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“How do we design consumer health technologies to empower people to make positive behavior changes?”

Designs for Healthy Living

A medical doctor by training, Professor Yunan Chen’s current research focus is consumer health technologies, which often fall short of delivering promised health benefits. “We have found that a lot of these technologies lead to negative consequences, because people feel overwhelmed or burdened,” she says. As people track, input and analyze a growing number of indicators for everything from diet control to chronic disease management, technology aimed at improving people’s health can lead to undue stress. “I want to design technologies that result in positive outcomes, both emotionally and physically.”

Striking the Right Balance

In tackling this challenge, Professor Chen is studying everything from online communities and physician rating sites to self-tracking devices. “The goal is to think about people’s real needs,” she says. She also wants to understand people’s concerns about the use of their “patient-generated” data. Drawing on knowledge from her research into human-computer interaction and computer-supported cooperative work, she aims to balance a variety of concerns, such as transparency and engagement versus information overload and burnout. “How do we gain people’s trust,” she asks, “without giving them too much information?” To answer this and many other questions, she is building various prototypes.

Trustworthy and User-Friendly

One recent focus area for Professor Chen is women’s health, including fertility tracking, pregnancy care and support for new mothers. For example, she and her team have designed an app for fertility tracking that has different modules. “We want to see which one users prefer, so we built different versions of the prototype,” she says. The goal is to use their findings to create a general framework for building technologies that help users better manage their health. By designing more trustworthy and user-friendly systems, she aims to seamlessly integrate personal health tracking into people’s everyday lives for improved outcomes.


Ph.D., Information Science, Drexel University, 2008

Bachelor of Medicine, China Medical University, 2003


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