Friends of Devise,
I want to announce that I have some immediate user experience consulting availability! Please get in touch with me to discuss potential engagements via liz (at) deviseconsulting (dot) com or phone 503-347-49 three one. Ideal gigs are short to medium term duration, contributing to your endeavor in the arenas of product management, product definition, interaction frameworks, UI design, customer research, experience storyboarding, design process definition, and training/workshops. I have current knowledge of agile UX best practices as well as medical device development and human factors guidance, and remain especially interested in the healthcare domain as well as startups.
Meanwhile, work continues apace on my new venture, now known as Find Wellness. We’re still a scrappy startup, bootstrapping our way to success. Help us along by bringing me in to deliver some insanely effective UX consulting!
It seems like just yesterday that I was starting a new chapter by taking a position as a Product Manager at the country’s second-largest hospital system, and putting my consultancy on ice. That plot line recently came to an end when the system decided to eliminate my freshly-created position in a blind effort to cut short-term costs. I fear their decision will have long-term negative consequences on the organization’s ability to harness technology for the benefit of improved outcomes and reduced service costs. The challenge of getting people engaged with their own health clearly reveals how important the digital and especially mobile channel is. I presented this message at the WebVisions Portland conference this past May. Here are my slides:
And somewhere there’s a video, too. The world is changing quickly, and the healthcare system as a whole needs innovation more than ever. It turns out that I was prescient in seeing my path as that of an entrepreneur: it has just been a tad sooner than I expected.
Onwards and upwards! I have brilliant news to share, and fresh story line to introduce. I’ve just created DHealth Corporation, a new business that will help deliver wellness services to the world and support a grounded, holistic approach to healthcare. We will provide a provider directory of all sorts of wellness practitioners, from acupuncturists to massage therapists to reiki to who knows what, those remarkable folks who deliver the sort of good experiences and wellness insights that we all need in a world that challenges our health at every turn. DHealth will also help these wellness specialists better connect with their clients through our friendly digital platform. Our forthcoming suite of designed tools will help transform the healthcare landscape in terms of where our precious monies are spent in the healthy pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Let’s devise our own health…design our own healthy world!
I’m tremendously excited and anticipating the rush of start-up life with its attendant complexities. However, the key to it all is a mind-body balance and a harmonious center. So we’ll proceed at the right pace for the business, for ourselves, and for you. Let me know what you think of the new venture! I’m @ebacon on Twitter, and I also aim to get a Devise newsletter out soon announcing my professional progression. Use the form on this site to sign up and let me know it’s about DHealth. New website coming soonish…. There’s lots to do!
This is my trip report from “Healthcare Experience Design” conference held in Boston, MA on March 26, 2012 at the Westin hotel conference center.
The second annual Healthcare Experience Design (HxD) conference was primarily the endeavor of Mad*Pow, a user experience design consulting agency based in Providence RI boasting a strong healthcare client portfolio and strong industry leadership. Their Director of Design, Megan Grocki, was also Program Chair for Interaction12, the annual conference of the Interaction Design Association that I was thrilled recently to attend in Dublin, Ireland. Especially following the great buzz around the inaugural HxD conference in 2011, I knew I simply had to attend HxD after experiencing the inspiring variety of health-related talks she programmed for the Interaction conference. The HxD conference was held at the Westin Waterfront hotel, in a pretty generic conference setting; the Boston weather cooperated for us being stuck inside by presenting heavy rain and wind.
This topic-focused conference, incidentally known on the Twitterz by its hash tag #hxdconf, was mainly aimed at healthcare influencers occupying roles such as product managers and design consultants. Many talks were delivered by user experience design professionals imparting their techniques via real-world case studies to demonstrate the efficacy of their approaches. Data loomed large in many talks, as well, speaking to the often quantitatively-oriented nature of many healthcare professionals. The single-day conference format involved 5 keynote speakers when all attendees convened to listen en masse, and then three separate tracks where folks could choose their preferred topic. The following comprise my notes and observations from the sessions I attended.
