Here’s the recipe for making a health-oriented consumer-facing health decision tool that gets traction: the secrets in the sauce that get health citizens to use self-care tools are trust, usability, and branding.

It also takes luck in timing and, by the way, helps to come from outside of the health industry.

For sustained success, the tools must reach a national audience and the developer should continue to invest in, innovate and market the tool.

That’s it. Now you can bake that health decision-support cake.

The Center for Advancing Health (CFAH) has done an important service in publishing the paper, Getting Tools Used: Lessons for Health Care from Successful Consumer Decision Aids. By diving deep into consumer-beloved shopping tools such as Consumer Reports Car Buying Guide, eBay, the FDA Nutrition Facts Panels, and US News & World Report Best Colleges guide, CFAH identifies what works best based on these well-embraced examples.

The project was funded and supported by the Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Health Care Foundation, and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: We are past the point of assuming that, If We Build It, Health Consumers Will Come. After years and dollars and blood-sweat-and-teary energy spent on health report card and quality projects, CFAH points out the critical success factors that can help achieve adoption by real people in the real-world markets.

It helps, they say, to be an ‘outsider.’ What does that mean? As in so many venues in health care market dysfunction these days, it means to get past the legacy systems and views of U.S. health care and learn from other industries. Be entertaining, engaging, user-centric. Like Gretzky, be where the puck is — that is, in the words of CFAH, “meet a ready audience.”
Note the wise inclusion of the FDA nutrition label, shown here. This template can provide tasty food-for-thought for developers of consumer-facing decision tools.