME Health: Your Account
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder
ACME Health: Care Finder

Design process visualization created by teammate Amos Berger.


Before choosing a direction, we assessed the health insurance digital marketplace to identify which problems had already been solved, and if there were opportunities to outperform the competition.


We audited native apps and websites for several national and regional health insurance companies, as well as WebMD, one of the largest sources for online health advice and guidance. We analyzed their relevant strengths and weaknesses in an attempt to identify opportunities to differentiate our product from that of our competitors.


Based on market and field research with health insurance subscribers, we identified key areas to better ensure our success with this project:


●      Appealing design: Is the design clean and aesthetically pleasing, evoking feelings of credibility and trustworthiness

        upon first glance?

●      Clear, friendly language: Does the app make terminology and processes easy to understand? Does it have a warm,

         friendly tone to ease anxiety?

●      Informative/Builds Confidence: Does the app answer questions about coverage in a simple, direct manner? Does it

        offer users guidance through decisions, or build confidence in the value or dependability of their plan?

●      Personal and Relevant: Does the app surface information specific to an individual member’s plan, activity, or

        history? Does it connect with users on a personal level?

      Easy provider search: How easy is it to search for and find a provider that is covered by your plan?

●      Member activity or medical history: Are medical records or account history easily accessible with the app? Is it easy

         to track payments, deductibles, or copays?

●      Access to customer support: Is there chat or contact functionality with the app?

●      Integrates device hardware: Does the app leverage the device’s hardware capabilities, including the GPS, camera,

        and voice command features?

Table 1: Comparison of existing health insurance apps and websites

Table 2: Harvey Ball ideogram qualitative comparison of health insurance apps and websites

ACME App Competitive Advantages

●  Guides the user step-by-step. The app takes the burden off the on-the-go user by helping them proceed through tasks easily. Each screen focuses on a single step in the process, using progressive disclosure to deliver the right information at the right time at each decision point.

●  Helps the user feel in control. The app uses big data to serve up comprehensive, accurate care options that members can trust. Common protocols, cost estimates, and patient reviews combine with the user’s current medical situation, location, prior history, and insurance plan benefits to surface relevant information quickly. The app helps users understand what care options are available and what the approximate cost, time, quality and wait time will be in a simple, easy-to-use format. As a result, users can take control and make more confident decisions knowing they have considered the most suitable options for their situation, all without calling the insurance company.

●  Reduces ambiguity. The app helps members understand complex health care terminology, enabling them to better utilize their plan and react to medical situations. A user can scan or speak a term or code using the camera or on-board microphone to easily access definitions, costs, and plan information. This will help to reduce the ambiguity prevalent in the health care experience.

●  Makes on-the-go access to information fast and easy. The app leverages device hardware (e.g. microphone, camera, GPS sensors, access to other apps like calendars and contacts, etc.) to get users answers to questions quickly and easily. Depending on their context, users can choose to enter private information via keyboard, or ask questions aloud via voice assistant technology. Both will enable them to retrieve relevant health insurance information quickly and easily. The app's main navigation bar is at the bottom of the screen, allowing for easy, one thumb access to the app’s most important features.