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Community Health Station

RISD / Massachusetts General Hospital

For this healthcare themed design studio, my team and I were sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital to research and design a product or system that would creatively solve an aspect of the healthcare problem. We discovered that access to relevant healthcare information is not prevalent outside of the MGH sphere, especially in some lower income communities of Boston where it is most needed. Our goal was to make healthcare more accessible and efficient through a successful integration of technology and community; fostering community as a medium of information and support. These solutions would enable an innovative form of social interaction specifically for the underprivileged communities of Boston. The Comunity Health Station would provide access to patients’ personal medical records, a digital bulletin board in which they could communicate with their Care Team, a comprehensive medical resource library, and maps to health related resources in the area, while bridging the language barrier gap.

For several weeks, we were set loose in the hospital to observe, ask questions, and document our thoughts. The open-ended nature of the project allowed us to seek out particular problems and insights that could address them at our own pace.

Having identified the issue of poor access to relevant healthcare information outside of the MGH sphere, we looked for analogous systems to help tell our story and find inspiration. Surprisingly, Bank of America proved to be the best metaphor with their ATMs that extent access to important information after the bank closes and into neighborhoods where there are no banks. As our story became more refined, we identified Chelsea, an underprivileged area outside of Boston, as a target neighborhood where a solution to our problem was most needed. To learn more about this micro-population and how they might benefit from greater access to health care information outside of the hospital, we conducted field research in the form of a bi-lingual questionnaire. We collected data from a community center in Chelsea, local restaurants, and an urgent care clinic. We then compared that data with responses from within Massachusetts General Hospital, at a flourishing primary care and consultative internal medicine practice. The results, analyzed from over 200 questionnaires, speak for themselves.

As we decided on specific features of the Community Health Station, I began to sketch forms through the use of silhouettes to study proportion, size, and form rhythm.

We knew the final design needed to perfectly balance privacy with accessibility; allowing for community use as well as individual access. Core functions of the Community Health Station include access to personal health records, a web MD symptom checker connected to patient history, health updates and warnings, information database and printer, digital bulletin board, and smart scheduling. The final design would need to help users feel comfortable accessing their health information as well as foster community engagement. And, being an outdoor structure, it would need to be sturdy, easily maintained, and highly visible.

For the digital interface of the Community Health Station, I began to design the information architecture in a color coded diagram that illustrates the potential choices the user would make while using the product. It was decided that while the majority of the information would be fast and easily accessible for all users or for groups, some more private information would require logging in with an MGH ID card. Keeping in mind that many people in Chelsea had little access to the internet or computers at home, the interface for the Community Health Station was designed to be as minimal and as straight-forward as possible. Limiting the number of steps to complete tasks as well as using a graphic language throughout, results in an interface that is both approachable and engaging to use.

These mini stories helped us to present our ideas to a board of hospital administrators and doctors, many of whom expressed interest in pursuing further development on the Community Health Station.