Research & Insights: Thesis Phase I
Research & Insights: Thesis Phase I
Exploring how design and digital interactive technology assists in the communication of health information in the context of missed oral contraceptive pills
This graduate thesis is a holistic research and development endeavor that used a human-centered design approach to explore how digital interactive technology can aid in the communication of health information. Specifically, in the context of missed pills in oral contraceptive information.
The main outcome is a proposed digital interface interaction model that focuses on direct manipulation interfaces, representation aiding (pill package and inserts) and tailored cause and effect results seeking to more effectively personalize and communicate medication information.
The implementation of the proposed model is portrayed on a prototyped product solution that was guided by research into previous studies, user needs, behaviors and goals. The prototype embodies a smartphone webpage evaluated by users through an iterative design process.
The thesis process was divided in two phases. Phase I was about defining the problem, framing the process, initial research and analysis. Phase II was about development and process outcomes. Phase I is described below. Phase II is described here.
ROLE | Design strategy, research and development
DATE | 2015 to 2017
Oral contraceptives are the most commonly used type of contraceptive method by women in the United States (Gal, Zite, & Wallace, 2015), with close to perfect effectiveness if taken consistently and correctly. However, women using oral contraceptives struggle to take the medication accurately and effectively.
Oral contraceptives adherence requires attention, since studies show that users miss an average of four pills per cycle (Zapata, Steenland, Brahmi, Marchbanks, & Curtis, 2012). Over one million unintended pregnancies are related to its use, misuse or discontinuation every year in the United States (Hughey, Neustadt, Mistretta, & et al, 2010).
An important factor to take into consideration regarding oral contraceptive missed pills is the available instructions on what to do after women miss one or more pills per cycle.
The patient package insert is the pamphlet included in the oral contraceptive pack, and it is the only source of reliable information most women have at hand that explains their medication and what to do when they miss one or more pills in a row. Information in the patient package insert can be challenging to find, read, and understand once found (Ross, Potter, & Armstrong, 2004).
There are over 100 oral contraceptive brands and each comes with specific directions to follow if you miss one or more pills. Additionally, instructions on what to do if a woman misses pills vary depending on what day of the week they started the pill pack and in what specific week of the pack they missed pills.
To better understand the context of the research question, three groundwork research areas were identified: Content and Background, Form and User.
At large, Content and Background explored the context of health literacy and the chosen topic: oral contraceptives. Form addressed design principles and practices as well as the digital interactive technology realm. The User area focused on understanding current behaviors, emotions, challenges and experiences of oral contraceptives users obtaining information about how to take their medication.
Both secondary and primary research methods were performed and the research would revolve around the 3 groundwork areas defined for the research scope.
For secondary research, academic articles were used, as well as books in the areas of interface design and human-computer interaction. Additionally, current digital interactive products in the market were compared.
To understand the user, secondary research was done to learn about previous studies pertaining to oral contraceptive use. This research led to valuable statistics and a general understanding of the issues around oral contraceptive compliance. Acknowledging that missed oral contraceptive pills is an issue and that it would be a promising topic to explore, primary research was performed to learn more about it from the users’ standpoint through focus groups in Phase I and evaluative sessions in Phase II.
Research participants that represented the user group were female college students between the ages of 18 and 25 that had taken oral contraceptives for at least 6 months at some point in their lives.
The main 3 objectives for primary research were:
1. Exploration (PHASE i): to identify the needs, emotions, behaviors, and goals of users (participants) through qualitative research in terms of obtaining information about oral contraceptives.
2. Inspiration (PHASE I): to gather information that can be used to develop a design solution to better communicate information regarding missed oral contraceptive pills.
3. Evaluation (PHASE II): to receive feedback on a proposed prototype in three different iterations.
FOCUS GROUPS: RESEARCH TOOLS
Three identical focus-group sessions were held with a total of 17 different participants. The research tools used during each session:
- Workbook (as a priming activity)
- Group Discussion
- User Insight Diagram
- User Journey Map
Synthesize Findings & Stage 1 Analysis
After gathering both primary and secondary research data, the synthesis and analysis for Stage 1 was performed in 2 main steps.
The goal for Step 1 was to synthesize and analyze the large pool of secondary and primary data gathered independently from one another.
The conclusions from both primary and secondary research on Step 1 were later used in tandem in Step 2, which produced a more comprehensive analysis using diagrams (Ecosystem Diagram, Stakeholder Map, Communication Diagram).
Step 1 : Secondary Data
To synthesize and analyze the secondary data gathered, the data was first organized for it to be used in the next steps of the process. For example, after secondary data was gathered from journal articles regarding health literacy, oral contraceptives, and missed oral contraceptive pills specifically, the designer summarized the most important points.
