IViey Healthcare: How to build a marketplace product and experience with tech and infrastructure constraints.
Starting at the end
As I ended the video call, my mind and body felt tense. Not from a sense of fear, but a sense of excitement. We launched IViey, a healthcare marketplace connecting visitors in need of help with specialists who could provide it. We didn’t exactly know how it would go. We were nervous, excited, enthusiastic and cautious.
I’ve always been a fan of marketplaces. The dynamics around businesses that don’t own a product or don’t create the specified service has always made me curious.
An offer unlike the others
“I’ve been looking for a gynechologist close to work for the past year. Do you know anyone located in Cascade?”
I need a new doctor. The last one I went to just made me feel super uncomfortable. Plus, they were a bit far from home. Do you know any counsellors or psychologists I can see? I feel super stressed about my job, but I can’t leave. I just want to know how to deal.
These were the questions Jhenelle Elder fielded for the past two years, unable to give a clear answer. Her friends and family were searching for a way to find and connect with qualified specialists in the private healthcare industry.
When Jhenelle approached me, she already had an arsenal of information; questions, answers, potential solutions. She had an idea for a directory listing platform, where practitioner information was ready and available for anyone to search. She wanted me to help her design it and put the pieces together.
But rather than take it on as a project, she wanted me to be a part of it.
The more I listened, the more I knew that this would be too hard to pass up. Not to mention, it helped me further hone my design skills from the ground up, combining my two favourite things — design and entrepreneurship.
Moving away from the norm
While the directory idea was a potential solution, we didn’t truly know what an actual solution would look like. We decided to start from the very beginning of it all — from the source of those years of questions.
We canvassed the questions she was often asked and thought about the reasons why. We started with online research and asking questions to our own extended network.
What we found was not too far from our informed expectations — directory services already existed, but they offered inaccurate access to information and poor online experiences. However, we started to see a trend.
Private healthcare was an underserved industry. Within the local system, the majority of the population relied on the public sector to serve their healthcare needs.
Private practitioners were finding it difficult to carve their own space in the economy. Furthermore, our research helped us understand that the local government also didn’t have proper data or information on private practitioners to understand the shift in the healthcare industry.
Was a directory going to push the needle enough to actually help people find practitioners?
What type of help do practitioners need to carve their own space?
The two-sided dilemma
Building through COVID-19 always comes with challenges. And in a time and space where interviewing customers or potential users was easier, where you can simply show up, COVID pushed us in different ways to gather data and information.
I decided to segment the research into qualitative and quantitative methods. And then separating those into user-based research and practitioner-based research.
We designed surveys to gather quantitative results, based on criteria set on the Google Ventures Research Library as inspiration.
We worked together to create criteria that would help us determine who to interview after the surveys and built our questions around key elements of the experience we wanted to design for. We also made an early decision to focus on the private sector, which seemed to be where most of the pains from both practitioners and patients came from.
Our surveys enabled us to gather simple insights to help qualify interviewees who would help us get to the bottom of the problems. These were our most in-need users.
We conducted these interviews the best way we could during COVID-19, using Zoom, Skype on any video and audio tool available.
These interviews revealed some telling statements:
- “I don’t have the online option for appointments but calling is definitely not an issue for me.”
- “I hate call holding and the singing voice or music.”
- “I honestly have no clue where to look for professionals.”
- “I have no prior experience when it comes to feeling overjoyed using our healthcare system, public or private.”
- “Sometimes I feel like I am bothering the doctor when I call or message for non-pressing information. So sometimes, I never call. Then I suffer in the long-term because I just hesitate to get information.”
I wanted to make sure that we also heard from practitioners in the private sector. Following the same structure, we were able to find private healthcare practitioners who were able to give us some time. then turned my focus onto the practitioners, which was a little more daunting.
I was able to casually interview 5 practitioners within the medical and allied healthcare field. Their feedback highlighted the problems they faced in a world that was saturated with information.
- Most of the platforms they used lacked accurate information about the healthcare community.
- Allied health professionals struggled to stand out among all the other industries vying for attention online.
- They were tired of trying to develop new skills, especially after spending years honing their medical and healthcare craft.
