If you’re the glass-half-full type, you’d often find that opportunities come from even the most mundane conversation.
Amazing projects can come about with the simple answer to the question — what are you doing these days?
One thing then leads to another and before you know it — you’re a week into planning your next project together with a friend.
Project IViey is no different. This project was born out of a few scattered conversation over a few months — months that underlined a recurring problem from my project partner.
With their fingers in the healthcare industry, they were the go-to for initial medical advice and for help finding medical experts in Trinidad and Tobago.
As I listened intently to how they described their all-to-common experience with other healthcare patients or users, it was apparent that this was not just a single problem. But when is a healthcare problem ever one problem… or actually simple?
Bringing me on board to help was the first step. After all, I didn’t need much convincing. It was clear to me that this would be a massive opportunity. Not simply to do something for my own country — something I've had in the back of my mind for some time — but to apply my current learnings in UX design, Content Marketing and Web Copywriting to an actual problem or system screaming for change.
If you read my previous post, you can understand the challenge of building a modern platform in a developing country — one quite adverse to change. But the idea of changing user and community habits was far too interesting to pass up.
But to have any idea forward, we had to piece together what we observed and experienced, then formulate some assumptions we could put to the test — to get to know what people really felt and frame they goal of our research.
Keep in mind, these assumptions are purely to initiate the starting point, to base what we would want to find out from patients, users and the public who use and access local Trinidadian healthcare.
We based our initial assumptions on 3 main examples/observations. These were:
1. Patients were searching for medical practitioners.
Sitting in a Dentist’s office awaiting their appointment, a family sat next to my project partner, in dire need of dental advice for their child.
After being told by their primary dentist that they would need to seek a specialist (an orthopedic surgeon to be specific), they realized that they needed to find and make an appointment as quickly as possible.
After 20 minutes sitting in the waiting room (this time being cautiously observed by my project partner), there was a clear and general frustration from the parents — stirred by their evident inability to find any surgeon’s information online. To make matters worse, they were further referred to one specific surgeon who, as it turns out, was unreachable.
2. Searchers asked for referrals, loads of them.
Over the past 2 years, it’s become much harder to find services that people need. Users or patients are wanting access to more services and are starting to take their very health seriously (Coronavirus is pushing us to further consider our health options too).
But what’s been common over the past 2 years is the continuous questions posed from people to my project partner about potential medical specialists they can use or contact. Not only were these questions aimed at finding medical professionals, but questions to elicit any form of advice to treat and deal with simple medical issues. And this happened at a rate of once a week from friends and family.
3. Online research (or lack thereof)
Sure, WebMD and the American Medical Association are great sites to gather information. But for a small island in the Caribbean, these sites are either unknown or untargeted to this population. And the websites and platforms available are either out-of-date or unable to provide accurate or relevant data and information.
I spent days researching the various platforms and websites, from the Ministry of Health to Surgi-Medical Clinic and Southern Medical Centre to find accurate information, a simple process and seamless experience. All this search led me back to the same process — a complex system, poor User Interface and User Experience, built to provide gatekeepers and constraints (or medical secretaries). And all this to talk to people who could neither freely provide the right information or give the relevant directions to make a booking within a specific timeframe.
Overall, the experience of online options, real-life observation and examples of continuous questions now found our basic assumptions of the public’s relationship with the healthcare sector. While it’s a complex (or wicked) problem, access to the right information and the ability to act was tough to do.
Taking the above into consideration, we started asking ourselves questions about the healthcare system, the measures and impact of insurance and the access to relevant and accurate healthcare information by the public.
Some questions we posed before coming to our assumptions were:
- Was this a widespread problem or were we just dealing with a small group of users/patients who were struggling?
- Are medical practitioners cognizant of their online presence and information they provide? Do they consider it a priority?
- What does the public consider as relevant information?
- What are patients wanting to accomplish when they go to medical websites?
- Why are practitioners not online? Is it a lack of knowledge, effort or time — or all the above?
- How do people actually view healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago? How do they prioritize their health?
- What is the standard experience navigating the local healthcare system?
- How important a role does healthcare play in the daily lives of the public? Does it provide a level of safety or risk within society?
All these questions are questions that we posed to ourselves to find the assumptions of base our survey and interviews. And while none were to be answered by us, it allowed us to form some key points to find out from our users.
The initial assumption which we will aim to test, research and understand are:
Users/Patients lack relevant and accurate information and access to healthcare practitioners online to timely solve medical issues.
This assumption will next be used to produce a public survey and to inform our interview process for potential users in the near future.
Until next time, when we share what we did next in this wicked little process.