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Wellbeing, by Design

Chief Design Officer, `UnitedHealth Group

Today I start a new role as Chief Design Officer at UnitedHealth Group, working on the Optum Digital leadership team to bring a new level of simplicity, empathy and trust to healthcare. Here's why.

When I left Google 7 years ago to bring design leadership into the world of banking, many of my colleagues scratched their heads. Banking isn't particularly high on the list of industries that are known for design and tech innovation, but that is exactly why I was drawn to the space. Some designers are "settlers" who like the relative comfort of a creative design studio, where clients come seeking human-centered innovation. And there are others who are "pioneers", who are motivated by bringing the empathy and creativity of design into areas that desperately need it. You can probably guess that I'm motivated by pioneering design :).

It's not only the satisfaction that comes from bringing small moments of delight to interactions that are usually frustrating, nor just the feeling of accomplishment from showing how design amplifies tech and business plans; it's also the role that design can play to positively affect society at a wider scale. I've often wondered why the worlds of banking, healthcare and education seem the most in need of design-led innovation. My best theory is that these are humanity's most precious resources: our children's future, our health and our wealth. Because of their importance, these spaces have all been highly regulated, with the unintended consequence of calcifying iterative, human-centered innovation.

Our collective experience with the global pandemic has heightened our awareness of the importance of our connection with our health, healthcare systems, and communities. It sparked curiosity in me when I was asked to advise the Chief Digital Officer at Optum at how to go about setting up a Chief Design Office in a regulated industry. And it burst into an instant flame of excitement when I was asked if I'd consider moving beyond advice!

I've just come back to the US for the first time in years to get started with an amazing team at Optum and UnitedHealth Care, and had a chance to get over my UK jetlag on Labor Day. I wandered the empty Optum campus at sunset as I thought about the value of work. I thought about my parents having chosen UnitedHealth Care years ago for their insurance because of the great name and the decent premiums. I thought about how their future health is now partially my responsibility. I thought about how many more reasons we can give future customers to love us, and just feel better. 

This is the ultimate design problem to be solved: how to help people get better every day, and how to empower the entire ecosystem of clinicians, clients and colleagues in healthcare to align to this worthy goal. I've never been so excited to start a new role, and can't wait to foster wellbeing by design.


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