Being healthy is communicating rightfully. With Livia, we were tackling one of the most fundamental health care problem out there: communication.
Well... healthcare. And I'm rewriting this article about my experience working in a health tech company in mid-2020, so you'd know by now that the world was very different back then, pre-pandemic. Tackling health care with technology and design is a bit of a challenge. This goes around a major problem in regards to how health is set up in the world... for the most part: treating the disease. It's hard to offer something other than a cure to a patient suffering. That's the shortest explanation ever on why the pharmaceutical industry thrives. The most adequate way of proposing a solution of some sort is by going in the prevention route.
Livia was a product that I worked on when in the company Nexa. This company was housed by the biggest lab owner in South America called Dasa. So, you're right to suppose that we, back there, had a good amount of data. And well, by our pandemic 2020 knowledge, we know that data, in health settings, is gold. Especially if you want to visualize how patient well-being has shifted in a given period. And this was our field space of work.
When we go to see doctors and go through lab exams, we generate a bunch of useful data. Not only of ourselves but about our demographic as well. And I'd imagine everyone goes through a medical appointment from time to time. At least in Brazil, by our research, most doctors won't do or prescribe anything without lab results. There are a few exceptions for when you might be suffering in a really immediate way. But most times, they do ask for a ton of stuff. Both you and the doctor kinda suffer when this happens. First, doing exams is very tiring and time-consuming. Second, doctors get tired of only seeing a frame of you, the frame from the exams they asked you. That was our main focus at the beginning of Livia, gathering data from your health life so we could upgrade treatment and prevention.
The strategy we were laying out was to focus on the doctor's experience. This was mostly a result of our very exploratory research when trying to find a reason for the company to exist. We knew that a bunch of medical record products already existed. But at Dasa/Nexa, we had the utmost advantage of having sh*t loads of data. The first challenge was to organize all of it so we could put it on a screen. That's when we started to go deep into what's about with the current doctor's experience in Brazil.
Doctors can't see beyond the present state of one's health. In order to a precise diagnostic and an effective treatment, seeing the big picture of a patient's health is key. And there wasn't an easy way to do it.
Most doctors eat up any SQL type of database in their lunch. Their heads are full SSD loaded with data from their patients. The most ideal place to be in when seeing you at the clinic is having all your medical records at hand, easy to scan through. We interviewed a bunch of doctors and most of them suffered from only having little frames of the patient's health condition. Prevention is even more challenging if doctors can't see a big picture of where are you coming from and to where you're probably heading.
There's this basic framework for analyzing one's claims when in a clinic called SOAP, which stands for Subjective, Objective, Review (Avaliação in Portuguese), and Plan. This tool is from an approach of medical schooling called (I'm hard translating here) Medical Records Problem and Evidence Oriented. Data is at the heart of this methodology of medicine making.
We spent most of our early months working in it by trying to figure out what was really valuable to doctors in this context, practicing clinic. How information should be displayed, what are the type of data they wanted screaming at their faces when a patient entered the room, and what could be placed in a detailed view for a more holistic analysis of their health later on and so forth.
There you go. Your classical designer-post-it-portfolio-image. Had to do it. Post-its are actually great!
Categorizing research findings. See: post-its works!
Dasa is a huge huge company. Most of its labs were bought. And there aren't only labs, they have hospitals too. And each one of these companies had its data set structured in its own specific way. There was a tricky word that was the main objective at Nexa for a good while: interoperability. This stands for different organized information having a way of communicating with each other. A system would be needed to set some kind of pattern in the way these data would communicate. However, this is a huge problem that will be going on for years. Meanwhile, our focus on experience got a little thrown at sides and this took me off a bit.
But, despite that, health care is a major industry that strongly needs a good product strategy. These problems resolved could save someone from a very serious hazard. The pandemic striking upon us reminds us that without health, we can't go on. I and the team did good work setting up a vision for how the product could be. Livia Pro lived for a short period, with a couple of users, but it is, to this day, very promising. We gathered lots of good feedback from the leadership and the doctors that were friendly enough to try it on. There are not many quantitative figures to display because the product couldn't be launch. But it is promising to this day.
Inside the designs
A great chunk of my time at Nexa was trying to get buy-in from a bottom-up vision we had. We needed to materialize what the product could be if the holding as a whole had organized itself to allow it to grow into that. We spent a few months polishing an over-the-top UI to demonstrate the ambition. None was developed, it wasn't even the point. I really felt like I was making a pitch for my own company. We went bananas with the interactions and data we could have. Full-on Dribbble-esk. Sorry. But it turned out pretty impressive! This video below demonstrates what could've been the doctors' experience.
We also took a big leap tackling the patients' experience. It was part of the pitch that we could be a powerhouse health-tech company, going full scope into the health actors. We did a pretty great envisioning here too. Some really complex prototypes that made me crazy sometimes. And it was a moment to be crazy indeed. We leveraged a bunch of open sources design tooling for laying out a valuable vision.
This was one of the features we managed to ship before I left. Evolution report is a must-have for doctors. It was the essence of the seed we were cultivating there. We integrated the product to a few of the lab exams we had access to and it was enough for displaying a table at the UI showing the evolution. We also plugged in a list view for a more organized chronological examination.
Early prototypes. Below are some shots from the production branch by the time I left.