Robyn O’Brien: Allergykids and the Unhealthy Truth (Keynote)
I was surprised but pleased that Ms O’Brien opened the conference. Hailed as “the Erin Brockovich of genetically modified foods”, I had watched the video of her TEDxAustin talk some months prior. A food industry executive and super-achieving MBA, Robyn then decided to have children and in typical Type-A fashion had given birth to four children in 5 years. One morning at breakfast, her youngest had a severe allergic reaction (to either the waffle, the milk or the eggs) that led the family to the ED. O’Brien learned to her shock that “allergy kids” were a common sight for the modern physician, and wondering why this phenomenon was so today led her to investigate facts and trends. She told us that as an analyst, she knows well that correlation is not causation but nevertheless she turned up a host of disturbing information and trends. Starting with the introduction of GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops and rGBH (synthetic growth hormone) around the mid-70s, we can see a precipitous rise in the incidence of food allergies–as well as heart-rending conditions such as autism, ADHD and cancer. Cancer is today the leading cause of death for kids younger than 15, an astonishing statistic that as a parent I would love to deny. Peanut allergies were twice as prevalent in 2002 as they were in 1997. Primarily, genetic modification of crops has involved introducing pesticide/insecticide resistance into the genome of the plant itself, which has led to a massive increase in the quantity of such toxins being applied to these crops. Where the rest of the developed nations have chosen to restrict the use of GM crops because they have not yet been proven safe, the US has taken the opposite approach of allowing them because they have not (yet) been proven dangerous. Although this approach may echo our admirable, case law based legal system that presumes people are innocent until proven guilty, this strategy is a questionable one when it comes to health and human welfare. The American reality is that capitalistic profit drivers motivating such business decisions on the part of companies such as Monsanto do not have to incorporate the “external” costs of possible side-effects as unhealthy populations that could be the by-product of heavily chemically-treated foods. Time will have to tell, but unfortunately the evidence is mounting against the safety of the now-conventional food supply in America.
Tod Moore, “Weathering the Perfect Storm: Design and Management Strategies for Hospital Technology Systems” (Talk)
Tod is a Principal at “IT Architecture Practice Leader” Sparling. I certainly appreciated his points that a technology system needs to be intuitive, accessible, and adaptive. The adaptive element is particularly important in the current landscape of hospital-based information technology, which is a challenging patchwork of different and largely disparate systems. He also made the point that one has to manage obsolescence, which is an often forgotten stage in the product lifecycle. Tod said that today’s hospital CEO & CFO are making decisions based on an interest in reducing cost and improving outcomes – and the bottom line is still ROI (Return on Investment). He cited the lean design movement, and cited the importance of having a design vision to ignite passion and drive efforts forward. An interesting question during Q&A provoked Tod to examine the drivers for such a focus on cost reduction today, which he assessed as due to the economic lull; new meaningful use requirements; the nature of payments in the U.S. healthcare system; and uncertainty about the future. He pointed out that the only two things a hospital can really impact is payments and operational costs; the ACO movement away from fee-for-services is tackling the payment structure question while technology is what can most affect operational costs.
Read on for much more…
I feel like my baby grew up this year. From February 1-5, 2012, the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) put on Interaction12 (IxD12), its fifth annual conference, held in Dublin, Ireland. As somebody who has been involved with IxDA since its nascence as a Yahoo! Groups discussion list in 2003 and then as a Director Emeritus of the global organization (2007-2010), I am immensely proud to witness its accomplishments in advancing the state of the interaction design discipline.
The Interaction conference platform is the most visible and energetic of all the organization’s endeavors thus far, even though just a tiny percentage of IxDA members are able to attend in person. This year, even as IxD12 attendance grew to 750 people, that percentage diminishes because the organization now counts somewhere around 35,000 members in its digital forums, with over 100 local groups operating in cities around the globe. Only about 40% of the attendees came from North America this year, with over 32 countries represented.
Happily, even if you weren’t at IxD12 you can partake of its fruits, beyond reading conference reports from media sponsors like Johnny Holland (for which, start here: http://johnnyholland.org/2012/02/interactions-12-day-one/). IxDA promotes “Redux” events held by the local chapters and also records all presentations in order to publish them online. (Despite good intentions, the IxDA.org’s Resource Library is little used, so you’ll have to Google the hashtags “ixd08”; “ixd09”; etc. to find Interaction conference materials from over the years that are scattered around the internet.)
