Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes a group of lung conditions that make it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have narrowed. According to the British Lung Foundation, around 2% of the whole UK population – 4.5% of all people aged over 40 – live with a COPD diagnosis.
We partnered with a European pharmaceutical company to define the user experience of a COPD mobile health system.
The aim was to create a prototype system to enable patients to carry out better self-care and tracking in order to prevent exacerbations. Its focus was people with severe or very severe COPD, although the platform could be relevant to other chronic conditions. The system was planned for an initial European rollout to be followed by a more global footprint.
We recruited sets of naturally occurring care groups in the UK and Germany: healthcare practitioners (including pulmonologists, GPs, and carers) and their patients. To each of them, we gave an early prototype of the system, and asked them to use it for a period of three months.
During this period, every two weeks we visited patients in their homes, and healthcare practitioners in their offices, hospitals or surgeries. At each visit, we would explore people’s experiences, and invite any other individuals present (e.g. wives, children, nurses, etc.) to join in on the conversation.
Our findings informed design and development sprints over the following two weeks. In our next visit, we would then update the system as well as do our research. This allowed us to very rapidly build on our learnings, and create a system that worked in real-time, in the real-world, across different networks of care.
Across the stages of our design, development and research, we were able to answer our initial questions:
How can we create a system that supports healthcare practitioners?
Healthcare practitioners have limited time and resources to bring a new digital platform into their care plans. We had to offer them something new, that could work alongside their existing ecosystem of systems and give them a sense of control.
How can we build a system that patients are happy and able to use in the long-term?
We found that if we introduce a system that can easily sit in a prominent place in patient’s homes, with gentle reminders and a friendly tone, it could begin to be a part of their daily routines. In COPD, however, hospitalisations and exacerbations become progressively common. We had to assume that lapses in use amongst patients would happen, so we explored how to re-engage people in the system once again.
How can the system empower typically disengaged patients to take control over their self-management?
When it became a part of patient’s habits, they were more likely to change their self-management routines. As a result, their sense of being able to stay on top of their condition, as well as learn more about it, seemed to improve over time.