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How Solution Tuning Drives Life-Changing Innovation

Much of the work we do at WebMD Health Services involves a team of developers, quality assurance specialists and designers continuously innovating our offerings, including the Digital Health AssistantSM, our virtual health and wellness coach.

One of our most popular features is our virtual health coach that helps people form healthy habits and achieve better lives. It can work in tandem with our real-life Lifestyle 1st Coaches, but it also works well on its own.

 Why Solution Tuning?

Some of the most common questions we get are around solution tuning, the process we use to innovate virtual coaching and other features. Solution tuning is an industry best practice, which you may have heard referred to as “A/B testing,” “split testing,” or “multivariate testing.”

It involves presenting a small percentage of website users with a slightly different, but functionally equivalent, user experience than the majority of users. This allows us to statistically compare the performance of the two groups to see which variation produces better outcomes.

In a nutshell: It’s a data-driven approach to software innovation. We only roll out improvements that have already been proven to be effective.

This is a win-win-win:

  1. Clients provide their population with a tool that has been proven effective.
  2. Users receive a clinically backed tool that they can trust.
  3. WebMD Health Services creates software driven by data, not guesswork. All of us take a lot of pride in this!

 Solution Tuning in Action

We use solution tuning to make numerous changes to Digital Health Assistant, but here is a great example.

We have known for a long time that the most popular goal in Digital Health Assistant is Enjoy Exercise. But we had never shared that information with our users. Would people be even more likely to set an exercise goal if they know how popular it is?

Version A shows the previous goal-setting page. Version B shows the new, data-driven goal setting page.

We decided to find out.

Simply by adding an exercise icon with a “Most Popular” banner, enrollments in the exercise goal increased by an impressive 27%!

Exercise is now even more popular. Adding one little banner really can help thousands more people make progress toward a better life. Needless to say, this change was locked in for everyone.

Solution Tuning Works

A six-month study completed in August 2014 showed how people who set a goal in Digital Health Assistant lowered their BMI by .47, compared to a matched cohort of non-users who actually saw an increase in BMI. (The matched cohort comprised only people who had also indicated a desire and readiness to lose weight.)

2014 Digital Health Assistant Matched Cohort Study, WebMD Health Services

We also found that Digital Health Assistant helped people exercise more as well. Even those who didn’t actually meet their goals got more exercise than the matched cohort.

Digital Health Assistant is helping people make great changes (read more about the results of the study here), and the goal of solution tuning is to make it even more effective and help even more people.

People Are Taking Notice

Two weeks ago, Walgreens rolled out Your Digital Health Advisor, a virtual wellness-coaching program powered by our Digital Health Assistant, on Walgreens customers can set a goal, follow an action plan, and even earn Walgreens Balance® Rewards points for making progress toward quitting tobacco, losing weight, eating better, exercising, or managing stress. You can read more about the work WebMD is doing with Walgreens here.

This is why we do what we do.

For us, data-driven innovations are about helping people live better lives. WebMD’s collaboration with Walgreens will expand access to information and services that can help many more people achieve their health and wellness goals.

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