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Together in Heart Failure

Together in Heart Failure


Office: New York


  • Research & Measurement
  • User-Centered Design
  • Creative Technology & Engineering
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We helped our client deepen relationships and support improved health outcomes by creating the first social network for patients and caregivers affected by Heart Failure.

Heart Failure affects over 6 million people in the US alone, and its impact extends to loved ones, too. Our client, a Fortune 500 healthcare company, wanted to use social media to increase awareness of the condition. Through patient-centered research and close collaboration with the client’s Digital Center of Excellence, we uncovered a larger opportunity to take the client’s business “beyond the pill”, and holistically influence patient well-being, through a digital platform.

The Challenge: Raising Awareness of Heart Failure

In 2014, our client approached us with an idea they were exploring: How could we leverage social networks like Facebook to increase awareness of Heart Failure and deepen relationships with patients? Through patient-centered research, we discovered that users didn’t want to share medical information on existing social networks. They did, however, seek relevant, trustworthy information about diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and new research. They also sought the chance to connect privately with others affected by Heart Failure. A clear opportunity emerged to create a secure, well-informed, well-managed online community.

The Opportunity: Helping Patients Live with Heart Failure

The enthusiasm of early users to access information and connect to each other led us to believe we could push the solution further than it’s original intent and create something that contributes to improving quality of life for people living with heart failure. Our task shifted to creating an effective, trustworthy social network that could deliver personalized information based on where the patient is in their journey—whether they’ve just been diagnosed, are currently experiencing an episode, or are managing their disease in maturity. In this process, we also discovered the opportunity to collect a much richer layer of data than what’s otherwise possible in the healthcare space, exposing opportunities to serve a second, physician audience and create new revenue streams.

Using Responsive, Patient-Centric Research

Beyond conducted light-lift, ongoing research with patients and caregivers, in order to work more quickly than in a traditional research phase. We conducted 30-minute patient interviews and used online surveys and early desirability testing to collect quantitative data and qualitative patient feedback. To find the ideal balance between HIPAA, FDA and PII compliance and community sharing, we launched a beta site with a control group of 80 users to evaluate what content they engaged with and how they interacted with each other, and we continued to analyze user data post-launch to validate product direction.

Discovering New Audiences & Markets

On the platform, we found patients were giving a much deeper picture of their experience than the version they shared with their doctors. This pointed to an opportunity to give doctors more insight into patients journeys and provide better, more personalized care. As broader audiences use the site, new market values continue to emerge, and we’re currently working with the client to validate partnerships and business models.

Approach: Collaborating Closely with the Client

Many healthcare companies have difficulty implementing future-focused programs, due to organizational complexity, regulatory environments, and conventional approaches to proving ROI. Working on-site and in-person with the client, we built internal buy-in across the organization by working directly with a broad group of stakeholders and increased feasibility by building a reusable platform that would allow their investment to scale.

Design: Respecting Privacy, Accessibility & Community

The research drove us to design a site that would keep patient data secure and anonymous, while allowing members to share stories. To meet these goals, we prioritized key features:

  • Membership: To make members feel comfortable when sharing information, we required users to sign up or sign in before they could view member stories.
  • Accessibility: Based on feedback collected through testing, we increased text size, icons, graphics, and legibility. We also enabled large captioning for hard-of-hearing and visually impaired users.
  • Responsive Build: The site can be accessed on all platforms, including desktop, mobile and tablet. An Android app has launched, and an iOS app is slated for the near future.
  • Curated Content: We designed a home feed and built a custom algorithm to allow members to see credible and relevant content, surfaced in response to their interests and questions.
  • Community Advocates: Because patients told us they didn’t want to hear from anonymous community managers, we partnered with advocacy groups to create expert-lead content and strategize themes for the site.
  • Motivational Design: Patient research revealed the desire to have an uplifting emotional experience, so we designed a place where members can share their favorite quotes, pictures and videos.

Build: Designing a Secure Digital Network

In partnership with our client’s Digital Medicine Team, we explored purchasing or licensing existing technology, using off-the-shelf social network solutions, and partnering with startups. Ultimately, it became clear that we would have to build our own platform to meet patient security standards. We partnered with the client’s Chief Privacy Officer and IT team to create tailored guidelines for dealing with patient information, and built a platform at the highest standards of the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/EIC).

Launch: Partnering for Positive Impact

We launched our MVP mobile-first web solution 6 months after the beta testing period, followed by a hybrid Android app. We worked with our client to grow membership through partnerships with advocacy organizations, targeted paid campaigns, and existing email lists. Our team traveled to healthcare conferences around the country, introducing nurses, doctors and patients to the platform. We also partnered with advocacy organizations, cardiologists and nutritionists to create content and respond to members with timely support. Together in Heart Failure, the resulting network, now has a growing community, with an average of 150+ new users per month.

Results: Creating Big-Picture Business Innovation

Our client considers the project critical to their advocacy partnerships and their mission to help people affected by Heart Failure.

Most importantly, patients and caregivers are using the platform to share their stories. A fifth of active users on the platform have shown a transition in the tone of their contributions from initial confusion and concern to positivity and hopefulness, over a period of 5 months. As we analyze patient data and conduct further research, we see an opportunity to provide complementary care, while supporting the effectiveness and value of the client’s key products. Our next objective with Together in Heart Failure is to validate whether participation on the platform could motivate behavior change and improve health outcomes.

Future: Providing Holistic Healthcare for Everyone, Everywhere

We continue to manage the product life cycle of the Together in Heart Failure platform and build on its potential to impact both our client’s business and the health outcomes of heart failure patients. We’re exploring partnerships with healthcare payors, hospital networks, advocacy organizations and technology partners to develop new revenue streams, and continuing to build membership with advocacy and outreach. In June 2017, we met with 500 heart failure nurses who are now recommending the platform to their patients.

The future vision for the Together in Heart Failure platform is to validate whether access to high-quality, holistic information online leads to reduced re-hospitalization rates and improved quality of life. We’re pursuing partnerships with provider networks to better understand the platform’s impact on patient outcomes and analyzing the thousands of conversations on the platform to help our client’s medical teams better understand patient needs. This, in turn, will help them design future patient-centric services that go beyond the pill.  

Measures of Success

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