TrackMe: Food Intolerance Discovery App
TrackMe is a tool to help people discover which foods worsen their symptoms. By analyzing their eating habits, users can refer to TrackMe to manage their diet, avoid trigger foods, and coordinate with their doctors.
WHAT’S THE OVERARCHING ISSUE?
Identifying Problem Space
Because of the sex-gender differences that are shown in a diversity of physiological and psychological factors, it can be inferred that the clinical presentation of symptoms as well as treatment strategies in females and males may differ. However, women are underrepresented in most relevant clinical trials. This leads to an unintentional gender bias in health care.
NARROWING DOWN PROJECT SCOPE
My goal in this project is to advocate for a more sex-gender-orientated approach in medical care setting. Such a change could improve cisgender patient care for gender-specific diseases. The pathophysiology of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is multifactorial with sex-gender factors seeming to play important roles. Because IBS patient care is for the most part sex-blind, I am designing an individualized patient experience which factors in sex and gender issues.
- What is IBS exactly? What system is already in place for IBS patients post-diagnosis?
- Why are females with IBS more often readmitted than males with IBS?
- Does an implicit gender bias truly exist in US healthcare? If so, why? What is being done to remedy it?
- 3 IBS Patients; 2 female, 1 male
- 2 Transition Care (TC) Nurses
- 1 Nurse Practitioner
Several studies showed that women receive IBS diagnoses more often than men do. While some symptoms are the same for males and females, a few are exclusive to or more prominent in women, likely due to female sex hormones.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive disorder that affects the large intestine.
While anyone can develop IBS, the condition is more common in women, affecting from 1.5 to 3 times more females than males.
It is a disease that could only be maintained but not cured. Having this disease means that patient need to adopt a major lifestyle shift (especially eating) for the rest of his life. Most patients find it difficult to fully embrace the situation directly. Additionally, the patients need to fundamentally change their eating style. It is a great challenge in between behavior change and learning. As a result, it is a place worth exploring.
From interviewing patients diagnosed with IBS, I’ve learned that there is a long phase of self-discovery. There is no one list of foods to avoid for everyone diagnosed with IBS. I divided the patient’s experience into 5 phases from before knowing the disorder to becoming used to managing it.
HASHING OUT IDEAS
I explored 3 different solutions. Although I did not end up going through with options 1 and 2, learning why these would not be as effective helped inform my design decisions for option 3. Here are some of my initial ideas:
1. Flashcards for doctors treating IBS to learn about the differences between male and female symptoms.
2. AI chatbot that answers Q&A for newly diagnosed patients
3. Food Tracker + Visual Symptom Analysis app.
LO-FI PROTOTYPE & USER TESTS
I reconnected with my interviewees to test the wireframes. I used paper prototypes and jotted down notes after watching them run through the prototype:
- History of symptoms should be labelled as length of days and years
- Compartmentalize the body: upper region, mid region and lower region. A patient would want to see both the doctors notes on the same page.
- It’s good to have the interaction. Now you begin to visually represent it. Even for inputs. Do not wait until the interaction is finished to start working on the brand/visual style.
- It needs to be clearer on the Progress Tab that you can enter the time frame on the top as an input.
- Severity should be represented by both color and scale.
- Make sure that the visual style conveys urgency in a friendly way.
- Find a way to tell the user that this is a tool to help you get better, but it needs the patient to take responsibility by documenting their progress.
- It makes more sense to put Plan as the second tab and Progress as the third, because Progress requires data input from the Plan tab.
At this point, I created the high fi wireframes after reviewing the confusion points in the low fi wireframes. I used Sketch and Illustrator to refine the visual style. I wanted to strike a balance between a serious topic and a friendly user interface.
I found that one of the most frustrating parts of this disease is that it affects everyone differently. I’ve learned from my interviews that each patient has to undergo a self discovery process of what they can and cannot do to manage their symptoms. This is further supported by this article, written by an author who has dealt with the disease for years.
It’s good that this app is providing patients with a visual cue, especially if no other apps have done this. Visually compartmentalize the female body better horizontally. Consider having patients use this proactively. Useful in cases where the symptoms are managed for months but then have a sudden flare up. Let my audience know that this portion of the app is focusing on cisgender females of a certain age bracket.
FUTURE WORK & REFLECTION
How to Make Things Better
IBS affects quality of life, but it can be managed. The long range about gender bias is something this app connects to. Operating from this standpoint today illustrates gaps in understanding. Whats the novel way to communicate to yourself and to doctors? This project is pointing at gender bias. This comes from designing an experience that should be tailored for all gender patients. TrackMe aims to close the gap between doctor interpretation and female experience. Women are treated as smaller men in too many medical settings.