Health+ Human-Centered Design

Health+™, pronounced “health plus,” is a human-centered design and research model sponsored by HHS to co-create solutions with—not for—people impacted by the most pressing healthcare challenges. The Health+ model positions people as active participants—experts in their own life challenges—listening and learning from their lived experiences, to uncover their needs and understand their challenges.

The HHS team recently completed the first-ever Health+ effort to better understand Long COVID. The Health+ Long COVID cycle places the people and communities impacted by this complex condition at the center of a human-centered, problem-solving process to co-create solutions with HHS. By listening and learning from patients experiencing Long COVID and associated conditions, caregivers, frontline workers, and those with lived experience, we will accelerate understanding and breakthroughs together. Most importantly, the Health+ Long COVID cycle will generate insights with actionable opportunity areas to improve the quality of care and life.

Previously, HHS applied these human-centered design methods for sickle cell disease and Lyme and tick-borne disease. The Health+ model works best when applied to complex, multi-systemic, multi-disciplinary challenges with diverse stakeholder communities.

What is Health+ and how does it work?

Health+ is a series of ongoing research and rapid prototyping cycles applied to specific, high-impact health issues. Each cycle begins with involving the people and communities affected and placing them at the center of the problem-solving process and solution: putting people first by conducting desk research, interviews, focus groups, and listening to the challenges they face. Using human-centered design and research methodologies—desk research, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and validation workshops—diverse stories and lived experiences from the people and communities impacted are uncovered. With additional input from a diverse group of stakeholders, common themes are identified that intersect with federal government levers of influence and are framed into opportunity areas. The cycle culminates in a “Healthathon,” a health-focused innovation sprint with roots in hackathon culture to rapidly prototype and deliver solutions with the community.

Phases in the Health+ Cycle
Human-centered design begins with discovery and research followed by concept exploration. By designing the right thing and designing things right, human-centered design delivers validated results.


The first phase in the Health+ cycle is the process of developing a deep understanding from a diverse group of critical stakeholders, including patients, patient-advocates, clinicians, executive leadership, intra-agency partnerships, and others. Human-centered design methods such as interviews, listening sessions, and workshops are used to meaningfully engage the people and communities impacted and build trust.


The insights from the Health+ Discover phase shape the archetypes (a distillation of discovery insights meant to describe a person’s needs, goals, pain points, and habits), journey maps (a visual representation of a person’s complex journey), and stakeholder-informed, and prioritized, opportunity areas. These discoveries are then examined in a roundtable event with the diverse group of critical stakeholders (either in-person or virtual). The roundtable accelerates the identification and implementation of innovative, data-driven solutions, enabling product teams to execute different strategies during the Ideate and Deliver phases.


This phase includes convening individuals for a “Healthathon” event. Healthathons—health-focused innovation sprints with hackathon roots—bring together patient, medical, and stakeholder groups to produce community-led solutions. They enable participants to move quickly from idea to prototype to accelerate innovation that meets the needs of people.


To scale Healthathon prototypes and solutions, using its levers of influence and leveraging the Health+ framed opportunity areas, HHS socializes the Health+ deliverables and results with the aim of removing stakeholder silos across sectors, and connecting stakeholders to new networks, funding opportunities, and other professional resources.

HHS sponsored Health+ cycles include:

Sickle Cell Disease

Identifying technology solutions to help Americans living with sickle cell disease

Clinical Response through Emerging Technology (CRET)

Near-real time updates for clinicians in response to natural and manmade

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH)
Content last reviewed