Researcher, Strategist, UX/UI Designer
Culinary Care is an NGO based in Chicago. The delivery service provides complimentary restaurant meals to people receiving cancer treatment. The current process is quite cumbersome for Courtney, the founder.
I was one of three General Assembly Chicago graduates selected to research, strategize and design a scaleable solution that would enhance the capabilities of the service. This step was crucial for stakeholders to continue to grow their business.
How might we create a more seamless experience for patients, medical professionals and stakeholders?
What’s Working, What’s Not?
To better understand the service, we needed to fully immerse ourselves in the entire process. We used several research methods to explore what was working and what wasn't. We stayed inquisitive and empathetic to our users as we quickly discovered the topic we were about to explore had many complexities.
We interviewed Culinary Care’s founder and observed her process. As we began to pick apart the details, we were eager to learn more and decided the only way to truly empathize with our users was to fully immerse ourselves in the process and deliver meals directly to the patients. We held in-depth interviews with medical professionals and gained insight into bottleneck areas. Right way we started to see that Culinary Care was so much more than their current brand, “one less worry”.
We created a service blueprint to expose wait times in the current process. These were often moments of confusion and uncertainty for the patients and frustration for stakeholders and medical professionals.
Understanding the Patients
It was important to understand what the patients valued about the service. We spoke with a wide range of patients with various ages, SES's, diagnoses and stages of treatment. We explored the positive and negative emotions patients felt throughout their experience.
We learned that patients were not only struggling physically during treatment. They were often challenged by financial burdens, emotional barriers and some were even caregivers themselves, responsible for feeding other family members while they were sick. The intensity of these emotions created complex relationships with food.
What does Culinary Care mean to the patients?
- Patients want to maintain a sense of normalcy and control. “The food was so delicious, it inspired me to cook!”
- It’s more than just nutrition, it’s a treatment day treat. "It’s the silver lining, the glimmer of hope in my treatment day."
- It’s a connection, someone to listen to them. “Courtney just gets it... more than my oncologist.”
- Patients are overwhelmed and often experience feelings of guilt. “Some days it was borderline should I/shouldn’t I but then it was just so delicious.”
The Medical Professionals
In order to become a Culinary Care member, patients need a referral from a medical professional. To understand this process, we spoke with several social workers and nutritionists. To our surprise, we noticed several barriers for medical professionals when it came to referring patients.
Why are some medical professionals hesitant to refer patients?
- It’s not top of their mind when dealing with patients.
- There was a lack of understanding for Culinary Care’s primary mission (treat vs. utilitarian).
- They were unclear on who to refer even though they liked the flexibility to choose.
- There are perceived concerns (over smells or leaving others out) which lead to over cautiousness.
- Some patients need more support (lack of mental bandwidth and lack of technical ability).
Designing A Strategy
How might we...
- Streamline the process to reduce barriers, human error and manual workload.
- Give partners (restaurants/medical professionals) greater transparency and connection with patients.
- Support patients to alleviate additional stress while allowing them to maintain a sense of control.
- Give patients a way to give back, durning and after treatment to reduce guilt and give them a way to say thank you.
Exploring Potential Solutions
My team and I held three separate ideation sessions, one for each key player; the patient, the medical professional and the stakeholders. We invited Culinary Care’s founder, a member from the board and a group of General Assembly students to help us ideate potential solutions.
A day later we reviewed the ideas and noticed all three groups had some overlap. We decided a portal was a necessary solution to our problem and marinated on this over several cups of coffee. We also observed that all three groups had physical components to their solutions - thank you notes, recipe cards and even a food truck.
Our portal solution solves the initial problem and streamlines the process for stakeholders. It also creates a intuitive and interactive experience for patients and medical professionals. Here is a link to clickable prototype of the patient portal app: https://xd.adobe.com/view/f7e356bf-dfa0-4777-85ec-6f0ee9321522