Design Research + Strategy

Swift

What if taking care of your mental health was as routine and accepted as looking after your physical fitness?

//User Research, Concept Development

 
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THE CHALLENGE

Mental health services are essential in order to help returning veterans recover from their military service and re-adjust to civilian life; however, too often veterans go undiagnosed or suffer in silence. The VA Palo Alto Health Care System asked us to help design new solutions that reimagine and improve the pathways to mental health services for the veterans they serve.

Project: Swift, a wearable that tracks both your physical and mental fitness through biometric tracking and daily check-ins
Collaborators: Sherman Leung, Urvi Gupta
Context: Developed as part of the d.school course "Design for Health: Helping Patients Navigate the System"

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THE APPROACH

  • 2 expert interviews with VA national program managers

  • 4 need-finding user interviews with veterans

  • 4 feedback sessions with experts and users around 5 prototypes

  • One week long study with final prototype concept with 3 veterans to gauge efficacy  


THE INSIGHTS

  • Some users perceive the VA as a military institution rather than a healthcare provider, and this creates is a psychological barrier to reaching out to the VA

  • Mental health diagnoses can seem more like hoops to jump through rather than an open door into care

  • Some veterans consider PTSD to be be so shameful they would rather be diagnosed as alcoholics, drugs abusers, etc. rather than victims of PTSD


THE RESULTS

Drawing on our findings, we developed Swift, a wearable to track your mental and physical health. Swift addresses several identified user needs, including the need for mental health symptoms to feel more tangible and validated, the difficulty in noticing mental health symptoms oneself, and the need to de-stigmatize mental health and elevate self-care in the veteran community.

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We began by showing potential users and experts a mock flier for the product advertising the device and its associated features, to gather quick directional feedback on the concept. The response was positive, indicating that combining physical and mental health makes "the jump to mental health seem not as big."

Swift was further tested through a week long study with 3 veterans where we sent daily check-ins prompting veterans to respond with their mood selected from Cornell's Photographic Affect meter. Based on the data collected, we sent participants a chart summarizing their responses over time, to better understand if receiving this personalized feedback was helpful.

“Combining physical and mental health makes the jump to mental health seem not as big”
— Veteran Interviewee

Feedback from our veterans showed us that this was useful not only as a personal tool to understand the different stressors and inflection points in mood, but also as a tangible artifact that they can take back to their provider.

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