St. Michael’s Hospital Health Design Lab has a mission to translate health research into products and tools that the general public can relate to in order to positively impact patient behaviour.
Given the accelerated growth of diabetes and the burden the disease puts on the Ontario health care system, the Health Design Lab was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to develop a Diabetes Portal to effectively disseminate pertinent tools and knowledge to affected people in Ontario.
In order to tackle this challenge, Delvinia engaged in a multi-faceted insights process. Stakeholder interviews with doctors and other staff internal to the HDL, as well as the Canadian Diabetes Association shed light on practitioner challenges. In particular, we learned that because of the lifestyle aspects of the condition, support organizations are motivated to provide more holistic care. Indeed, they indicated that patients come to them for both informational and emotional support.
These interviews were complemented by a series of focus groups with patients and caregivers to better understand the needs and digital behaviour of people with Type 2 diabetes. Through this exercise, it became evident that the diabetes experience for both patients and caregivers is highly individualized, as information needs for both groups vary in nature and intensity throughout the diabetes journey.
Finally, Delvinia produced an extensive market scan, examining trends online amongst healthcare providers and patients with chronic conditions. Notably, we learned that adults living with chronic disease are disproportionately offline in an online world, but those who are online skew higher in virtual community participation. All of these insights were critical to the next stage of the work: developing the strategy.
Based on the insights generated in the first phase of the work, Delvinia determined that the portal needed to function on two planes. It needed serve as a convenient, centralized source of relevant information for all diabetes patients at each stage of their journey, but it also had to accommodate the highly individualized nature of the diabetes experience. In this way, the portal had to offer fact-based content with direct applicability—especially concerning diet- while providing an environment that fostered trust and security amongst patients/users.
As a next step, Delvinia developed a customer journey and personas to illustrate the various information needs of individuals along the diabetic journey. For someone with a recent diagnosis, the portal needed to provide guidance and support to both patients and caregivers around the risks and benefits of different therapy options and resources to help patients make necessary lifestyle changes. Whereas for a long-time diabetic, the portal needed to provide access to tools to keep them on track.
Delvinia recommended a solution that included interactive sessions with a health advisor, curated content and diabetes news, resources such as instructional videos and interactive quizzes, an education centre locater where users could find a nearby site by entering their postal code, a personalized eNewsletter program and shareable content.
In addition, the site was designed to provide opportunities for one-on-one exchanges—especially Q&A with health care professionals—a recognition of patients’ interest in alternative medicine, and recognition of the unique role of the caregiver as conduit of information, particularly for hard-to-reach patient populations. In short, Delvinia designed the experience to inform, reassure and support users throughout the diabetic journey.
Anchored in an understanding of the target audience and layering it with a landscape scan, Delvinia developed a solid strategy and a clear roadmap that helped the Health Design Lab realize and implement the project objective.