Case Study: Health Innovation Hackathon Winning Project
ExperifyHealth is a digital platform that helps patients in a care facility (i.e., hospital, nursing home, etc.) who too often experience profound loneliness, connect with other patients of similar interests for social activities. The platform was initially conceptualized at the Ottawa Hacking Health weekend event.
The hackathon was an incredible learning opportunity to collaborate with a doctor, business developer, and front-end developer, each with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. It was also an exciting challenge to create a product from nothing within a weekend. With such a short amount of time efficiency is of the essence.
What I brought to the project right away with my UX and Cognitive research background was a focussed ideation approach to turn a large amount of gathered user information and a broad range of team member ideas into a fleshed-out user experience. Strong ideation capabilities pay dividends not just in terms of product quality but efficiency as well. It allows pinpointed efforts on what will have the greatest impact on the end-user result and directs team members on how to use their skill set and time most effectively in developing a new product.
Understanding The Problem
We started working on the project by discussing the issue of social isolation in the healthcare system. The doctor described one instance where he unsuccessfully tried to find activities or discussion groups for a profoundly lonely elderly patient that was interested in economics. This experience motivated the doctor to bring the idea to the hackathon of creating a digital service that connected patients together based on mutual interests.
In addition to the doctor’s experience, I did some online article research and spoke to patient advocates that attended the event to learn more about the potential users of the digital product that we were creating and the environment that the product would be used.
In summary, this is what we learned:
- Patients range across all ages and ethnicities, however, the majority of patients in the medical system are elderly.
- Patients frequently have physical and cognitive disabilities. What is also overlooked is the alarmingly high rate of depression and anxiety in patients that need extended care.
- Hospital staff are generally already overwhelmed with their medical responsibilities and do not have much time to socially visit the patients or to host extracurricular activities even though they would love to.
From this information I helped the group create personas of the target users.
Product Vision and Solution
The doctor and the rest of the team had a lot of ideas for features which was great. The team members had a hard time seeing how these ideas could become a digital platform. Clients and product teams often can get caught up in bouncing around various features not getting closer to a cohesive user experience in what is often referred to as “featuritis”.
To break out of “featuritis” I posed this question to the team:
“You just introduced the patient to the product. What are you showing them? How would you imagine them initially interacting with the product?”
I like this question as it is a straightforward way to get teams to start thinking more specifically about user scenarios and the task flow for using the product. The business developer and I also emphasized favouring simple over complex solutions and defining how our product will differ from current possible solutions to solve user problems. What the team agreed on for product goals was “being easy to use for patients and the elderly” and “prioritizing quality social connections over substanceless social media connections.”
The team now found it easier to prioritize features over others that would have the greatest benefit for the users. We were making remarkable progress laying out the digital service, prioritizing a simple mobile interface that suggests social activities for patients to attend at the facility based on their interests and simplifying the tasks for healthcare workers to help patients be socially active.
Refining the “Vision” to a Workable Solution
Learning about the user never ends. I asked additional questions of the doctor on the day-to-day activities of patients and staff to layout design parameters. With my background in general software structures and AI knowledge, I was able to advise on how software automation could be applied in combination with UX design to achieve the product goals that we laid out.
My role now is to help the team further refine the ideas in order to make a prototype. During the team discussion, I asked additional clarification questions on terms the team used to describe the product functionality and offer product working definitions so we all can be on the same page.
I then did a high-level user journey and task analysis of the current product use cases to spot out user potential pain points. For the pain points, I drew screenshots of ways to resolve those issues.
The developer and I drafted the final wireframe on a whiteboard we found. We now were able to work on the final prototype that we presented to the judges at the end.
UX Design Guidelines
These are the design guidelines that I listed out with the team’s consensus to be used for creating the final design.
- Large fonts, buttons
- High contrast colour for visual support
- Considerable spacing
- Minimum text input
- Limited complexity
- Minimized number of steps for patients
- Minimum animations
We were able to present a fleshed-out product concept that the judges saw strong viability for the digital service we pitched and awarded our team with the prizes CHEO Pilot Opportunity and AGEWELL Showcase winner.
A major lesson I have taken away from this hackathon was how ideation strategies help you effectively communicate with your team and offer a clear sense of direction when the task at hand can seem overwhelming.
“I really enjoyed working with such a talented team. Our team’s collaborative ability to combine our different skill-sets and knowledge really made the project strong. Being able to make a user-centric focused working prototype within a weekend was a valuable experience.”
Judy Chang, Front-end Developer