Professional Development

The recipe for providing an empathetic consumer experience

How one local company is humanizing health care

By Nate Garvis and Tom Wiese

Greg Heinemann has been at the helm of many brand-building businesses, collecting titles such as senior vice president, founder and investor. His newest venture is changing the health care landscape and he’s doing so right here in our backyard. Adrenaline Health has tasked itself with injecting humanity into the consumer health care experience that so desperately needs a personal touch. Rooted in serving the empathetic needs of users — the backbone of the ideation phase of any idea, product or service — Adrenaline Health is focused on improving the way we consume health care.
A veteran member of Studio/E, Greg attributes our program as the catalyst to his and fellow member Brian Cooper’s launching of Adrenaline Health (we’re blushing!). Over a breakfast we learned Greg’s recipe for creating a human consumer experience seeping with empathy for the user. And given his 30-year track record of building successful brands, we think his newest enterprise will be exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Studio/E: What does it mean to humanize?
Humanizing is a recipe of genuine empathy + reducing fear + enhancing simplicity + inspiring people to do the right things for themselves.

Studio/E: Why here?
It’s a natural for us to be in Minnesota because it’s a great place for innovation and inventiveness around health, wellness and medicine. It’s full of progressive employers who do a good job thinking about contemporizing the care of their employees. We think Minnesota is one of, if not the best, places to be in the United States for what we’re doing.

Studio/E: What’s the problem in health care right now?
As good as a doctor or caregiver may be, if they lack humanity or empathy, people will opt out, change physicians. If someone is treated the wrong way while trying to resolve a claim on the phone or when arriving at the clinic, they’ll leave. These are opportunities for a more humane, kind approach — especially when someone is sick.

Studio/E: How do you leverage a more humane approach in such a stringent field?
There’s no industry where empathy needs to come into play more than in health care delivery. You need to bake in this strong empathetic ingredient, yet there’s a gap between the absolute sincere degree of empathy that has to exist in health care and the actual experience. How do you narrow the gap between empathy and the construct of the experience? How do you take fear off the table and create an environment of empowerment, optimism and confidence? That’s what we’re figuring out.

Studio/E: How is Adrenaline Health meeting a need instead of repackaging current solutions?
If you polled 100 people, most folks on both sides of the equation would say the current consumer experience in health care is not where it needs to be. And yet we aren’t aware of anyone else out there humanizing health care by focusing on the non-cost side of making the experience better.

Studio/E: How do you know what consumers need?
We observe, create diaries, interview patients, providers and clinicians, and map out the current experience. We create an actual map of the experience — deconstruct the entire process from the time a consumer contacts a clinic to the time they arrive. We look at clinical data, claims and analytics, pull out what’s relevant and examine the findings. It’s like a bouillabaisse. You put it all in the pot, stir it up, remove the bad stuff and you get a great fish stew. That’s the idea.

Studio/E: How will humanizing health care drive revenue?
You’ll solve a lot of problems by improving the overall experience. It’s like this in every other industry: You don’t buy a bad product, because there are alternatives. If you’re mistreated when you’re in a store, you probably won’t go back. If you make it better on the humanity and experience sides, the money will come along with it. 

Studio/E: How can brands identify their consumers’ real needs?
Analyze nuggets of data and information that reveal truths, guide decisions and refine direction. Here are three ways to do it:
1. Field primary research to learn how a potential customer may feel about the concept or offering. This can come in the form of qualitative (focus groups, interviews, diaries) or quantitative (data and analytic information) research.
2. There’s typically a ton of data available via publicly accessible resources — databases, published content, industry-specific information — that you can access to get smarter on customers, market dynamics and trends.
3. Leverage any existing data a client may have, analyze it and turn that information into knowledge.

Greg and his team at Adrenaline Health just may change the health care experience as we know it, and it’s thanks to their skill of identifying the empathetic needs of health care consumers and finding ways to meet them.


Nate Garvis and Tom Wiese are founding partners of Studio/E. They are both Senior Fellows at the Lewis Institute’s Social Innovation Lab at Babson College, as well as co-owners of Earn Influence, a consulting firm that helps its cool clients profitably travel into the unknown with clarity and confidence.