UX Consulting: VR for Cognitive Health (2020)
Neurofit is a Toronto start-up which enlisted the help of our small team from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information to examine their end-to-end user experience, and develop UI designs for their product launch. Neurofit uses gamified exercises to help administer exercises for brain health. Their product focuses on providing therapy through VR for those with cognitive impairments.
As a UX researcher and designer on this small team project, I was responsible for:
Interviewing one medical practitioner
Analyzing and summarizing our team's interview data
Developing the experience map structure and revising design elements for submission
Designing the dashboard UI
Neurofit VR is an early stage startup that is about to put their product on the market. To aid their product launch, they need an experience evaluation to better understand their product's impact on medical practitioners, which will help them present their product to potential clients and determine future steps in development. Additionally, Neurofit requires some UI design work to unify their in-game, patient-oriented and out-of-game, practitioner-oriented experiences.
Research & Discovery
To better understand the potential users of this product, we conducted interviews with healthcare practitioners. Through these interviews, we gained an understanding of the process of therapy and recovery, and the needs of medical practitioners.
Snapshot of my interview data mural board. Identified practitioner needs are Yellow, patient needs are Green
Key Takeaways to Consider:
Practitioners believe that patient motivation and mood is directly tied to their ability to recover.
A patient's recovery hinges on what they do the moment they go home.
Practitioners feel strong empathy towards their patients and want to see them succeed.
Practitioners share feelings of triumph and disappointment when their patients reach or miss recovery milestones.
Ensuring patients are doing okay at home is of high concern.
Patients face many barriers to recovery, some of which are outside of the practitioner's control.
The ability to examine a patient's recovery process over time is important to predicting their success.
The recovery process is a cycle including patients assessment, therapy and home-care.
Unsuccessful recovery means a patient is likely going to re-enter the cycle of care at a later time.
As our time and resources were limited, we were unable to conduct patient interviews. As our focus was on the practitioner side of things, we felt that understanding how a practitioner views their patient's journey would be adequate for the short-term, as they are deeply involved in their patient's recovery.
As-Is Experience Map
To-Be Experience Map
From our research and discovery, we generated an As-Is experience map to highlight what the therapy process currently looks like without Neurofit. Then, with our As-Is map in hand, we consulted with Neurofit to see their vision of their product to determine which aspects to highlight in our To-Be map. With this To-Be map, we sought to give Neurofit some clarity as to which aspects of their product might be the most impactful.
Our maps are somewhat unique as they include both the practitioner and patient experiences. As these user groups are highly dependent on each other through the recovery process, we felt it was pertinent to account for both in our map. They are separated by the yellow and green colour blocking.
Our As-Is map outlines how the cognitive therapy experience functions currently without the existence of Neurofit. Through our research we identified the stages of therapy, which include Admission, Assessment, Therapy (i.e. actual exercises and sessions), Home Care (i.e. time between sessions or after patient is released from hospital) and Follow Up.
Cycle of Care
The “cycle of care” involves patient assessment, therapy, and home care.
This cycle extends along a patient’s recovery timeline until the patient is well enough to continue recovery on their own, or until their insurance runs out (represented as moments of truth)
Currently, when the patient exits the cycle of care the practitioner's role in the patient's life ends.
From then on, it is up to the patient to continue recovery by themselves, which ultimately results in their successful or "failed" recovery.
Looking back, I don't think "failed" is an appropriate descriptor as it is strongly worded and hints at a dichotomy of "success" and "failure" in recovery, which is not the case. Our intention was to show that an unsuccessful recovery might result in a patient re-entering therapy at a later date, thus beginning their cycle over again.
As our research was oriented towards understanding practitioners, we combined the practitioner's views of the patient experience as well as Neurofit's pre-existing research to highlight core Recovery Goals, Needs (for recovery) and Barriers (to recovery) for patients. These categories are placed along a patient's recovery timeline, which moves through the stages of Admission, Assessment, Therapy, Home Care, and Follow Up.
Barriers: As-Is map
Barriers to recovery was an area of focus that emerged in practitioner interviews. Practitioners expressed that many of these barriers were outside of their control, and felt that patient mentality had a large impact on recovery.
Our To-Be map highlights how the cognitive therapy experience might function in the future with the introduction of Neurofit. While we used Neurofit's current product to inspire Practitioner-oriented aspects of this map, we focused on the greatest areas of impact Neurofit can address in future developments. These greatest areas of potential impact are seen more-so in the patient experience.
Cycle of Care 2
First and foremost, we wanted to underscore the potential for Neurofit to impact how patients recover at home. This is represented by an extended "Cycle of Care" which includes a mini-cycle, the "Home Care Cycle", which takes places between the Home Care and Follow-Up stages.
The Home Care Cycle underscores how Neurofit can influence a patient's recovery while they are at home. The To-Be map shows that a practitioner can continue to be involved with the patient after they are home, whereas before, their involvement would end. This extension shows that patients can continue the cycle of care with Neurofit after the "Goes Home" moment of truth, thus increasing their chances at a successful recovery.
Patient Experience 2
It was important for us to highlight how Neurofit meets patient needs for successful recovery, so in our To-Be map we included addressed needs which call back to the barriers to recovery mentioned in our As-Is.
Barriers: As-Is map
Addressed Needs: To-Be map
Dashboard UI Design
To help unify their in-game and out-of-game experiences, I worked to design a dashboard UI with Neurofit that enables practitioners to select and view patient data, as well as start Neurofit sessions in the VR Headset.
Dashboard landing page
The focus for the Dashboard page was overarching trends in patient data as well as at-a-glance information. As practitioners often review patient data after the session is completed, easy access to recent patients from the main screen is essential.
Patient File page with patient navigation controls
The navigation of this UI was difficult to construct as it requires multiple levels of access. To account for practitioners and patient-level information, I decided to 'nest' navigation within a hierarchy. So, the topmost bar is practitioner-specific information, with the 2nd bar from the top containing at-a-glance patient information. This will be helpful in the future if Neurofit decides to develop an at-home kit for patients only, as they can 'lock' certain aspects of the UI to prevent patients from viewing potentially sensitive information.
Additionally, when a patient is selected, the Quickstart session becomes highlighted. This enables the practitioner to quickly administer the VR exercises to the current patient from any screen.
Patient account switching
To allow practitioners to quickly switch between patient information, I included a patient dropdown that prioritizes recent patients which leads to the corresponding patient file.
Patient session data
This Session Data represents how Neurofit might track and display key patient metrics to the practitioner. As motivation and mood are key for recovery, prominently displaying the patient's rating of the game as well as their scores and predicted outcome are important for practitioners to deliver individualized care.
Starting Session Overlay
As the VR component is essential to this platform, a clear "starting session" overlay is important to signal that a session is about to begin. It also contains additional instructions for the practitioner in case of technical difficulty.
As Neurofit was an early stage startup, this project introduced a different aspect to my usual process. As this project was conducted in an educational setting, our team was somewhat limited with what we could do in our set timeline. In the future, I think additional research with patients is warranted, especially if Neurofit might introduce a home kit for patients to use unsupervised.