We designed WeCare, a mobile application that empowers networks of caregivers to collaboratively manage medicinal information and refill responsibilities for their loved ones.
First, our team set out to better understand the caregiver experience and what types of pharmaceutical activities they engage in with this role. Through a literature review, we discovered that caregiving responsibilities often cause a significant amount of mental, emotional, and relational strain. We also learned that caregiving responsibilities are often distributed across networks of relatives, friends, and professional help to lessen the pressure of duties on single individuals. As a team, we decided to further investigate the phenomenon of caregiving networks through primary research in our local community.
We created a semi-structured interview guide for caregivers to help us gain a better understanding of how caregiving networks form and operate. To supplement our interviews, we designed a Cultural Probe comprised of four activities aiming to encourage reflection among caregivers. I led recruitment efforts and facilitated a majority of our research sessions.
First, our team set out to better understand the US pharmaceutical system as well as the caregiver experience. We discovered that caregiving responsibilities often cause a significant amount of mental, emotional, and relational strain, which can lead to caregiver burnout.
After this initial literature review, we became fascinated with the phenomenon of shared care across networks of relatives, friends, and professional help.
Next, we created a semi-structured interview guide for caregivers to help us gain a better understanding of how caregiving networks form and operate as well as what might help them become more unified.
We supplemented the interviews with a Cultural Probe including four designed activities aiming to encourage reflection among caregivers. One asked participants to visually map out the networks of care surrounding their loved ones - this served as an excellent conversation starter. Another requested caregivers to detail instructions to an individual if they were going to take over caregiving responsibilities for a few days. After completing these activities with six Seattle caregivers, we analyzed the results and extracted several insights.
Prescription information is poorly centralized, causing difficult recall and medication errors
"All the sudden you’re at the emergency room and they’re asking ‘what meds is your mom on?’ and you don’t know enough detail.” (P1)
The prescription pickup and refill process is inefficient and burdensome for caregivers
“...instead of having medicines needing to be picked up three to four times a month. Can’t we get everything due all at once? I’ve been complaining for years." (P4)
Shared caregiving improves caregiver mental health and quality of care
"Just figure out a system for getting a little bit of help and it makes a big difference. It really does." (P4)
Level of personalized attention from pharmacists affects enjoyment of pharmacy experience
"When they talk to me, feels like pharmacists are more concerned with finishing conversations and moving on." (P3)
It was clear that the complexity of managing prescription information and refills for caregivers was significant, and warranted attention. It was also clear that coordinating these tasks across a network of multiple caregivers had the potential to lessen that burden and increase caregiver confidence.
We each ideated around thirty concepts aiming to address gaps in the caregiving network experience, grounded in our insights. We used several ideation methods including 2x2's and Crazy 8's.
We combined overlapping concepts and tossed out a few outlandish ones like 'the prescription cannon,' but most crucial to our process of downselection to twenty concepts was discussing the viability, feasibility, and desirability of our concepts with our sponsors at Premera.
From our twenty concepts, we used a decision matrix to help us narrow to three concepts. Our matrix included a set of criteria reflecting our research insights like leveraging network connections and increasing caregiving confidence. Each idea was given a score of -1, 0, or 1 for each criteria, and ideas with higher scores were identified as strong candidates.
Automated Medication Scanner
An app that allows caregivers to create medicine administration reminders by scanning prescription labels. It also checks for medication interactions and creates refill appointments, streamlining medicinal management.
Encrypted Caregiver Card
An extension of the Premera ID card that securely stores loved ones medicinal information onto a caregivers' ID card. Caregivers could gain confidence knowing they will always have up-to-date information.
Network Coordination Tool
An online system, perhaps paired with in-home device companion, that empowers networks to better coordinate their responsibilities together.
We storyboarded these ideas to gain a better sense of the contexts in which they could be used. Through storyboarding the Premera caregiver card, I realized that the experiential aspects of the concept had holes. If Premera already had a loved one’s info in their digital system, why would caregivers need to carry a physical card around? The possibility of losing the physical card might cause additional burden for caregivers, too.
