Bringing teams together for the digital transformation of healthcare: the CVS Health Creative Jam

CVS Health virtual Creative Jam session in Collaboration with Adobe.

CVS Health's virtual Creative Jam session in collaboration with Adobe.

When it comes to the healthcare industry, it's crucial that providers put design at the center of everything they do — and for CVS Health, which encompasses CVS and health insurance provider Aetna, that starts with core design workflows and team organization. With many design teams scattered throughout the organization, alignment hasn't always been easy for the healthcare giant. To rapidly bring design teams into sync, the company ran a Creative Jam in collaboration with Adobe to accelerate its digital transformation.

In this article

  • How the Creative Jam broke down silos
  • A new workflow for the newly formed creative team
  • Solving complex problems with a human-centered approach

Since that Creative Jam, CVS Health’s design team has been in a state of evolution, prioritizing skill development and harmonizing communication along the way. Running an activity across both CVS Health and Aetna was a great catalyst for this — by bringing folks together, the company has created a single creative community, dubbed Heart Haus, within multiple departments in various locations.

“Our creative team is endlessly curious, and we need to always find ways to inspire but also educate,” explains Brett Gerstenblatt, vice president for brand experience, creativity, and design at CVS Health. “When we learned about the Creative Jams, it just felt like the right kind of activity to satiate that curiosity.”

Originally planned as an in-person event, the pandemic forced the Creative Jam online. “Even in the best of times, our team isn’t in one location,” Gerstenblatt points out. “So we explored how to bring everyone together and have a shared experience. As the Creative Jam evolved into an entirely remote event, it actually helped us maintain and build even deeper connections within the group.”

ResilienTree design concept by team We Be-Leaf, that won the CVS Health Creative Jam.

The winner of the Creative Jam, team We Be Leaf, came up with a project to help users prioritize their own mental and physical wellbeing.

How the Creative Jam broke down silos

In the end, 17 teams made up from 67 CVS Health and Aetna team members — creative directors, copywriters, strategists, account managers, and designers — participated in the competition. The challenge was to use Adobe XD to design a tool that inspired people to build resiliency during a transition by including a practice of small steps and/or daily actions. Almost half of the participants were brand new to Adobe XD.

This came at a very unique time in the company. As CVS Health’s three disparate creative teams from across the enterprise were about to merge, the Creative Jam provided the chance for them to demonstrate they could collaborate effectively.

“The event established relationships with people who didn’t know each other before,” Gerstenblatt recalls. “It gave us some runway to merge the teams, which is a big management project. As the Jam was a project that people were passionate about and that brought them together, not because they were forced but because they wanted to, showed what our future could look like.”

“The Creative Jam really broke down silos,” adds Colleen Kiselka, senior group manager, creative at CVS Health. “It was our first time being together, and so the event was almost like an icebreaker. And Adobe XD made the collaboration across all the teams possible. Everyone who was new to the tool and its workflow found it really easy and intuitive to understand.”

Mental wellness app concept by CVS Health Creative Jam runner-up, Nightly Nourish.

Runner-up Nightly Nourish was a concept app for new parents looking for advice and community.

A new workflow for the newly formed creative team

Since the Creative Jam, creative teams at CVS Health have successfully merged into an in-house agency called Heart Haus, which focuses on three practices: branding, ideation, and experience design. The reorganization has enabled the creatives to carry out more connected, consistent, and cohesive work.

“The Creative Jam really was a catalyst for where we are now,” Gerstenblatt believes. “It ensured that our experiences show up in a more consistent way for consumers and enabled us to elevate our creativity. Our team members continue to grow and learn.”

“We’re finding new opportunities that are similar to the Creative Jam. They reach across the enterprise and require us to build cross-functional teams and collaborate more, which we didn’t before. We also realized some redundant capabilities with the three teams and streamlined them.”

On the technology side, Heart Haus is increasingly working off a common tech stack, which includes Adobe XD and Adobe Workfront.

“We lean into these tools much more to really ensure that our new in-house creative team is both efficient and effective,” Gerstenblatt says. “The tools allow us to try new things, do it faster and carry out tests to optimize our experiences. There’s evidence that we’re delivering, in many cases even over-delivering, on the business results and becoming more sophisticated.”

Designers and writers, for example, now work much more closely together. “They can now collaborate in real time in Adobe XD,” Kiselka points out, “whereas previously, they just sent over a Word doc and didn’t view it at the same time.”

Workfront, meanwhile, enables the team to assign tasks and keep track of the project all within the app. “Previously, everything was in email and got lost,” Kiselka explains. “Workfront really streamlines the process and has tremendous benefits for time-tracking, too.”

The tool also enables the team to demonstrate proof of the challenges they encounter and uncover any patterns that can be avoided in the future.

Participants learn new design and prototyping skills in the CVS Health virtual Creative Jam session.

In the Creative Jam bootcamp participants learned new design and prototyping skills using Adobe XD.

Solving complex problems with a human-centered approach

Going forward, the new workflow will enable CVS Health to simplify experiences for users.

“It’s no secret that healthcare is really complicated,” Gerstenblatt explains. “Even getting seemingly simple things done, like making an appointment, can be time-consuming and frustrating. Healthcare UX, whether it’s physical or digital, can make the experience easier, more seamless, and more stress-free. We serve a hundred million people a year and need to create experiences that work both for somebody who’s digitally adept and someone who’s in their late 70s who isn’t used to using modern tools.”

Human-centered design and creativity have become strategic levers for CVS Health. They enable the enterprise to solve complex challenges by prototyping and co-creating experiences with consumers, patients, and members.

“We’ve seen more people embrace our design methods and tools over the last few years,” Gerstenblatt points out. “They now recognize that being consumer, people, or human-centered unlocks a lot of opportunities for us as a company. That’s a big mindset shift. Being truly consumer-centric and purpose-led is a magic combination.”