Today, doctors, nurses and other members of the inpatient care team often keep track of their to-dos using scribbled notes on paper. While efficient in the moment, these notes are hard to decipher after the fact, leading to duplicated work, dropped tasks and information lost in translation. HospitalHelper is a task-management app specially designed for hospital staff in mind, helping the team record their tasks efficiently and pass that information on quickly at the end of their shift.
The HospitalHelper team had already created an alpha version of the product, but product strategy was missing. The team had spoken to their target audience and implemented all user-requested features exactly as requested, leading to a product with many abilities, but lacking an overarching narrative, structure or opinion.
My first task was to reduce the product’s complexity by first identifying the specific problems our users were facing in their current task management practices, and then optimize the app to solve those core problems. This case study will focus on the solution to one particularly important user need.
I conducted a series of exploratory interviews with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to understand pain points, relationships and context. These conversations unveiled many pain points. We coded and prioritized user needs and decided on our feature new set. It meant cutting out several features the app currently supported, but allowed the paths through the app to be more structured and focused. The new version of the app allowed users to:
The third feature solved a major pain point for our users and was a major differentiator. However, it required the first two features in order to function well, and those features were up-hill battles. Through our research, we knew that caretakers typically recorded their notes on paper and while they didn’t enjoy typing up their scribbled notes at the end of the shift, paper’s speed and ease in the moment made it hard to break the habit. We realized the instant gratification of paper outweighed long-term benefits of using a more efficient solution. This posed a problem: if we couldn’t convince users to drop the paper and manage all their patients and tasks in the app during their shift, we couldn't offer feature 3 and produce the hand-off note.
Speed and ease in task entry became a make-or-break feature: if it wasn't perceived as faster and more convenient than paper, our product couldn't inspire habit change.
As the revised, less-featureful version of the app began circulating and our beta test pool grew, we gained access to data. Digging through, I noticed patterns in the naming of tasks. More often than not, users were trying to do one of four things: follow up on something, check something, order something or contact someone.
Taking advantage of this predictability, we developed an autocorrect-inspired UI. When the user brought up the Add Task screen, the four common verbs (follow up, check, order, contact) are offered as tappable suggestions under a free-entry field. If one of the verbs is tapped, it flew up to the free entry area and a new set of logical suggestions populated.
Even in its initial hard-coded state, this small tweak was able to dramatically cut down on the amount of typing required; in tests, it was shown to speed up task input by as much as two seconds per task. In the healthcare world where every second counts, this was a massive and exciting improvement.
Although HospitalHelper was gaining traction and had a very positive userbase, the parent company of the app pivoted and shut down the project to better allocate resources to other aspects of healthcare. It was a sad moment to not see this exciting product go further, it was a great experience and learning opportunity.