We felt the network coordination concept was the richest in terms of potential impact and intersection with our research. As a team, we decided to explore combining this concept with the medication scanner in hopes to empower caregiving networks to manage medications together with more confidence.
We storyboarded these ideas to gain a better sense of the contexts in which they could be used. We discovered that the Premera card didn’t create much value - if Premera already had the loved one’s info in their systems, why would caregivers need to carry the card? We felt the network coordination concept was the richest in terms of potential impact and intersection with our research, Tanya’s storyboard of it is shown to the right. We felt we could combine this concept with the medication management tool to bring it more into our scope.
It was time to design! Right off the bat, we felt the challenge of balancing two equally important aims of our combined concept: collaborative medicinal management and network scheduling coordination. We collaboratively creative low-fidelity wireframes of this envisioned mobile application to test with caregivers.
In our wireframed application, caregivers could add individuals to their "caregiving network." The network could use the app to coordinate shared tasks like appointment transportation and refill pickups, as well as access loved ones' medication lists.
Users couldn't decide if WeCare was primarily a task management tool or a medicinal management tool
Potential audience should include networks with multiple care recipients, and temporary caregivers
Centralized location for medicinal information management is desirable
Transparency of roles within network improves accountability and communication
We sat with these learnings for a bit. Together, we realized WeCare was attempting to wear too many hats for caregivers. Our choice to include the ability for users to create "tasks" across the network for other caregivers to complete was not only confusing to users, but provided little value to caregivers already using existing tools like Google Calendar.
To ensure our concept met our vision of empowering caregivers to confidently manage medicinal information, we took a step back from wireframing and thought about WeCare's role in the lives of potential users.
Before jumping straight into iterating on our wireframes, I engaged in a few diagraming activities to help further envision a contextualized use case of our concept. These activities helped me rethink the role WeCare could play in caregivers' daily lives in response to our testing feedback.
Next, I created a swimlane diagram to map out how this hypothetical group of caregivers could collaboratively use WeCare to manage the medicinal information of their loved ones. This exercise further confirmed that a calendar-driven task management tool wasn't necessary or desired.
In response to this realization, we reduced this aspect of WeCare to simpler "refill tasks" that are attached to medications within the app and assigned to one individual in the network to complete. Our team also added the ability to control the permission levels of temporary caregivers within networks.
We were ready to iterate on our wireframes. But before moving to a higher fidelity we began to think of the visual identity of WeCare. Creating moodboards helped us form an approachable and friendly visual identity for the app. These traits were important for us to embody because at its core, WeCare serves to connect and empower networks of multiple caregivers.
My teammate Javan created a set of illustrations that anchor users to WeCare's purpose and functions through the onboarding experience. Our iconography harnesses the same styling to promote a cohesive experience.
Below is a sample of high fidelity interaction models of the screens in our final prototype for the project, depicting user paths through key features in WeCare.
At the end of our 12 weeks working with Premera, we presented our concept to designers and executives at the company and fielded questions about our process. We left them with the following key takeaways:
Sharing caregiving responsibilities across a network of individuals is healthy and and effective
Tools designed for people assuming the role of caregiver, a challenging and under-appreciated role, should encourage the development of a support network of trusted individuals.
Centralizing medication information increases caregiver confidence
Caregivers are busy. Many have jobs and other demands on top of their caregiving responsibilities. Putting prescription information and related tasks in one place helps these individuals feel prepared for all situations they may encounter.
Exploring the experiences of caregivers with the pharmaceutical industry was initially intimidating. We had to hit the ground running with research, attempting to wrap our heads around the intricacies of this complicated U.S. system. I experienced a lot of growth through interacting with caregivers while still in the process of mastering fundamental knowledge of this project space. Ten weeks pass quickly, and adaptability is important. When we make compromises due to constraints (time, money, resources) we need to think carefully about how those decisions affect our data and design choices.
I enjoyed getting working to address the design challenge of serving many different configurations of caregiving networks. WeCare scratches the surface of what’s possible, but as a side project I’m putting some thought into how this could expand to serve more realistic use cases of this demographic.