As the lead designer in a team of five, I was tasked with developing an augmented reality prototype that connects elders to their primary care providers. This project required a keen ability to listen to local seniors and doctors while addressing their current and future needs. Our research and development focused on intuition, comfort, and style of hardware glasses & biometric functions. The final model substantially decreases the projected time & money spent by both patients and providers on their health care services.
1 \ The Task
Our challenge from Humana was broad: develop a new tool that would be used by seniors to improve their health care experience.
2 \ Getting Started
As the team was debriefed on available resources and the overall timeline for the project, we immediately knew that the best place to start would be to speak with seniors living at Champaign’s Clark-Lindsey retirement homes.
3 \ Pain Points
Our first phase hinged on creating meaningful questions & guiding conversations to discover how we could bring real utility to both this generation of seniors and future generations to come. When researching these talking points, we were able to hone in on three key pain points:
Transportation • 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation. Furthermore, there is a 30% no-show rate nationwide
Technology • 58% of adults aged 65+ don’t own a smartphone and 74% don’t feel confident while using the internet
Treatment at Home • $3,600 per patient is currently spent on unnecessary emergency room treatments
4 \ Listening
Post-interviews, we had a stronger sense of how accurate our initially developed pain points were. From these conversations, we understood that seniors and caretakers believe caring for your health should be easy to understand. However; this belief was juxtaposed by another common sentiment: technology can be complex and intimidating. New solutions need to be more efficient to manage and integrated into an experience that is ultimately easy and enjoyable to use.
5 \ Re-evaluating
Our initial assumptions pointed to seniors avoiding driving themselves or being driven to doctors’ offices. However, we later observed that many alternative resources, like Uber Health, were very popular in our target demographic.
Research also warned that seniors avoid using new technologies and products, or simply don’t want to learn about these new tools. Our community observations reflected quite the opposite: seniors are quick on their feet, eager to learn about new tech, but may still prefer traditional tools just out of familiarity.
Finally, the current dialogue paints seniors as highly dependent on family, friends, and health services. In reality, they have found a way to maintain their own health, stay mobile, and assert their independence.
I believe any tool that aims to delight while transforming complexity into convenience will win over people’s minds and hearts.
6 \ Direction
We had made an initial set of assumptions. Our assumptions were checked and our knowledge of the real situation was expanded by weeks of conversation with those who provided and received care. Now, we had a clear vision of a design challenge to put forth and solve:
How can we bridge the gap between seniors and their healthcare community by integrating existing technologies that maintain their independence?
Clark-Lindsey residents Charles & Caroline Hanes articulated it best: they needed to be able to get advice from someone at the moment that they need it. Similarly, Humana corporate medical director Dr. Anup Sharma emphasized the utility of being able to “hit one button and see who [the patient is], where they are calling from, and at that moment, all the information about the patient in the system pops up".
7 \ The Solution
Our Humana Glass Prototype illustrates how patients can use augmented reality to be better connected to their care providers. The glasses allow any patient to verbally communicate their medical issues and relay real-time biometric data to the avatar of their care provider while maintaining a comfortable, simple, and intimate experience. Above all, privacy and confidentiality are a top priority.
Through the seamless integration of technology and convenience, Humana Glass allows patients to maintain that sense of trust with their physician in an interaction that is as simple and lag-free as a phone call. Mixed reality also gives patients the impression that their provider is right in the room with them, naturally creating an accompanied sense of safety and comfort.
The physician is able to assuage concerns and isolate pain points virtually, saving both parties the time, money, and stress associated with traditional visits.
8 \ Prototype Feedback
It didn’t matter how innovative or simple we believed our prototype experience was if our target audience didn’t see the same utility. Taking our findings to our customers at Clark-Lindsey and triage nurses at Carle Hospital yielded wonderful feedback on both the benefits and design challenges of Humana Glass.
The higher quality of communication between patient and care-provider from a person’s own home was a beloved benefit that all parties immediately latched on to. Readily accessible health data just made sense and helped re-spark a sense of confidence, as did the whole system’s ease of use.
Collectively, we were also able to identify a few design challenges that more advanced prototypes would need to address. First is natural aging: usability will probably be limited following progressive macular degeneration in older patients. Enabling seniors that already wear glasses to use the prototype would also require partnership with prescription lens companies, as products from Google and Magic Leap have explored. We were also mindful that any mixed reality elements wouldn’t abstract objects too much, maintaining familiarity to digital objects.
In all regards, our prototype was recognized by seniors, care providers, and project leads at Humana as a forward thinking tool that has the clear potential to help significantly reduce the time, stress, and financial burden that current methods of care present.
I can’t wait to apply the interpersonal and technical insights that I’ve gained from this project in the next steps of my ongoing journey to help create tools that help spread efficiency and health one community at a time.
“Make it easy to do the right thing, and hard to do the wrong thing. That’s a win for everyone.”
- Dr. Anup Sharma