User Research and Product Design
In the Spring of 2020 while the world was seeming crashing down, I began exploring an idea I had surrounding transitional healthcare. Specifically looking at how mental health patients are transitioned from inpatient to outpatient care. This is when I began to develop "Middle Health".
This project is currently in progress as I complete my capstone project for Northeastern University. I have begun with research and development of personas and journeys. Soon I will look at the overall product and begin prototyping a solution. The end product will include a pitch deck, understanding where this product could fit into the already complex medical system.
To begin validating my ideas surrounding a need for transitional healthcare between inpateint and outpatient settings, I turned to medical journals and online research. I found many validating points through this material and found information that helped guide my questions for user interviews.
40% of those with serious mental illness (SMI) do not attend any outpatient visits in the 30 days following discharge
Mental Health has shifted from frequent long-term hospital stays to brief hospitalization and long term community care
Hospitalization typically leads to a feeling of defeat in a patient, especially when returning back to society.
Pre-discharge medication education/reconciliation was found to diminish the risk of re-hospitalization by one third
Post-discharge telephone follow-up, efforts to ensure timely follow-up appointments, and home visits would be other important allies in preventing readmission and relapse
To truly understand the pain that the user feels by the lack of transitional care, I needed to find users that had similar experiences and share their stories. I was able to reach out to a total of 7 individuals to share with me their own experience transitioning from inpatient to outpatient care. These interviews are extremely helpful to understand who I am designing for and what their journey can look like.
During inpatient, many had a large fleshed out team covering many needs and team relationships were the best they ever had. There was a weekly collaboration between providers to ensure safety and proper care.
The community was helpful until it was hurtful or triggering. Group and art therapy were standout favorites.
Outpatient teams became very small or non-existent. The idea of having a “team” was gone as well, no providers communicated in an outpatient setting.
After developing key findings from the background research and user interviews, I began to develop persons that identified the audience. These two personas represented the needs and frustrations I discovered from the user interviews. I decided to separate the personas by therapeutic needs as well as the type of hospital stay. Becca needs nutritional help, a well-rounded team, and to stop her re-admission cycle. While parker had a brief hospital stay, and is new to his medication and looking for help to defeat his Alcohol Addiction.
For the past 3 years, Becca has been in and out of inpatient hospitals for her eating disorder. She is now a senior at Boston College and needs to graduate and be healthy enough to hold down a job to live on her own.
Recovery from her eating disorder. Ability to hold a job and live on her own. Manage her own healthcare after moving out of her parents
Becca is frustrated with how much time she has had to spend in and out of the hospital. It has delayed her college education and hurt many friendships. As a college student who moves around, she consistently loses access to consistent community care.
Parker struggles with anxiety and alcohol addiction. When she was hospitalized he was intoduced to AA and went to meetings two times a week. After he was discharged she struggled to stay sober due to increased anxiety and the lack of help finding relevant groups.
Recover from alcoholism. Find ways to cope with anxiety besides using substances. Remain out of the hospital
Parker has trouble maintaining relationships and falls short returning back to therapists. He lacks trust in community help from previous triggering experiences at group therapies.
To further develop the stories of Becca and Parker, I created a user journey map to illustrate their path, pain points, and emotion throughout. The stories I collected from my research really helped me form what a journey would look like. To add more potential journey paths, I included parts of their path where the persona "may" perform an activity, alluding that these points are possibilities or assumptions rather than know steps in their path.
Community Care - people are looking for care on a community based level
Team Care - when teams come together there is a greater chance of recovery
Reminders - people need assistance along the way
The final solution was to develop an application that connected users to their team with consistent communication and reminders as well as an easy way to find and judge community help. The team approach to care will help each provider communicate about the needs of the patient and maintain real relationships. The community access will allow users to understand their place in the mental health community. additionally, the community rating will help the user find the right group for them.