Designing with Data: Nightingale

What role could the latest developments in artificial intelligence, IoT and patient data play in the near future of healthcare at home?

Method has been experimenting with Artificial Intelligence, connected devices (IoT), as well as exploring the value of data as a raw material for design. We hypothesized that a software platform could be designed to help improve the persistent challenges associated with treatment adherence, and framed our thinking through the design and development of a speculative healthcare service we’ve named Nightingale.

Challenge

Many health complications are easily prevented or controlled provided patients adhere to their treatment regimens correctly. Among patients with chronic illness, more than 50% don’t take medications as prescribed*, and it’s thought that improving treatment adherence could have far greater impact on the health of the population than any specific medical treatment.

Today's ever more complicated medical regimens, combined with overworked healthcare providers, make it even less likely that physicians will be able to compel adherence. Treating asymptomatic conditions and encouraging dietary or lifestyle changes as part of a treatment present an even greater problem.

At Method, we treat data as a design tool, adding value to the products and services used to improve people’s lives. Because of this, we challenged ourselves to design a healthcare platform for products and services that uses data and connected objects to address the issue of medical adherence.

Approach

Many solutions aimed at improving adherence have only focused on a particular facet of the problem, but medication-taking behavior is extremely complex and individual, requiring multifactorial strategies to improve adherence. Method decided to adopt a more holistic approach and explored the opportunities of a flexible ecosystem for digital and physical products and services rather than attempt to create a single ‘silver bullet’ product solution.

There is a huge body of research aimed at improving adherence, and the team referenced this knowledge in conjunction with software and hardware prototyping to test and validate ideas and design directions. We aimed to used low cost consumer technologies as much as possible to ensure a level of economic plausibility.

We set out to solve a series of thought provoking questions that allowed us to both frame prototype decisions, and get a full spectrum of feedback to test our original hypotheses.

Outcome

Experimenting with current developments in artificial intelligence helped us to design a more tailored experience for users, as well as helped create an interface that’s sympathetic to their unique set of medical and personal needs. Prototyped pharmaceutical packaging is able to infer if a dose has been taken and transmits this information to the cloud.

By augmenting ‘everyday objects’ so they could “nudge” the user while complimenting existing behavior patterns, Nightingale delivers welcome reminders across multiple devices that helps to create unique and contextual experiences for the user in their own home.

Ultimately the project was an exercise to help us explore the challenges of designing products and services that are data centric and completely independent of device and media. More importantly, Nightingale explores how design solutions can be the foundation for those products and services to cater to individual people and adapt to their lives.

*Source: Mayo Clin Proc. 2011 Apr; 86(4): 304–314. Medication Adherence: WHO Cares? Marie T. Brown, MD and Jennifer K. Bussell, MD www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov