A health service comprised of an app for pet owners and an integrated electronic medical record interface for veterinarians after diagnosis of a chronic condition like inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease or diabetes.
Researcher, interaction designer, visual designer, tester
- Pencil and paper (initial wireframes)
- Google draw (user flows)
- Sketch (wireframes and visual design)
- UXPin (prototyping)
- InVision (prototyping)
- Illustrator (interaction flows)
- HTML and CSS (final deliverable)
The Pet2Vet service prototype is a vet-controlled interactive system comprised of a mobile app for owners, and a desktop interface for veterinarians. The Pet2Vet system employs a two-pronged approach for improving care of pets with chronic health conditions. It helps owners build a solid routine after diagnosis, and it gives veterinarians necessary information about their patients’ health, while also improving communication between caretakers.
The process consisted of:
- User research
- Personas and scenarios
- Flows and wireframes
- Two rounds of user testing
- Revised, high-fidelity wireframes
The final deliverables were:
- Interactive prototypes
- Interaction flows
- A selection of visual design
- Demo video
- Project website
The Pet2Vet service began with a hypothesis that I tested and revised with user research. My goal was to improve the vet and owner experience of caring for sick animals. Through ideation and testing the final service concept emerged. The methods I used included:
My user research consisted of 17 interviews with experts including veterinarians and owners of cats and dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), or diabetes. I learned that the biggest struggle for pet owners wasn’t the expense of care as much as it was the anxiety associated with caring for a sick animal. For vets, establishing boundaries with owners and getting quality information presented the biggest challenge.
Caring for pets with chronic medical conditions is expensive for pet owners and time-consuming for veterinarians. Treating pets at home introduces the risk of human error and can be dangerous for pets.
Caring for pets with chronic medical conditions can be overwhelming for pet owners. They often have trouble adjusting to an unfamiliar care routine. Veterinarians struggle to get accurate information from owners, and often spend too much time corresponding outside of clinic hours.
“The hardest part was getting used to managing her medications and getting in the schedule.”
—Owner of cat with IBD and CKD
Owners spent a lot of time organizing their pet’s care, including tracking symptoms and noting changes to their pet’s routine in notebooks and homemade spreadsheets.
“I’ve gotten good at knowing the owners and what I think they can do.”
Veterinarians modified treatment to fit their assumptions about owner capabilities. They also spent many hours outside of the clinic corresponding with owners via email and text.
As I transcribed each interview and began to group insights by theme, the following patterns emerged.
- Treatment at home was isolating and anxiety-producing for owners
- Adapting to a schedule that necessitates time-specific medicines, injections, or other treatment was difficult to manage
- Most owners felt that they needed more support from their vets
- Owners bombarded vets with unnecessary information, making it difficult to tell if the patient was complying with the treatment.
- Vets spend a lot of their time corresponding with owners outside of the clinic.
Focusing on the anxieties associated with pet care yielded denser areas of interest. Rapid brainstorming and sketching helped me explore how to increase comfort and confidence amongst owners and vets.
Although ideas that involved convenient remote care, social support, and better education about chronic health conditions often came up in my research, I knew these areas would not impact vets as much as they would owners. I was most interested in ideas that supported better care for both vets and owners.
A targeted goal statement helped hone my work further.
Create an interactive tool that supports veterinarians and pet owners of cats and dogs with chronic conditions adapt to an unfamiliar care plan by making behavioral and symptomatic patterns obvious using data, forming a routine, and facilitating better communication outside of the clinic.
This statement identified the needs of the veterinarians who desired more accurate information about their patients, and better communication with owners. It also acknowledged the needs of the owners who wanted more support from their veterinarians, and help adjusting to a new routine. The goal statement was pivotal to developing a solution that worked for my personas in their scenarios.
I synthesized my qualitative data into 4 main variables: activities, attitudes, motivations, and skills. Using these variables I narrowed my focus to 10 behavioral variable ranges, noted in the chart below. These included variables like care-consciousness vs. cost-consciousness and trust vs. skepticism of the vet.
Through behavior-mapping I developed two personas: Pam and Nadine. These personas not only accounted for different chronic conditions and species of pet, but they allowed me to explore how a reactive, cost-conscious owner might behave versus a care-conscious, proactive owner. Dr. Joy Schneider was based heavily on on one expert interview in particular.