- They had trouble being able to refer clients to others because they didn’t know many other professionals in the space and didn’t have a place to look.
This feedback led me to think about not just tackling one side of the coin, but both. How can I enable a better connection between patients/clients and practitioners and practitioner-to-practitioner collaboration?
Pressing on the pain
We realized that the problem was not just gaining access, but having an actual place or point of access — one that could bring together two segments of the community in a new way.
The market was fragmented. We wanted to find a way to bring it together.
Jhenelle had the healthcare brain. I, the design ability. But neither had the software development skills. We knew we had to start somewhere but didn’t quite know exactly where. Choices needed to be made.
Constrained by a culture that was risk-averse, and by an environment lacking some key pieces to our potential solution, I had to design a solution that would bridge the current gap between familiar and innovative, while keeping viewers satisfied and inspired.
- How might we enable practitioners and users to connect easier?
- How might we enable this connection while instilling trust?
- How might we design a way that allows practitioners access an audience in a friction-less way?
- How might we give patients/clients the necessary data they need to find who they need and make decisions for their health?
- How might we design a solution that allows practitioners and customers to grow and blossom collectively?
- How might we overcome risk-aversion and cultural apprehension?
These questions allowed our mind to come up with, not only the type of solution we should build but how best to start building it. Which meant, I could sacrifice certain initial features to get a functioning MVP.
We decided that we would take the directory idea even further to create a marketplace platform that allowed visitors to search for who they needed, while allowing practitioners to also operate as visitors to find peers in their network.
This solution was powered by healthcare-specific profiles of private practitioners, which enabled visitors to use available information and easily communicate with practitioners.
This solution helped to address the following key issues:
For users: lack of access to accurate, informative information that helped users make decisions.
For practitioners: a healthcare space they can stand out from the noise.
Keeping them close
This didn’t mean that we designed in secret. One way to keep our finger on the pulse was continually keeping our users and practitioners in the loop.
We wanted people to be involved throughout the process. Not only would this help them in the long-term, but it would help us easier identify advocates for the platform.
We realized that early advocates would be essential to getting this platform off the ground. Our research led us to believe that there was a huge distrust in the culture when it came to new businesses. We needed to have doctors, psychologists, dentists… every practitioner who signed-up to be an advocate.
Users from our initial interviews also helped me make key decisions in my design, sometimes pointing out areas of confusion, thoughts and ideas that stretched my own thinking process and helping to align what they understood from the internet with what was potentially possible. We continued to test every step of the way.
Armed with only an idea, Jhenelle would get her hands full, recruiting practitioners who I would share the design process with, to understand what they wanted out of personal healthcare space.
Design through staged growth
IViey Healthcare Ltd is now an internet company, built to connect practitioners to patients. But this journey has only begun. With additional team members on board, we launched to two main user groups; patients or clients, and private healthcare practitioners. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to get information and access practitioners close to home. But that is only the beginning.
The potential to improve existing features, develop a supporting application, and design better ways to enable interaction for healthcare is there. Yet, adoption and awareness help us focus on intentionally constrained growth.
I’m quite proud of IViey and my involvement in it. There is massive potential to reimagine healthcare in the Caribbean. And there is an optimistic hope that this is only the first step of many.
Could I call IViey an initial success? Definitely. Why? We spent time digging into the culture, understanding the players, figuring out how we could design within this particular environment and among these constraints.
In hindsight, there are a few things I would change in order to change that ‘definitely’ to an ‘absolutely.’
I would conduct more A/B testing during the prototyping stage. This type of testing would have been extremely beneficial to know which features would be most relevant sooner and which, although small, could make a significant difference.
I would create more design options to share with users and practitioners. Although I created 3different versions as the process carried on, reiterating each time after testing, I think starting with more versions could have stretched the imagination a bit more. This could have helped explore the potential for other solutions and other points of interaction. This approach would allow me to not only push my own boundaries but push what is possible.
Another thought would definitely be to understand the third and fourth-tier players in the market. That means to understand the impact and influence of universities who send out graduates and the government who often oversees the public sector but also helps regulate the over-arching industry of healthcare, public or private. This understanding will better allow me to see different opportunities when considering the types of laws, rules, regulations and infrastructures dictating the markets at a deeper level.