What’s the difference between a provider and a doctor? What about a co-pay and coinsurance? How much should you invest in your HSA each year? Given your medical history, how high should the deductible in your health plan be? If any of these questions trip you up, you’re not alone.

In fact, when it comes to navigating the healthcare system and learning about new health plan types, premium expenses, and available in-network providers, only 12% of American adults are proficient in health literacy. And with more and more health insurance companies offering high deductible health plans with a health savings account, having financial knowledge is even more critical than ever before. However, Forbes recently reported that two-thirds of Americans are unable to pass a basic financial literacy test. Yeesh! Sounds like a lot of calls to customer service, and we all know how pricey that can get.

Healthcare literacy is a common issue for patients.

So, where does that leave us? If the healthcare system continues to stay the same, then there’s not much hope for the consumer who’s trying to navigate it. Unless, we change how the healthcare system is delivered to them. And at Yaro, we’ve set out to do just that. By studying user data, we were able to find what they were searching for, how they were shopping for healthcare, and so much more. This helped us organize the information presented to them by what was most relevant to their needs. And along the way, we found ways to create a user experience that truly felt personal, while also improving overall healthcare literacy for the user. Here’s what we learned:

For starters, speak to users like they’re Craig or Lola at the BBQ

How can we expect the user to make a well-informed decision when we’re speaking to them in a different language? A patient doesn’t visit a provider for their yearly check-up, they go to the doctor. They don’t care how much money they’re responsible for, but rather how much they owe. While every industry has their set of unique terms, it would be more beneficial to speak to the patient in terms that they’re most familiar with.

Doctor and patient interaction.

For example, when you run into Craig from softball at the neighborhood BBQ and he’s complaining about his back, he’s not going to ask you what the out-of-pocket estimate for your chiropractor is. He really just wants to know, how much will it cost? Granted, both of those phrases mean the same thing, but when we speak to Craig using the latter, we’re creating a more personal and familiar interaction.

Get a baseline of their current knowledge

To get a baseline of our patient’s current level of knowledge, we started by asking them one simple question first. How much do you know?

Healthcare literacy quiz to user.
User with medium healthcare literacy in mobile app.
UX screen for healthcare literacy test

In the case of Lola, we want to provide her with options. We don’t want to make Lola feel dumb, because 1.) That’s rude and 2.) She’s not. Outside of healthcare, Lola is a dedicated runner, manages her own gluten-free bakery, and can eyeball how much plywood is needed for an intricate wall-hanging. When given the right tools, she can use her own critical thinking to make a decision that will serve her best. After gauging what her knowledge level is, we’ll not only be gathering useful data for insurance providers, but also adjusting her user experience to suit her needs.

Provide helpful tips along the way

How many times have you had to fill out paperwork with questions you didn’t even understand? Probably more than once. And when you don’t understand some of the words or terms in the question, you feel even less confident about your decision-making abilities. To understand how healthcare works, we could send a Powerpoint presentation or an eBook, because we know how much everyone loves those (said no one ever). Or, we could provide easy-to-understand definitions along the way.

Homescreen in Yaro healthcare mobile app.

The info bubbles next to the words or phrases serve as a cue to the user saying, “Hey, you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what this means!” Once tapped on, an info box appears with a short and sweet explanation.

Remember that we’re all human…and humans forget

In a perfect world, all medical practices would be paid on time. However, that’s just not the case. In fact, research has found that practices collect only 40 percent of outstanding balances – and that’s when the tab is $35 or less. When the patient’s debt tops $200, only 6 percent of such balances are collected. In some cases, the patient cannot afford to pay upfront when they have a high deductible health plan. But in other cases, patients just simply forget.

But with new technology, comes better ways to solve this problem. For example, we’ve all been at a restaurant where one person fronts the bill and everyone says, “I’ll cover you on the next one” or “I’ll pay you when I get home and have more cash on me.” And let’s be honest, that “IOU” is rarely fulfilled. It’s not because your friend is being cheap (well, usually not) but often because they forgot. But with the advent of Paypal, Zelle, and Venmo, it’s become increasingly easier to split costs and pay back friends and family. You don’t have to verbally bug them to pay up, just simply send a virtual “bill” and let the app do the follow-up requests.

Yaro healthcare mobile app otifications screen
Yaro healthcare mobile app payment request
Where patients can see their medical receipt.

By bringing that way of thinking into healthcare, we can help patients cross “Pay bill” off their list and help medical practices get paid on time. As soon as a claim is ready, they’ll be notified with an in-app notification or push notification. And by giving them a place to store their digital wallet, they can choose to pay from their debit or credit card or from their HSA, all in one click.

Explain financial well-being in real benefits to the user

Wikipedia defines HSA as, “A tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The funds contributed to an account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit.

Okay, cool. But what does that actually mean? And what’s going to make the user care? Because right now, 96 percent of HSA owners keep their accounts in cash which undercuts the growth potential of their HSA. This is where financial literacy really kicks in. One of the main reasons HSA owners aren’t investing is because they simply aren’t aware that they can or rather, what the benefits are. Before inviting the user to invest, we first provided them with a “crash course” on HSA. Then, we created a screen which showed users what their HSA balance was and how much they had available to invest.

Explanation of HSA advantages and investment tips
Health Savings Account investment screen.

By boiling down the information into key benefits and investment tips, the user now has the clarity they need to better guide their decisions. And by pulling their HSA balance into the investment section, we could show them how and where to invest.

The final takeaway

Users can have all the information laid out in front of them to make a decision. But if it’s not organized based on what’s relevant to their needs and translated into their language, it’s impossible for them to confidently make these important decisions. Through approachable language and a simplified hierarchy of information, we can turn a mobile healthcare experience into a casual interaction with a friend — trusting, informative, and above all, understandable.