The analysis of this information, led to the making of 2 videos in which the problems around health literacy and missed oral contraceptives would be presented in a visual way. The videos also provided potential opportunities in which designers could work to address the problems identified. The videos would be used to present the gathered information to the public, as background reference for further stages of the development process and as a vehicle to learn new technical skills through the creation process.
The process of making these videos led to practicing how to visually communicate secondary data and analysis. This process involved crafting a written narrative with the punctual content for the video and developing all the assets for production. Some skills in practice: visual storytelling and 2D animation.
Another example of secondary data synthesis and analysis includes organizing 12 digital interactive learning products found in the market, to be able to compare them and analyze them in a chart. Categories to compare were: source, topic, delivery format, purpose, types of interactions and modalities (digital components and features).
The synthesis and analysis of the information gathered focused around identifying what strategies were used by each product for user engagement.
This process led to better understand current products, interactive features in context of use, and its potential usefulness and perceived drawbacks.
Step 1 : Primary Data
The primary data collected during focus groups generated mainly qualitative data and some quantitative data. A lot of qualitative data was generated and all in different medias (audio, visual, written), which can be ‘messy’ compared to neat ‘data’ that therefore does not necessarily lead to a prescriptive synthesis and analysis method.
For this project, the designer used her training and experience in design research to synthesize and analyze the gathered data as well as some documented techniques to make the data useful for the development process on Phase II.
The images below some of the synthesis and analysis approaches to produce primary user data results.
- Single case analysis through a check coding process
- Behavioral continuums to identify behavior patterns
- Behaviors, attitudes and pain points
- Desired user journey for obtaining information about missed oral contraceptive pills
Step 2 : Secondary & Primary Data
On Step 2, the findings that were gathered up to this point in the process from both secondary and primary data were further synthesized and analyzed by using different visualization tools: Ecosystem Diagram, Stakeholder Map and Communication Diagram.
These tools enabled the organization and visualization of relationships, insights and results of relevant data that would inform later steps in the development process. Some of the specific tools used help to ensure that important considerations that can influence the design and development process for human-centered products are not ignored.
Modeling & Stage 2 Analysis
Stage 2 continued to use the previous outcomes and understanding to produce a more holistic, yet refined set of specific outcomes and insights that would serve as a foundation for the development of the proposed design solution during Phase II.
The methods used for analysis and modeling led to the following tools: Persona, Context Scenarios and Product Experience Needs.
These were used by the designer since they provided an organized framework and proven effectiveness to consider important aspects that shape the development of human-centered products.
The Persona was modeled and used for the development phase in defining and designing the product prototype solution. The Persona concisely summarizes and clearly identifies the user group’s significant characteristics embodied in one representative.
The Persona created described key user and context information around the challenge of obtaining missed oral contraceptive pills information. Personas are a powerful informative tool about the target user group, but they do not work in isolation for the development process; rather they are one of the components implemented in conjunction with other analysis methods that support and enhance their purpose.
For example, they are the precursor to context scenarios and they define the product/experience needs. Once these two additional methods are executed, all the results are used in tandem to illustrate a context for design that is broader than just the user-specific characteristics. These tools are used as references to aid in making decisions regarding the design of the proposed product in the development process.
By creating a context scenario, descriptive information presented in the Persona was implemented along with the specific context in which the desired experience exists and starts to be described. The Context Scenario describes what the user would do, step-by-step (high level) in the specific journey, and in parallel described how the user would feel and what they would think during each step. Additionally, the designer also considered different options than the ones presented in the specific step-by-step journey that could vary to ensure that these were not being discarded prematurely in the process of concept development, and added them as another parallel category in the chart.
The scenario closely relate to the User Journey Maps created during the focus groups during Phase I, but these are now created with all the insights that accurately represent the user group behaviors and characteristics in a cohesive way. Moreover, the designer can define the design solution requirements and opportunities that are in different steps of the journey.
Product and Experience Needs
All the outcomes and insights stemming from the previously used analysis tools led to the Product and Experience Needs. These Product and Experience Needs are relevant to the topic of better communicating and delivering oral contraceptive information. The needs presented in this table were grouped in categories: content source, device, accessibility, communication, content form, content organization, navigation, tailoring and experience.
These categories were determined given the insights from all the findings up to this point in the process, including user needs. All the listed needs served as design criteria to identify design opportunities for decision making during the development in Phase II. It was important to follow and refer to the information presented in this table for decision making, since it would ensure that the identified needs from Phase I were addressed.
This concludes Phase I to continue to Phase II click on the button below.