I have been fortunate to attend all the Interaction conferences thus far. While it always feels to me rather like a family reunion mixed with a holiday celebration, this year I was positively overwhelmed by meeting so many new people, all of whom brought a tremendous sense of excitement and engagement to the event. I was also both invigorated and stunned by the level of intellectual sophistication and professional maturity exhibited across the range of excellent keynote speakers and presenters. Stitched together into a delightful, coherent program by the inestimable Megan Grocki, the content reflected many of the lenses on the field that interest me professionally at the moment. (And all due props to the conference co-chairs Steve Baty and Seamus Byrne, as well as the entire team of volunteers who made it happen!)
In my new role as a Product Manager at a large hospital organization and charged especially with identifying opportunities to innovate and integrate social media into our offerings, I principally attended those workshops and talks that supported designerly concerns around consumer research, social media, and healthcare. The following summaries of people’s presentations and conference events are surrounded by my idiosyncratic analyses and insights, which I’ve attempted to identify with the “I” pronoun as much as possible!
Wednesday, February 1
Designing Social Experiences, by the Facebook UX team (Half-Day Workshop)
The workshop leaders introduced us to Facebook’s “In HACK We Trust” philosophy, and explained that their UX team comprises the specialties of: Communication Design; Product Design; Content Strategy; User Research; and UI Engineering. They provided their framework of design considerations around bringing new features and applications into their insanely-heavily-used social media platform. These considerations are:
- Social value: what positive purposes to bringing people together does [x] offer?
- Identity: what does [x] say about who I am? Does it position me in the best light?
- Distribution: how will [x] spread, and to whom?
- Feedback: what affordances for [x] will drive engagement?
Awesomely, the workshop exercise put us into groups with the challenge to define a social experience around health and fitness. My group developed a short pitch around a specific concept, and then put together a prototype of that concept. We conceived a product that would let people snap pictures of their plates of food, and then a very sophisticated algorithm would assess the picture to determine the meal’s overall nutritional value. Ancillary features would involve longitudinal assessments of eating patterns; tracking food consumption against dietary goals; social tagging of whom you ate with; information sharing about where you ate especially healthy meals; and expanding awareness of global cuisine options. To brainstorm, conceive, refine and prototype was a fun way to warm up for the conference!
That night was the opening party at the Trinity College dining hall, the first place I started to feel truly awed at the large community that had gathered. I had my first chance to speak French with some interaction designer students from Paris, as well—vraiment magnifique!
Thursday, February 2
Disrupt by Luke Williams (Opening Keynote)
Incremental innovation keeps businesses on a narrow path. Even strong predictive abilities is a “spot and react” mentality that cannot deliver the provocations needed to disrupt an industry and generate new value in the marketplace. He posited that we have exited the Information Age, and exist in a new Age of Disruption, an age of expanded creativity. I’d personally like to see some time of reconciliation or transition between the two ages; I also wonder at the contradictory import of dwelling in an “age” of disruption, and suppose I believe more in a pattern of punctuated equilibrium for human society.
Design Language by Mike Lemmon (45 minute talk)
We are in a phase transition from physical to digital products, and risk a dilution of elegant and meaningful forms and functions in that transition. In considering product design across new digital contexts and platforms, we need to work from the level of the consumer up to the level of brand, up to the level of structure, interactions, and lastly visuals. A design language is like a constitution, and the brand promise is the basis of that design’s representation. Mike contended that brand is a discourse that is earned, and but yet that we can look to a brand’s authentic personality for guidance. I wondered at how this dialetic meshes with the designer’s quest to define a design language based on brand; it seems there is a tension between determining the perceived personality of a brand and imposing a designerly point of view on the forms and expressions of that brand. Also, he referred us to seek familiar interactions. As I wonder where such familiarity can reside (since we are already long past the age of mechanical reproduction that philosopher Walter Benjamin called out its lack of authenticity), I suppose we have to look towards science fiction. Good thing I love the genre so much!