Empathy maps such as this one helped me prepare to write believable scenarios for my personas. These scenarios would become the interaction design scaffolding of the user flows.
In order to decide how the system would respond to user input I considered the larger ecosystem of the service. Sketching a rough concept map helped me imagine what functions the system would perform, and provided constraints for keeping the project in scope.
Creating rough flows in Google draw helped me visualize the full interaction in a single image.
Currently there are not any smart devices for measuring blood glucose in animals. Unlike humans, pets cannot live with an insulin pump, making needle injections the norm for diabetic pets.
After researching emerging technologies in human diabetes healthcare, I decided to include a smart glucometer in the Pet2Vet system concept.
Not only does such a device seem imminent in the market, but including it in the service allowed me to consider a system response to syncing with a physical device.
Testing with low fidelity wireframes gave me valuable feedback on flows before making any refinements. At this stage I also tested a novel wheel interface, which broke up daily tasks into segments. User feedback led me to make the following changes before usability testing.
Vets commented that too much specificity in blood glucose numbers often causes owners to lose sight of the big picture. Obsession over each glucose reading can lead to unhelpful correspondence with the vet, and poor treatment for the pet.
Takeaway: Keep the initial dashboard view informative, but general.
Some users were concerned that a large number of daily tasks would cause the wheel interface to become cumbersome.
Takeaway: Give users a choice between a wheel view or a simpler to-do list view.
Showing veterinarians early wireframes sparked conversation around what an ideal system could look like.
Showing key information such as recent lab results and patient notes on one screen was helpful for vets to absorb the complete picture.
Takeaway: Design a single screen full of high level, relevant information.
Vets were adamant that they not receive alerts or system notifications unless one of their patients was in critical condition.
Takeaway: Lean on the care team to triage questions from owners. Rely on the system to determine if a patient’s health data was high risk.
Users responded positively to the wheel interface during concept testing. Representing each task in a segment of a wheel made their routine seem more manageable, and completing the wheel each day felt satisfying.
Early wireframes included segments for tasks as well weight and other medical issues.
In later wireframes segments were reserved to represent tasks. Users struggled with the pill icons, perceiving them as buttons rather than as representations of medication.
In final wireframes adding a dimensional render on the pills helped users to read these as medication rather than buttons.
Users could toggle between the list and wheel view. Less than three, or more than eight tasks defaulted to the list view.
I completed usability testing of the Pet2Vet owner app screens with 5 participants using high fidelity wireframes in a clickable InVision prototype. I moderated most of the sessions remotely using Zoom, and the testers completed 6-8 tasks.
Below are two examples of micro-interactions that I revised after completing usability testing.
Users responded negatively to the emergency scenarios. When they made an error and the app sent an automatic alert to the vet, they felt that the app tattled on them.
Takeaway: In the final prototype I gave the user the opportunity to write a note to send to the vet, providing context when a high-risk situation occurs.
In many sessions users read the Record button in the tab menu as a verb and not a noun, believing that they could add information by tapping it rather than view medical record information.
Takeaway: I clarified the button’s purpose by replacing “Record” with “Med Record”.
A palette of blues and grays makes the interface feel consistent with other medical and health apps. To reinforce associations with accuracy and trustworthiness I kept the type and iconography simple. Yellow accents introduce friendliness, while red and orange signify alerts. Green is used sparingly to communicate successful connection to smart devices.
The service deliverables included:
- Interactive prototypes
- Interaction flows
- A selection of visual design
- Demo video
- Process website
Below are walk-through videos of a couple of flows included in the interactive prototypes for vets and pet owners.
In this scenario the owner shares health data with her vet to determine if she should come in for an appointment or take other action.
In this scenario a vet creates a 2-week routine for the owner to follow before she comes in for an appointment. The vet builds the routine from an existing template for the pet’s specific disease.
In this scenario an owner successfully completes a daily care routine for a her diabetic dog.
Testing the owner app prototype with users gave me confidence in Pet2Vet as a service. My next step would be to develop a minimum viable product to demo with patients and vets, collect feedback, and propose to an animal healthcare provider.