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Helping a Hospital Empower the Newly Diagnosed

Before a person can feel motivated to make lifestyle changes, they must first feel that they understand their condition and thus have the power to affect it. An academic healthcare system wanted to help patients better understand their own condition and patterns of self-care to facilitate the co-creation of their own health care experience. The healthcare system came to Mad*Pow for help in defining a vision and strategy for a digital tool rooted in behavior change theory and that incorporated elements of game play. Our shared goal was to improve health outcomes by inspiring patients to take more ownership of their health through intrinsic motivation, provide patients with the tools to understand how adherence impacts how they feel and live, and promote shared decision-making for a co-created healthcare experience.

Project Highlights

  • Helped client develop deep empathy for target patients at all stages of behavior change
  • Multi-disciplinary strategy workshop to guide concept direction
  • Created a concept that encourages behavior change by inspiring autonomy, competence, and relatedness
  • Incorporated healthcare system’s vast ecosystem of internal resources and community support

Addressing the Unmet Needs of the Recently Diagnosed

Patients recently diagnosed with a life-altering condition are in an altered state of mind immediately following their diagnosis. They are overwhelmed and unable to comprehend the valuable information their clinician is trying to communicate to them. Mad*Pow’s design concept provides patients with a library containing clinically approved information related to their condition that they can go through at their own pace after they leave their appointment. The digital tool also contains an interactive library of the healthcare system’s resources available to patients. This library notifies patients when resources or community events related to their condition are occurring near their geographic location. The resulting evolving knowledge and sense of mastery will allow patients to become better partners in the co-creation of their care experience and to better care for themselves.

Applying Behavior Change Through Gameful Design

The academic healthcare system wanted the digital tool to engage and support a wide range of patients altering their life styles to promote better health. To support this, Mad*Pow created personas based on the Transtheoretical Model so that we could focus our efforts squarely on understanding our users and helping them make changes. Once we had a clear understanding of our users, we began to see opportunities to make their experience with our digital tool more meaningful by blending the digital and real world. We created a digital leveling up certificate that patients see on their phone when they complete a level. Then, a physical printed version of this same certificate is presented to patients by their clinicians the next time they have an appointment at the clinic. We also created a GPS-aware library of the healthcare system’s resources that notifies users when they are near an event or resource that could help them manage their condition. These pieces make the experience more engaging and relevant by incorporating “real worldness” into an otherwise digital experience.

Design Decisions Directly from Research

During our research, Mad*Pow uncovered that patients were often frustrated and demotivated when clinicians asked them to lose weight and then did nothing to recognize patient’s success when they did drop the pounds. We also spoke with nurses who revealed that they had awarded a particular patient a certificate proclaiming that he was a “master of self-care” after he made some significant health behavior changes. We translated these findings directly into our digital tool by building in a series of digital certificates that patients receive as they progress through levels going from novice to master of self-care. This same award then crosses into the real world when clinicians present patients with corresponding physical certificates to recognize their achievement.

During research we also discovered that patients often encountered barriers to healthy behavior changes within their own families. We incorporated this research finding into our concept by designing a series of digital and physical conversation tools that support and prompt patients and families to have discussions around care and responsibility. The family gathers around the phone in their home and interacts with the conversation facilitation tools to guide them through difficult but necessary conversations.

Building a Body of Evidence through Tracking

In healthcare, therapies with evidence-based results constitute the therapies that are prescribed most often. However, this means that less-established therapies have trouble gaining a following until there is a body of evidence supporting their efficacy. This is particularly true of holistic therapies that focus on wellness instead of traditional clinical reactionary approaches. Our digital tool allows patients to track their adherence to any goal, whether that goal is supported by a body of evidence or not. By collecting and tracking this data, our concept begins to build bodies of evidence that support alternative treatments that some patients are already taking advantage of. In this way, patients can gain insight into their own condition and efficacy of alternative treatments while also supporting the research into and adoption of those treatments into clinical medicine as a whole.

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Academic Healthcare System
Helping a Hospital Empower the Newly Diagnosed


Samantha Louras Experience Strategy Director
Samantha Dempsey Senior Behavior Change & Experience Designer
Dustin DiTommaso SVP Behavior Change Design   Contact Dustin

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