Innovations in Accessibility: What We Can Learn from Digital Outcasts by Kel Smith (45 minute talk)
“Communication is the essence of being human,” said a therapist in one of the videos in Kel’s inspirational talk. He covered iPhone apps for autism and musical instrument apps that have brought sociality to people locked into conditions that make communication difficult if not impossible. He pointed out that we live in a “high-tech, low-touch” society, and cited terrible statistics that include the fact that 13% of post-operative patients have to return to hospitals within 60 days of release; 60% of them don’t return to visit their primary doctor as they’re supposed; and 125,000 people in the U.S. alone die for medical non-adherence. He posited that considering affordances; universality; and empathy are key to improve accessibility for all people. And, when 15% of the world’s population reports as disabled in some way, we all need to relate better to the world’s digital outcasts for we may be one of them ourselves.
Student Design Challenge organized by Steve Portigal and Jeremy Yuille for IxDA
I was asked to be on the jury of the Student Design Challenge this year, along with about ten other senior representatives of the discipline. Four students selected from many entrants spent the two days prior to the conference in a master class that introduced design techniques and a chance to work on the problem posed to them: design the future of news. From such a broad brief, each student chose to tackle one aspect of the problem area, and developed a short presentation encapsulating their thinking and design outputs. I was most impressed with Priscilla Mok, who ended up winning the competition, because her process included user research and considerations of feasibility and she crafted a nicely-targeted “Act” feature to be added to platforms such as Facebook. This simple feature links one to whatever hands-on activities have coalesced around a news story, from donating to charity to attending events, addressing the sense of powerlessness many of us feel in the face of daunting headlines. One interesting thing I learned was that the students (all of whom happened to be women) collaborated and supported each other’s work rather than treating the activity like a true competition; several of us commented on how all four of their solutions could be combined to make the media more consumer-oriented and meaningful.
Future of Design, Healthcare and Mobile Technology by Virgil Wong & Akshay Kapur (45 minute talk)
In a world increasingly capable of delivering the quantified self (a concept led by Kevin Kelly), healthcare holds the promise of delivering truly personalized medicine tailored to the individual’s needs. The competition inherent in social interactions and the portability of data could help empower people to be motivated towards new behaviors. The presenters contend that seeing possible future selves could be a motivator for today’s behaviors, something they call the Proteus effect. They introduced a range of interesting products that will merit further study on my part, including: SenseWear; their own product called Medical Avatar; Hello Health; Ringadoc/Teladoc; and InTouch Health. I’m very curious to explore the potential of their Medical Avatar to change behavior, even though it suffers from the uncanny valley problem that could make it function as a distancing tool rather than the personalizing tool they intend.
Design for Healthcare and Ambiguity by Maggie Breslin (45 minute talk)
An interaction designer at Mayo Clinic in their Center for Innovation and part of the KER (Knowledge Encounter Research) team there, Maggie believes that designers in healthcare need to be primarily responsible for enabling difficult conversations between patients and their providers. Rather than focusing on “problem solving” and “visionary ideas”, she finds the outputs of her work mainly involving the creation of paper-based tools that facilitate interpersonal communication and shared decision-making. At Mayo, they try and test everything in live clinical environments, constantly iterating and experimenting to find approaches that will bring patient’s concerns to light at the crucial moment of their encounter with the provider. She shared a fascinating case study between two approaches at communicating clinical outcomes, and how they discovered the extraordinary persuasive power of couching potential outcomes as “100 Different Lives of Mary”. Viva parallel dimensions! She also mentioned how physicians frequently put up a screen against the kind of iterative modeling that designers want to do, pretending that everything is black and white when the reality is that it’s a hugely gray area. I know that this “it depends” space is precisely where design approaches can prevail.
I also had the insight that design in healthcare domain most heavily emphasizes soft skills of Understanding & Communication in the spectrum of user experience design (cf sundial model: http://ebacon.posterous.com/sundial-model-of-ux-and-ixd). I might also observe that it’s in the Definition skills area that many healthcare product teams have less internal expertise, leading them to turn frequently to consultants.
