This project was a result of Code Hack 2020 facilitated by the Vancouver Island Health Authority. Code Hack 2020 brought together patients, staff, physician partners, industry experts, coders, builders, designers who pitched solutions to health care challenges and solved them in just 24 hours.
Ryan, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology pitched the below concept:
I facilitated a brainstorming session within our group answering the “how might we” question Ryan posed, grouping similar ideas within an affinity map. I advocated that the group not attach to any one idea yet, but to explore all possible options before debating pros/cons.
Our group's diverse experience and expertise informed a variety of potential solutions including budgeting, finances, and job training.
We decided as a group to focus on one aspect our solutions had in common: improving mental health, as it is the pre-cursor to many other health outcomes and general quality of life.
Young adults living with developmental disabilities experience a disproportionate level of anxiety, depression, and isolation, while often lacking the ability to express these experiences to healthcare providers. Care-providers are unable to devote sufficient time to diagnose these experiences and facilitate treatment. As a result, care-providers may treat symptoms rather than root causes, resulting in increased healthcare usage of emergency/crisis services.
Design a solution that empowers young adults with developmental disabilities to improve their mental health, improving their quality of life, and gather data care providers can easily access to facilitate improved mental health treatment and diagnosis of patients with developmental disabilities.
We did not find any existing competitors offering mental health support to young adults living with developmental disabilities. I instead looked to indirect competitors to uncover features designed to facilitate connection within a community while supporting mental health check-ins.
To validate our problem we explored the cost to families and healthcare systems for those with developmental disabilities as it was easily quantifiable. However, the true impact lies in the lessened quality of life of the individual suffering from anxiety, depression, and isolation, which is very important to note and more difficult to quantify.
With the help of mentors distributed throughout the Code Hack we narrowed our demographic to young adults aged 16-25 with Down syndrome, the most prevalent developmental disability. We chose an app based solution on personal experience of smart phone usage within this demographic.
A daily app for young adults aged 16-25 with Down syndrome empowering users to connect with each other and build mental health practices, while sharing simple mood data with selected healthcare providers to improve diagnosis and support.
Before moving onto design I suggested we define user characteristics, which would inform design considerations for a basic prototype. With time short, we were unable to fully explore user journeys and personas which would have been very informative.
Lack of time also prevented an in-depth information architecture of our design concept. We decided to focus on the core features we thought were most important and would best communicate our concept to the judges, which included:
The initial concept brainstormed by the group included the core features we established, yet I had the overwhelming feeling we were missing the "wow" factor. I encouraged our group to keep brainstorming to solve this.
With the help of the group I developed the second concept using a space theme. This concept included our core features but with a theme we could tell a story around.
With my concept I imagined a deep blue colour scheme with punchy purples and oranges to create a gamification feel to the app. The font face was chosen to be approachable and friendly, with special consideration to avoid a childish UI. Similarly, I illustrated the lead astronaut to reflect the age of our demographic.
When developing the user flows I moved rapidly into prototyping due to our limited timeframe. The three user flows demonstrate the basic functionality of our three app components.
I was blown away by the level of enthusiasm and expertise all 100 participants, volunteers, and event organizers had. You really could feel the optimism, innovation, and encouragement in the room.
In hindsight, I would have advocated for arriving at an initial solution sooner to leave more time for user research, user journeys, and information architecture. The value in speaking directly to your users and user research was made clear to me. I felt hesitant at each stage we moved forward with decisions knowing that we were not able to do so, but we operated the best we could on our experience to inform our final product.
After the Code Hack I became particularly interested in improving my accessibility and universal design practices. Microsoft's Inclusive Design Toolkit has been a great resource. Following the toolkit, I am particularly interested in observing the strengths of young adult with Down Syndrome and brainstorming how we could further integrate these strengths into our app.
As finalists of the Code Hack competition (yay!), we receive ongoing mentorship and funding from the Innovation Lab, however that has been put on hold due to COVID-19.
Our initial solution was ambitious and involved many components that we did not have time to fully develop before pitching. Rather than testing our current prototype, I would love to revisit our initial goal and speak directly to young adults with Down Syndrome, primary care givers, and healthcare professionals to understand their needs more deeply.