Pet2Vet Service

App and Medical Record Interface for Vets and Pet Owners

Hero image of three Pet2Vet app screens

Overview

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.

Role

Researcher, interaction designer, visual designer, tester

Tools

  • 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)

Timeframe

6 months

Introducing Pet2Vet

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:

  1. User research
  2. Personas and scenarios
  3. Flows and wireframes
  4. Two rounds of user testing
  5. Revised, high-fidelity wireframes

The final deliverables were:

  1. Interactive prototypes
  2. Interaction flows
  3. A selection of visual design
  4. Demo video
  5. Project website

Pet2Vet was completed in 2018 as my master’s thesis from Northeastern University. The service remains a prototype.

Goals & Methods

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:

Image of post-its on a wall

Discovery

Problem Statements Before and After Research

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.

Problem Hypothesis

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.

Final Statement

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.

User Insights

“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.”

—Veterinarian

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.

Identifying Patterns in User Research

Organizing the Data

As I transcribed each interview and began to group insights by theme, the following patterns emerged.

Pain Points for Owners
  • 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
Pain Points for 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.
Learn about the complete discovery process
Photograph of a wall filled with organized post-it notes

Synthesizing insights from user interviews by type and theme, including “diagnosis,” “daily routine,” and “expense.”

Synthesis

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.

Narrowing the Scope

Crafting a Goal Statement

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 photograph of columns of post-its, two of which are circled in yellow

A focused brainstorm helped me decide to pursue solutions that facilitated easier data tracking and routine building for vets and owners.

A targeted goal statement helped hone my work further.

Goal Statement

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.

Creating Accurate Personas

Using behavioral variables and empathy maps to write better stories

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.

A bar chart showing 10 behavior variables

Most users were independent, had only one pet, used a mixture of digital and analog tools to track data, and were trusting of their vets.

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.

Pet2Vet Personas

Pam Vega

A 41-year-old pediatric nurse with a 6-year-old dog with Cushing’s Disease and a 13-year-old cat with IBD and chronic kidney disease.
Photograph of woman with dog and cat sitting in grass

Nadine Thompson

A 32-year-old associate director of development with a 15-year-old cat with diabetes mellitus.
Photograph of woman snuggling a cat

Dr. Joy Schneider

A 38-year-old veterinary internal medicine specialist, with 4 pets of her own (3 cats and 1 dog).
Photograph of woman vet with dog and cat

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.

A schematic showing the thoughts feelings, work, and goals of a vet

Testing

Envisioning the System

A concept map and user flows informed wireframes

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.

Diagrammatic sketch of Pet2Vet service

I imagined that the service could integrate with multiple smart technologies and allow owners to order prescription food and supplies.

Creating rough flows in Google draw helped me visualize the full interaction in a single image.

Google draw user flow for Nadine

This user flow visualizes the input of information from the pet owner, the input of data from the pet, the response from the vet, and the response from the system.

Google draw user flow for Dr. Joy

This user flow visualizes the way in which Dr. Joy’s team of techs and nurses use the system to support owners.

A Note About Diabetes Mellitus

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.

Concept Testing

Gathering early feedback with low fidelity wireframes

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.

Completing Tasks in a Routine

Distracting data

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.

Three screens showing tasks screen for a diabetic animal

Partial flow wireframes show the tasks to complete for a diabetic dog

Limitations of the wheel

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.

Three screens showing tasks for an animal with chronic kidney disease

Partial flow wireframes show the tasks to complete for a cat with chronic kidney disease

Choosing the best information

Showing veterinarians early wireframes sparked conversation around what an ideal system could look like.

All on one screen

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.

Wireframe of a vet's patient screen

A sample wireframe showing a diabetic patient profile

Alert only when necessary

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.

Wireframe of a vet's dashboard

A sample wireframe showing a dashboard screen with alerts

Evolution of the tasks dashboard

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.

Version 1

Version 2

Final Wireframes

Low fidelity wireframe of Pam's tasks screen with one task completed

Early wireframes included segments for tasks as well weight and other medical issues.

Version of wireframe of the task list dashboard in a wheel view

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.

Final version of wireframe of the task list dashboard in a wheel view

In final wireframes adding a dimensional render on the pills helped users to read these as medication rather than buttons.

Final version of wireframe of the task list dashboard in a list view

Users could toggle between the list and wheel view. Less than three, or more than eight tasks defaulted to the list view.

Usability Testing

Refining micro-interactions with clickable prototypes

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.

Emergency Alerts

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.

Three screens showing a portion of a user flow in an emergency situation

An automatically generated alert is sent to the vet when a pet’s condition is critical

A screen showing a pop-up alert sent to the vet

The original alert message

A revised screen showing an pop-up alert sent to the vet

The revised message

Medical Record Button

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 cropped image showing the original medical record tab menu button

Original tab menu

A cropped image showing a revised medical record tab menu button

Revised tab menu

Visual Design

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.

Pet2Vet tasks screen with one wedge filled in
Pet2Vet tasks screen with overlay menu showing other functions
Pet2Vet blood glucose detail screen
Pet2Vet log meal detail screen
Pet2Vet log insulin detail screen
Pet2Vet tasks screen with three wedges filled in

Pet2Vet Deliverables

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.

Adding a Note and Sharing it with the Vet

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.

Creating a Patient Routine for an Owner to Follow

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.

Following a Complex Daily Routine

In this scenario an owner successfully completes a daily care routine for a her diabetic dog.

Opportunities

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.