The New UX of CenterWatch: Jeryl – iConnect Version 4.0

In a never-ending rise of digital products, the past half decade witnessed an evident cultural shift in product development. Designs became more than just layouts. Features became more than just tools. They were looked at as complementary components of the product that aimed at a new destination – good user experience.

Out there exists at least a dozen apps that can solve any given problem at your fingertips. Despite the heap of available web apps in every category like productivity, communication, finance, content creation, etc., we only have a scanty number of good interactive healthcare applications today. The user experience of most of the healthcare sites are below par to modern day standards. Deficient competition coupled with outdated product experience proves that the room for improving healthcare UX is significant and  necessary.  

State of Healthcare UX

Most of the healthcare apps face a struggle to go beyond legacy design thinking. Part of the reason is that the online medical industry is driven by scientific and clinical content. And any industry without simplified semantics conceives a strenuous challenge –  the ability to construct a forthright user interface.

In recent times, this problem was faced by products based on cryptocurrency. The intricacies of blockchain were yet to be elaborated and addressed with linguistic ease. This posed a challenge for designers to simplify interfaces beyond a certain point. Thus, Tesler’s Law of Conservation of Complexity kicked in at a much higher threshold for crypto related applications. 

The state of healthcare UX has been similar. Or at least till now. With CenterWatch iConnect, we set out to improve this. We realized simplifying medical terminology & facilitating comprehension of clinical jargon are the stepping stones to an optimal healthcare UX. Our goal was to make reading clinical trials as easy as reading an article.

Understanding the traffic

Despite clinical trials being a niche field, it surprisingly welcomes a diverse spectrum of people. 

Participants

Without doubt, patients constitute the larger portion of the site’s traffic, and hence become the focus of our design thinking. And within this huge portion, UI decisions were influenced by different types of users. They participate for a variety of reasons. There are people willing to volunteer to improve treatments, healthy volunteers looking to contribute to research, people driven by compensation provided by the research team, people looking for a cure for their disease, and so on. Also it is safe to hypothesize that the majority of visitors could be from an older age group. This demands careful design preferences in terms of colour and contrast of elements used in the interface.

Researchers

The number of clinical researchers & medical students accessing the site for their academics & research work is not negligible. CenterWatch not only acts as a portal for patients to connect with a clinical study team, but also acts as a valuable repository for medical professionals to access ongoing research. 

Design Thinking and Goals

The working of the site is fairly simple. As a patient, you search for a clinical trial, check eligibility or directly contact the study team to enroll in the trial. 

Creating a patient-centric clinical trials search engine meant fostering a sense of credibility. This also meant creating an interface that is not very different from other search engines. We need users to spend more time doing the intended tasks of searching and finding a trial, than on learning how to use the interface. Thus, the UI had to be self-guiding. 

On the other hand, the inclination to create an attention grabbing website had to be resisted. The scholastic nature of the clinical trial content insisted that we stayed away from design thinking that emphasized on attention-seeking.

Finding the right balance was key to setting the tone of the website. It should be appealing enough to direct patients to the relevant trials, yet minimal & accurate enough to act as a trustworthy repository for researchers and medical scholars. In other words, the UI should navigate as well as empower users. 

Areas of Improvement

Easing Trial Comprehension

Definition Pop-ups

As mentioned, increasing Trial IQ is the first step to optimize clinical trial experience. And for us, redefining healthcare experience starts with defining medical vocabulary. This led to having a Definition Pop-ups feature. Whenever a hard to understand medical term is used in the content of a clinical trial detail, the word is underlined and a simple hover brings up the definition of the term as a pop-up.

With Definition Pop-ups, users can look up meanings quickly instead of searching for it on the internet.

This allows the user to stay in the study page without needing to switch tabs to make a search. This increases engagement and enhances focus.

Search Labels

The key improvement to the search experience is the addition of search labels. People often get confused and get indecisive when they see a page full of clinical trial results with medical language. To improve this aspect, Search Labels were introduced. These can be medical conditions, treatments or medications which a user can select to find more accurate and relevant results.

Search labels help to narrow down the results to provide a quicker, intuitive search experience.

Annotations and Private Notes

When a clinical trial is posted, the system may not be able to generate definitions for all medical terms. We have made it easy for study teams or patient advocacy trial navigators or similar experts to help improve comprehension of the study by adding an annotation to a word or a sentence. This acts as an additional explanation.

With Annotations, the study team can supplement trial content with simpler explanations.

We quite often catch ourselves looking desperately for a pen and  a piece of paper to scribble down a thought. When browsing through similar clinical trials, we realized this need is amplified. We designed a quick-note taking feature called Private Notes. It slides in as a non-obtrusive side bar where users can write a personal note for a highlighted piece of text from the content of the trial.

Private Notes is a note-taking productivity tool for those who browse through clinical trials.

Adding Interactivity

Eligibility Checker

The eligibility to enroll in a clinical trial is usually a mundane list of inclusion and  exclusion criteria. For trials with a long list of criteria, the reading experience becomes monotonous and uninteresting. To add interactivity to this process, Eligibility Lite was developed. This is an interactive  list ready to take in one of the following responses: Yes, No or Not Sure. Once the patient answers, the eligibility is computed and shown. This acts as a quick check for patients to see if they qualify to take part in a clinical trial. 

If the patient qualifies and does contact the study team, the responses from Eligibility Lite can be sent over to the study team. 

Eligibility checker is a quick way for users to check if they will qualify for the clinical study.

Private Workspace

We’ve come across websites that require you to log in (or even create an account) to do a very simple task like liking a blog or answering a poll. And oftentimes, this binding need to log in has restrained us from expressing our opinion or appreciating content in the web.

So we took up the challenge of letting all these features be experienced by our visitors without having to log in. We united all user activities like bookmarking a clinical study, contacting a study site and adding private notes under one bucket – a cookie-based private workspace. This objective helped us transcend what should have been an account-based feature to a device-based experience.

From workspace, a user can keep track of his/her notes, saved trials and study sites contacted.

The cookie-based private workspace could have been quite unproductive if it didn’t support cross-device access. We solved this problem by giving the user the ability to generate a passcode-protected link to their workspace, enabling the product to truly value user privacy.

In this day and age where privacy is emphasized like never before, healthcare web-apps should have been the first to adopt it as their motto. Serving features like definitions, annotations, private notes, bookmarking, etc., all without collecting any data from our users was arguably the biggest improvement to the online health industry in recent times – a step towards better trial comprehension and truly valuing user privacy.

As we continue our work on Jeryl, do check it out and send us feedback on your experience with it.