Rural Pandemic Project

Timeframe

8 weeks

Role

Researcher, Prototyper

Team

Matthew Eziashi

Diandian Ding

Sarah O'Connor

Ann Lin

Problem Statement

A potential pandemic outbreak is a very real threat the world faces at any point in time. An outbreak of Ebola (or similar disease) affects essentially all parts of the healthcare industry, and we began with a broad project scope, which were narrowed down over the 8 weeks.

The focus was on how the current healthcare system is structured, and how a pandemic situation would stress that system. What type of system could our team design that would best help patients, doctors, staff, and the general population during a pandemic situation?

The project was divided up into four different stages. Each week a different stage was assigned, with different deliverables. We were able to work with Dr. Green, a medical physician, and our project culminated in a final presentation of our system. This project was part of the "Ideation" class in the Masters of Human Computer Interaction and Design at the University of Washington. Below is a diagram of our process through the project.


Dr. Philip Green

Philip Allen Green, MD, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. He currently lives and works in Walla Walla, Washington. Dr. Green knew the problems in the current system of dealing with pandemics. We started with thirteen different promps he prepared for us, ranging from donning and doffing gear medical gear, to family communication when their loved ones are in the hospital. For this project, we were specifically looking for solutions based on data from the town of Walla Walla, Washington, however the findings are applicable to cities across the nation of any size. Dr. Green had three specific areas we intended to focus on. The pre-hospital stage, which is before a patient even reaches the hospital. The patient arrival stage, when the patient arrives at the hospital. And the third stage, taking patients from hospital to hospital. Although these are the main stages he focused on when discussing the problem space, there are many different subtopics which fall under these main stages that needed to be focused on.

"Panic is less a side effect of Ebola than its own sort of infectious disease, spread by misinformation and fear...

"right now there's a lot more panic in the US than Ebola."

-- the guardian

By doing a popular media scan, we quickly realized that fear was one of the most dangerous factors during a pandemic. Alleviating and addressing this fear could save thousands or millions of lives. Getting the right information is crucial, but difficult with the current systems in place.


Ideation

Thumbnails

Before joining our group, I thought of 15 unique ideas that could adress the problem spaces Dr. Green outlined. These were just quick ideas, not evaluated against any metrics, standards, or degrees of feasibility. In a group setting, we could use our thumbnails as a foundation to find unique insights or concepts that may be inside these ideas. We ended up combining some of our thumbnails in a group brainstorming activity.

Group Brainstorming

At the beginning of stage 2, we were placed in groups. During our first meeting, we came prepared with out favorite and strongest ideas. In brainstorming session we focused on combining these ideas into six ideas which were taken into the next stage of the project. We took notes on our laptops and used sticky notes to develop our strongest ideas and vote.

Personas

Originally, each group member created a persona to represent a citizen from the town of Walla Walla. One of my tasks was to consolidate all the data into 3 persona's, that would represent citizens as accurately as possible. Making sure I accounted for diversity, people from different backgrounds, and different economic classes was extremely important in moving our design forward.

Experience Map

We built an experience map to uncover ingights at different stages of the hospital experience. By focusing on how a patient feels, what they're going through, and what they need, we could design better for our end users.

Critical Incident

I developed two critical incident paths to demonstrate the different outcomes of a visit to the hospital, based on my experiences. A critical incident diagram shows two possible outcomes, usually positive and negatice, to an interaction. This is an excellent technique that can be used to pinpoint where users get frustrated in a process, or where problems occur.

Iteration

During our meetings, we evaluated our ideas based on how difficult it would be to implement, the feasibility, total number of people impacted, and many other criteria. We narrowed our ideas from 6 to 3 during stage 2, and from 3 to 1 at the end of stage 3. We made an evaluation chart that listed the groups of people impacted on the x axis, and stage of the hospital experience on the y axis. We plotted our ideas to visualize the impact of each idea, helping us decide on our final concept.

Problems

The problems highlighted were the ones we targeted.

Communication:

  • Keep the patient in the hospital in contact with the patient at home.
  • Keep family members in contact with the care team.
  • Keep hospitals aware of any changes in Center of Disease Control's recommendations.
  • Keep population informed.
  • Keep hospital staff informed about epidemic level patients.
  • User flow throughout the application is clear. Each participant we tested understood the flow of information as they navigated through the application.

Education:

  • Improve process for training staff.

Containment:

  • Keep people who are not sick from being in an environment where they are likely to be infected.
  • Figure out who has been in contact with index case.
  • Improve voluntary quarantine protocols
  • Tracking and locating high risk patients in the community.

Design

We created a mobile application, intending to reach the largest audience. For this stage of the project, my main role was to make an animation of the UI, which is demonstrated in the video below. I used Adobe After Effects to create the animations. Other members of my group worked on the UI in Adobe Illustrator, and passed the assets off to me to animate.

The main two features of our system are self-checking and tracking. Users can check their current risk level, which changes based on certain criteria. The application interfaces directly with patients existing health record information. People can also correspond with doctors and healthcare staff directly in the app. Data entered by patients can be tracked by hospital staff. These features are meant to lower the stress level in patients. This could prevent situations where massive amounts of people gather in places where they could end up exposing themselves to the pandemic.

High Fidelity UI Comps

Outcome

After reflecting on our final product, I feel that we came up with a very practical solution to a vast problem that affects many different industries. We were able to leverage smartphones to reach the largest amount of people, in an effort to keep them calm and informed. This industry seems to be behind in terms of technology, which has a detrimental effect on how information is spread and patients are treated. Furthermore, developing solutions for the healthcare industry was difficult because of existing platforms that are hard to interface with.

It was challenging designing a system that would notify people, whether they were staff or the general public, without running the risk of initiating panic or alarm. Another challenge was designing a system for patients who were currently in the hospital with a disease or illness. We had to realize that different patients are in different conditions, and while some may be able to talk, some would be unable to speak or move, so designing interactive systems with any sort of touch interface for a patient wouldn’t be feasible.

If I were to keep working on this project, I would hope to talk to more healthcare experts like doctors or CDC workers in how I would go about working with hospitals and clinics to create an app that would allow patients to correspond with staff without violating HIPPA regulations. Developing the app wouldnt be too difficult, however the main problem lies in protecting patient medical records, as well as GPS information.