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Medical App Development And Redesign Case Study

Treatment: Leveraging Consumer Research to Innovate Mobile Health App

Treatment, an innovative healthcare technology company that develops advanced artificial intelligence (AI), knew they had the makings of a healthcare app unlike anything else on the market. They wanted to provide their customers with an unparalleled health and wellness experience that puts healthcare into their own hands, but they didn’t know where to start.

Highland set out to help Treatment understand consumers and develop a human-centered mobile application that meets their needs, motivations, and expectations. We researched, designed, prototyped, and validated an MVP (minimum viable product) through consumer testing — which later evolved into Cara, a personalized symptom assessment and health management app.

Client Challenge:
Creating a “stickier” product experience

Treatment’s vision is to improve consumers’ holistic well-being by delivering proactive health insights that empower them to make more informed health decisions.

Unlike other health assessment tools like WebMD and Google, Treatment’s AI provides personalized answers to users’ health questions. It’s a system that thinks like a doctor. It builds unique health profiles by considering each person’s medical history, characteristics, and API-connected data points from wearables, medical devices, and remote patient monitoring apps.

Treatment deployed their AI in the Merlin mobile app, a pre-existing consumer-facing application for iOS and Android. While it provides health data and information, Treatment was uncertain about the app's ability to foster prolonged activity, beyond episodic symptom checking. They faced several challenges:

  • Infrequent usage of app

  • Low app engagement, despite the 4.5/5 point Google Play and Apple App Store ratings

  • Unclear if app was connecting with consumers in a meaningful way

They realized a key stakeholder that could revolutionize the experience was missing a seat at the table: the consumer. They needed guidance grounded in what was most valuable to the end-user and approached Highland to assist with:

  • Identifying target customer segments and their individual needs

  • Extending current product offering to become a linking force between the wellness and healthcare industries

  • Ensuring offerings support (while not competing with) clinician advice

  • Attracting customers when they’re not sick (beyond a symptom checker)

  • Revamping and optimizing the mobile experience

Our Approach to Solving Treatment’s Challenges:
An emotional Job to be Done

Highland and Treatment both knew trust, empathy, and credibility needed to be emphasized in order to launch a digital product that sticks with consumers. Our development process included five components:

1) Assess pros and cons across existing Merlin app

Though consumers were impressed and interested in the app, factors were influencing their low engagement activity. We learned user experience, tone of the content, and visual design could be improved to guide consumers on how to make the best use of the AI’s data and information. More clarity around patient's health data protection and accreditation by healthcare professionals and medical schools would also boost customers' trust in using the app's features.

2) Conduct consumer research to learn about target customers

We used the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) framework to understand what motivates target customers to use digital products and coupled it with exploratory research methods to gain even deeper behavioral insights. Results showed an array of functional, social, and emotional needs and wants across three target user personas and their use cases. While each different, their primary unmet needs were consistent: personalization and empowerment. 

Consumer research also uncovered that people are generally skeptical of AI and often question its overall reliability — especially as it relates to their personal health and data security.

3) Leverage research insights to build initial app ideas and design concepts that empathize with key target audiences

The development of the revamped mobile application designs focused heavily on user experience, user interface, usability, and user flow to ensure a quick emotional connection from the start. To combat distrust in the AI, we emphasized the truth behind it: these are real, intelligent people (the best doctors of University of Minnesota Medical School) that provide the most accurate medical knowledge. The app designs presented this detail in a simple, understandable format, and warm, conversional brand identity and color scheme in mission to appear more genuine. 

Highland knew the way to increase confidence was through this humanization of the AI, while stressing the safety and privacy of patient data and medical records. Additional features and functionality were incorporated to help Treatment offer a competitive, differentiated product that met gaps identified across the health and medical service ecosystem.

“Working with Highland is a really powerful tool and experience for a company to be able to gain insights around a product. To have a group of people who know how to have real conversations with customers unlocks new pathways, ones that may be uncomfortable and uncover change, but they empower you to move forward in a way that feels really constructive.”
Chris Whitworth
VP Operations, Treatment (via Zoom interview)
Treatment

4) Test and iterate initial app designs to better support the consumer

Using design sprints, Highland rapidly prototyped and tested multiple iterations with a range of demographics and personas, fueling the transformation of app design while reducing future development costs. The design and development team learned fast and pivoted quickly to define everything from critical health outputs and push notifications (like blood pressure alerts or weekly progress tips) to prominent, transparent messaging that addressed AI, electronic health records (EHR), and electronic medical records (EMR) privacy concerns. 

The healthcare application development and testing process consolidated learnings to realize a final design that fostered an easy-to-use experience, intuitive user workflow, and most importantly —  the most valuable product offering that inspired consumer activation and adoption.

5) Provide healthcare mobile application strategy to help Treatment establish a plan for growth and success

Highland helped Treatment move their digital product forward by honing in on recommendations that ensure the emergent app is centered on consumers' health journey. We collaboratively developed a prioritized roadmap for the MVP that included key components across user onboarding and setup, front-end and back-end elements for the personalized customer profile, user flows that inspire consumer action, important health information messaging, and additional learning goals to test before handing off to healthcare app developers.

Research & User Test Included

39 one-on-one Interviews

  • 16 JTBD Interviews

  • 6 Existing App User Tests

  • 17 Prototype User Tests

Services Offered

Results:
A truly unique market offering: Cara

Treatment needed an app that made people feel safe, reduced overwhelm, and built confidence. Through the work with Highland, Treatment devised Cara, building upon the MVP and creating a personal AI assistant mobile app that provides real-time health insights and tips. The tool is singular in that it answers individualized health questions with the warmth of a trusted friend and the knowledge and reliability of a health expert. It’s an integrated medical application that connects with existing healthcare providers, new health partners, imports health data from fitness apps and tracking apps, and provides peer reviews to increase users’ confidence and commitment. 

Through the partnership with Highland, Treatment could focus on building a supportive relationship with the consumer first and design an app that helps consumers manage their overall health.

Due to the teams’ joint success, Highland is continuing to support Treatment's preparation for Cara's in-market product release. To verify the app is ready for consumers’ mobile devices, we are extending learnings through UI/UX design and testing – solidifying Cara's medical app development strategy.

“On a very basic level, we found that people need to be heard, they need to feel supported and through our work with Highland, we got everyone to take a broader look, to not just get stuck in all of the details, but really see what emotional jobs the customers are seeking.”
Chris Whitworth
VP Operations, Treatment (via Zoom interview)
Treatment