Testing new healthcare models to improve patients' lives.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a respiratory disorder that affects more than one in 50 adults and is the third biggest killer in the UK after heart disease and cancer. Patients with COPD frequently present at A&E departments following ‘episodes’ that, in many cases, if the patient had better information, might have been self-managed without the need for emergency medical intervention.

The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust approached Qrious to create a mobile app to be used as part of a clinical trial to test whether patients might self-manage their condition more effectively using technology. The goals of the trial were to improve the patients' quality of life and, in turn, reduce the frequency of avoidable hospital admissions.

Daily diary Daily diary

Building the empathy that underpins a transformative user experience.

Conducting qualitative research with patients who have long-term chronic health conditions requires deep empathy and a willingness on the part of the researcher to encounter situations that may be uncomfortable and emotionally charged. However, without patient insight and the empathy that comes from that insight, it’s impossible to build an effective healthcare app.

Our UX researchers therefore met with COPD patients to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face when managing their condition – including what help they need day-to-day and how their interactions with doctors help them to prevent an episode.

App App

Simple, accessible UI design.

The qualitative insight from our UX research was used to create patient personas that described the people who would use our app and user-journeys that illustrated the day-to-day experience of living with COPD.

Given that a significant percentage of COPD patients are over the age of 60 and many have both physical and cognitive impairments such as poor eyesight, reduced dexterity and fine motor control and reduced short-term memory, it was essential for us to create a very simple user interface in our designs.

For example:

  • Clear prompts signal how to perform actions.
  • Use of visual cues to support text.
  • Use of simple, contrasting colours and text.
  • Large fonts and unambiguous language.
  • Easy gestures: no scrolling or swiping.
  • Clear and friendly error messages.
  • Ability to assess input before submitting.
  • Enlarged touch interface.
  • Limited items per screen, no distracting visuals.
  • Intentional delays for loading screens.
Tablet app Tablet app

Prototyping and testing in a clinical setting.

Using a portable testing tool, we tested our prototype with COPD patients. First-hand patient feedback was used to improve the features of the product and allowed us to identify and solve any usability issues before the app went into build.

We’re testing a model for self-care, not ‘building a product’.

The prototype app we created became part of a healthcare model that enabled patients to make use of a daily diary to tell doctors how they were feeling. Using this data, doctors were able to monitor patients remotely and provide them with real-time feedback and guidance and ultimately provided a mechanism for early intervention that reduced the need for emergency treatment at a hospital.

Did it work?

The trial is ongoing, but the feedback so far is largely positive.

Patients have told us the app makes it super easy for them to maintain their daily diary which lets their doctor know how they’re feeling and supports them to self-manage their condition. They’ve also told us that the app and the information contained within it have improved their knowledge of their condition, giving them increased confidence to continue self-managing.

Doctors running the trial have told us that the system and the model we helped to design has reduced the time required to care for patients on the trial, and it has reduced GP sessions and hospital admissions for those patients. It has also provided them with more accurate data regarding individual patients.

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