What If…?: Crafting Design Speculations by Tony Dunne (keynote)
Tony Dunne (a partner at Dunne and Raby with Fiona Raby, who gave a keynote at Interaction09) presented his view of the “what if…” space that lies between the well-established design approaches of problem-solving and commentary/critique. He cited the physics of moving from the present into the future, and the way that what happens in the future can be seen as occupying spaces of the probable, potential, and possible; the designer is charged with moving humanity in the preferable future. (He also quoted physicist Michio Kaku as saying that only two things are impossible: precognition and perpetual motion, which reminded me again of how much I hold to magical thinking since I don’t agree those things are impossible!) Dunne presented some fantastical and challenging projects from his work as a professor at the Royal College of Art, using techniques such as counter-factual histories and animalistic inspirations to conceive radical new products and services. He closed by asking us to consider the question of how do we redesign ourselves, rather than our precious, fragile environment, to fit within the limited resources of the world….
Thursday night I suffered from a bout of homesickness and did not manage to attend either the Great IxDA Debate or the Dublin Pub Crawl, but I did enjoy a long conversation with my wonderful host in Dublin, Caroline Toland, wherein we consumed more than a bit of liquid cheer.
After almost five successful and enjoyable years of consulting, I’m taking a full-time position with the largest hospital chain on the west coast. Working as a product manager in this environment, I will be actively envisioning and managing the delivery of innovative new products & services to benefit people’s well-being and improve the experience and outcomes of healthcare delivery. I’ve always been passionate about helping to solve complex medical-related challenges. Bringing my user experience design tools and techniques to the business of product creation will help disseminate powerful user-centered approaches within a vital industry. I’m also excited to expand my professional skill-set to function ever more effectively at the crucial intersection of product desirability, technical feasibility and business viability.
Devise may be going into “hibernation” as a consultancy, but I’ll continue to keep my eye on important happenings in the arenas of design, business and now most especially healthcare. Read more for the inspiration behind this career progression….
Elizabeth delivered this presentation at Device Design Day (D3) 2011, as part of her mission to lure interaction designers into the medical and healthcare field to help do more good in the world.
The talk was also recorded, albeit with some echo, and video is available at Kicker Studio’s site.
Applying the methods and processes of Interaction Design to the creation of medical systems provides great benefits for all the parties involved, from patient and physician to developer and product manager. This whitepaper authored by Elizabeth Bacon illuminates the relevant considerations of this field and provides a blueprint for effective, user-centered medical product development.
Elizabeth Bacon delivered this workshop at the leading interaction design conference, Interaction10, to spread awareness of this powerful and flexible method. People who attended rated her workshop most highly.
Revelation® is a start-up company that offers a rich internet application called PROJECT. Revelation PROJECT is used by Market Researchers and Design Researchers to conduct immersive, qualitative research studies that help answer clients’ business questions. Using PROJECT, Researchers arrange online activities such as daily diaries, photo essays, questionnaires, and other creative stimuli for study participants to provide a view into their lives and thoughts. Faced with usability issues as well as performance problems, Revelation engaged with Devise in order to meet three key project goals:
1) Define customer needs and conceive innovative solutions for PROJECT v2 that would be feasible and scalable.
2) Work quickly and efficiently to meet an aggressive target release date.
3) Integrate interaction design with their Agile XP development process.
This 40-day project with Devise involved User Research, Product Conception and Detailed Design plus support services. Read more for the full story….
Integrated Services Incorporated (ISI) is an established company that offers an end-to-end software solution for operating quick lube shops, called LubeSoft®. LubeSoft provides networked point-of-sale interfaces and back-office systems for inventory and personnel management. ISI wanted to pursue a new rich internet application that would display real-time business metrics in the form of a car dashboard. ISI was already marketing the dashboard concept at industry trade shows; although customers liked the general idea, ISI stakeholders were concerned that the design lacked usability and didn’t display the right metrics.
ISI engaged with Devise in order to meet three key project goals:
1) Understand customers’ needs and define a coherent vision for the LubeSoft Dashboard product.
2) Design an attractive and intuitive Dashboard user experience.
3) Provide a clear specification document in a short timeframe for their Agile development team.
This 21-day project with Devise involved User Research and Product Conception services with a short Detailed Design phase. Read more for the full story….