Like thousands of people across the country, I started running earlier this year to in an attempt defeat the post-Christmas podge. A few weeks in, the going was good and I was beginning to shed a few pounds. But as I started increasing my running distance, I began to develop a numbness in my right foot. I tried adjusting my running technique, wearing different shoes and stretching for longer, but nothing seemed to help.
I turned to the Drummond Clinic, which was recommended by friends and family for their physiotherapy expertise. As I’d hoped, the experts at Drummond diagnosed the problem straight away: a lack of ankle strength and a compacted lower calf were reducing the blood flow to my feet causing a loss of feeling.
After my first treatment I left the clinic with a course of exercises and some printed literature for reference. My head was buzzing with complex physiotherapy terminology and it all sounded great. Although my personal experience at the Drummond Clinic had exceeded expectations, it did make me consider:
- Who is responsible for managing and maintaining patient care away from the clinic?
- When does the physio experience truly end; when you leave the clinic or when you’re fully recovered?
- How could we enhance the aftercare and empower patients to manage their own recovery?
Patient experience matters
Research shows that the patient experience, not just the end goal of recovery, matters more than ever before. The growth in use of smartphones and messaging software offers greater scope for people with long-term conditions to consult healthcare professionals without actually having to visit the healthcare setting.
At Beyond, we believe that digital technology can transform the way that brands connect and communicate with their customers. With this in mind, I started thinking about a goal-driven smart device application and how that could strengthen the patient’s connection with the Clinic after the initial treatment.
After all, patients embark on the most important steps towards recovery when they leave the clinic. As a patient myself, I know that support during this time is vital to a successful recovery.
Whichever direction I chose to take the app, it would never replace the clinician’s knowledge and skill. The idea was to enable the patient to take some aspects of their treatment away with them, an interactive ‘pocket physio’ who would be there to provide a useful reference and extend the treatment provided at the clinic.
Although the Drummond Clinic’s service offering is quite comprehensive, for the purpose of the app I felt it was necessary to simplify the information architecture into three core areas: fitness, recovery and nutrition — each patient would be enrolled on a treatment plan that relates to one of these core areas.
One of the difficulties I found with my treatment was trying to remember the crucial details of physiotherapy exercises that I went through with my therapist. The literature outlined the broader movements, but omitted some of the details — a mobile app would improve this experience using proprietary video content for specific exercises; detailed step-by-step instructional information to guide you through the recovery process.
Defining patient needs
When designing an engaging user experience, I believe that proto-personas (assumption-based, untested character estimations) are vital in getting teams to think in the same user-focussed way, encouraging an empathy and awareness of those they’re designing for. I proceeded to define three user personas, one for each of the core areas: fitness, recovery and nutrition.
User flow and sketches
One further deliverable I created for the design of the app was a user flow. A user flow essentially maps out the decisions of a user as they move through your application. This allows designers to ensure the gap between the beginning of a journey and the point at which their need is fulfilled — or problem solved — is as short, useful and enjoyable as possible. With a basic understanding of how a user might navigate through the app, I began to sketch out some ideas.
The advantages provided by mobile apps can have a huge impact on efficiency and effectiveness, even for managing bookings and appointments. In a physiotherapy practice, the app also becomes an extension of the treatment programme. It’s a mobile support system that keeps the patient in direct contact with their therapist, providing an easy-to-use guide to physiotherapy exercises, whilst keeping an accurate record that will aid the recovery process and enhance the overall patient experience.