Smart Medical Reminder
for Senior Care Centers
Based on a personal research conducted in Cucao Elderly Care Center in Beijing, Medmo is a design focused on improving the medication adherence for seniors living in care centers. Featuring a smart pillbox linked to a phone App, Medmo makes it possible for both the elderly and their care givers to be reminded of every medication dose and to keep records on track.
Fall 2018, Beijing
Project Type: UX and Product Design
Duration: 10 Weeks
Tools: Sketch, Adobe Creative Suite, Rhino
Inside the Nursing Home
According to the nursing home manager, the institute currently hosts 103 elderly citizens, looked after by 50 care givers.
My research began with conducting surveys and interviews with both the elderly and their care givers to understand their current experience relating to medication adherence.
Key Findings from Research
Learning from the results collected from a survey with 22 elderly residents in the nursing home and 3 interviews (two with the elderly and one with a care giver), I found the following insights on the medication adherence issue in aspects of the medical situation, technology preference, and daily rituals of the elderly.
It’s fairly common to forget daily medication and only 20% of the elderly participants currently use medical reminders.
The use of technology is well-accepted in this nursing home. Over 90% of the elderly survey participants use smart phone to communicate with their family and friends.
The elderly spend most of their day with the care givers and both parties are crucial in order to improve the medical adherence. Based on interview findings, I conducted a relationship map to show all parties involved in the health issue of the elderly.
Quotes from Interview
“My well-being is what I care most. Having blood-pressure issue means that I cannot afford to miss a single dose.”
“I really don’t like it when I forget to take my pills. It makes me feel that I’m too old to remember anything. I want to feel I’m able to control my own life.”
“We sometimes wish there is a platform so that the nursing home can better monitor the medical adherence and health situation of our residents and provide according care methods.”
So the design challenge is …
How to improve the medication adherence of the elderly to keep their health and enable the care providers to better help them in the process?
Understanding the Users
From the research I learned that both the elderly and their care providers are crucial parties in keeping up the daily medication habits. Therefore, I constructed two personas for the proposed design, examining their routines and goals.
As-is Journey Map
A further look into the activities of the elderly in a typical day, overlapped with their car providers, provides more information in their medication habits, such as when and how they usually take their medicine. Furthermore, building the journey map gives me insights about current problems in the experience, especially those that lead to low medication adherence.
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PAINPOINTS + FEATURES
Based on the research findings, three major pain points could be found in the elderly’s experience to keep their medication adherence. In order to address this issues, the project features both a phone App and a smart pillbox, so that the elderly (and their care providers) can be better reminded of the medical routines and to keep a record of their health information.
Forget to take the medicine on time
Pillbox + Phone App
The design features an interconnected smart pillbox and phone app system so that users can be reminded not only about time but also to take the portable pillbox with them.
Not able to find the Medicine
Medication Database + Organized Storage
The design also aims to create an organized medication storage for the elderly. The prescriptions can be input into the phone app, and the pillbox can physically keep all the medicine arranged.
No visible records of adherence
Trackable Medication Adherence Records
The app provides the users with visualized records of their medication adherence. The elderly can access the records and also share it with their care givers, doctors, and family.
With the features in mind, I tried to propose how the App and Smart pillbox system is going to help all the stakeholders involved in the experience and thus determine the design rationales for the product.
The pillbox is consisted of boxes with days marked on the outside and each box has three partitions inside, so that every dose for morning, noon, and evening is clearly organzied.
Also, the pillbox is combined with the idea of alarm clock. The shell of pillbox indicates the time and is also equipped with a weight sensor that is connected to the phone app so that the user will be reminded whenever they forget to bring the pillbox with them.
Lastly, the size and portablity of each box is tested with physical prototypes so that every piece can be easily carry around, or even joined to the key rings so it’s less likely to be forgotten.
for both the Elderly and Care Providers
The App has two different entrance, one for the elderly and the other for the care providers. For the elderly’s end, the app is designed with three major functions: the reminder, the catalogue, and contacts. The care providers’ end is mostly focused on the elderly they are taking care of, in which they can check the records and make contacts.
One round of lean usability testing was conducted based on paper prototypes with 2 representative elderly users. They showed approval for major features and also made suggestions for easier navigation.
- Record Tracking – readable summary of medical adherence percentage
- Medication Catalogue – nice to have an organized database they can refer to
- Sharing Records with Care Provider
Things to Improve
- Improve Visibility – the buttons on homepage leading to each specific function should be larger
- Direct Navigation Bar – Slide-in sidebars are cancelled and modified into a bottom bar.
Medmo – Overall Experience
To sum up, the elderly will be using both the phone app and the pillbox to keep their medical adherence, which involves scenarios such as the daily reminder, forget-to-bring-pillbox alerts, medicine cataloging and records sharing.
The care giver is also part of the experience while they provide services to the elderly. The care givers can also be alarmed by the phone app if one of their clients missed a dose and they can follow their clients medication reports. The design hopes that keeping both parties reminded will help increase the medical adherence.
Designing for seniors is a design question I’m always interested ever since I was doing architectural design and this project is my preliminary exploration on the topic over digital platform. I realized how much more I still need to learn in order to provide accessible and comfortable-to-use technology solutions to improve the quality of life for senior citizens. Here are some topics that I reflected on:
- Technology preference – Even though the elderly users for this project all have smart phones, they seldom use other apps aside from the chatting/social media app that they use daily to communicate with their family. Therefore, I realized it might be difficult to incorporate this new app into their daily schedule. But the pillbox idea received much approval in the feedback. Could it be an indicator that they still prefer physical interaction to digital ones? With this in mind, maybe the project can then be reoriented so that the care givers can be the main targeted user of the app to monitor the smart pillbox used by the elderly.
- Visibility and Accessibility – During the usability testing, it occurred to me that the elderly participants generally take longer to process the information on a single page and small texts are less readable for them. I then updated my design with larger buttons and fewer content on each page, but further accessibility guidelines need to be incorporated into this design.
- Independency– During my interview with the users, I realized how much they value self-realization saying that they don’t want to feel like a dependent on other people. Therefore, in this project, they can choose to reveal their medical records to the caregivers or not. But I wish I could design with a more deliberate touch so that the project can fulfill their emotional need while at the same time enable the care givers to provide necessary help.
Wenzhao zhang， 2020