During Hack@Brown, I designed a web application called VoiceCare, a secure messaging system for Medicare providers to contact their patients. In implementing design, I emphasized the interface's functionality rather than incorporating flashy graphics, as to keep in mind the usability of the product as a portal for hundreds of patients.
Hack@Brown 2016 Finalist (one of 15 groups, out of 400 people), Winner (AppNexus) - 'Most Elegant Backend'
The Problem Obi, a medical student at Brown, noticed that many doctors are worried about a requirement set up by Medicare. The requirement is that a threshold of the provider's payments have to use a secure messaging platform in order for patient s to contact providers and log provider-patient communication. There is a big problem, however, with the existing system. Less than 17% of hospitals meet this requirement, "which hinders our nation’s ability to improve the quality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and access to care" says Carla Smith - Executive Vice President of Healthcare Information and Management Systems. The problem occurs because less than 5% of patients are actually using the current systems. This is because the current systems are outdated and difficult to use. In addition, some of the systems require the patient to download software and go through complicated steps just in order to contact the provider. Especially since Medicare patients are elderly, this greatly inhibits the use of the platforms. Some of the platforms use chat-based systems, but this is a difficult interface for patients with arthritis or with poor eyesight.
Our Solution VoiceCare is the secure messaging system that patients will actually use. This is because we are reinventing the way patients use the system. It is very simple for any patient - elderly or disabled - to use the platform. All they need to do is call the provider's number they have been assigned. They leave a message and that is it. No complicated software download. No cumbersome chat-based systems. The provider then can log into our web interface of VoiceCare and see a list of all the patients. The provider can hear all of the voice calls that the patients have left through the web interface. The web interface prioritizes voice calls that have not been heard and marks them as done when heard. The web interface keeps a log of all the calls from each patient. With VoiceCare, providers can meet the Medicare requirements, patients can have easier access to contact their provider, and overall the quality, safety, cost-effectiveness and access to care will greatly improve.
Design Thinking: Functional Interfaces for Providers
Because VoiceCare was built at a Hackathon in only 24 hours, I did not have time to employ standard UX research techniques to inform my design process. Instead, I only relied on what I knew from my experiences with the medical field. I am fortunate in that my parents are both doctors, and I remember spending many days in their office during my summer break. I recalled that the majority of my parent's patients were elderly and were not accustomed to using technology on a daily basis. Similarly, I could recall my own mother's struggles with inputting notes from her patients, as she could not type very fast and needed help with technology. As a result, her notes would pile up for months. My mother's community of doctors, her close friends, also communicated a similar narrative. Even if they were more accustomed to using technology, they could not keep up with inputting their notes with the amount of patients they saw on a daily basis.
Thus, these two personas, the patient and the provider, embodied a palpable disconnect with each other due to a technological divide.
As a result, I chose to construct a very simple UI, in order to optimize efficiency and cleanliness. Patients and providers did not have to think about how to navigate the interface, rather, the minimalist interface allowed for intuitive navigation.