Last year, around this time, I sat myself down and wrote a somewhat robust post about my ‘year in healthcare experience design.’ Partly because I felt like I hadn’t accomplished enough, so I wanted to lay it all out to better understand what I’d been doing. Perhaps it came off as humble bragging.
In this fresh, crisp, new year I’d like to do something a little different. I want to ponder my personal mission, what I learned about myself in the past year, and the things that excite me about my work.
I recently had the opportunity to develop a personal mission statement. It felt good. It felt like a rudder, or a guide post, or a cairn, or a skeleton upon which to build out the ‘flesh and organs and skin’ of my work. Here it is.
My mission is to:
Help patients tell their stories
and help providers focus on the work they love
through thoughtful UX design
& research and close collaboration with fun, talented people.
See how it looks like a haiku? Maybe that’s why I like it. I would like to break it down, because I’m like that.
Help patients tell their stories
The first line, about helping patients tell their stories, is embedded deep inside my core at this point. Since I have gotten involved in the e-patient movement as a speaker and advocate, and since I’ve gotten involved in healthcare UX, I have not seen a lot of progress in tools and technology (digital or otherwise) that help patients tell better stories. I’m convinced it’s one of the best ways patients can take ownership of their healthcare; I think visual storytelling holds great promise; and I’d like to be a part of these solutions.
To this end, I’m doing 3 things. I’m working with the non-profit Open mHealth on a platform called Linq that helps patients tell their ‘data story’ to their doctors and collaborate with their doctors around health tracking. I’m also reviving a slumbering project/product that I’ve called Pictal; Pictal is a way for patients to create a visual timeline about their health so that they can communicate better and more efficiently with their care team. Finally, I’m helping a Vermont health technology organization, VITL, plan their Annual Summit; I’m proud to have the opportunity to bring a patient voice into the conference planning and to advocate for patient involvement (and storytelling) in the conference.
Help providers focus on the work they love
Working in healthcare as a UX designer, my job is to build empathy with the people for whom I’m creating products and solutions. I also love my doctors. So it’s not hard for me to empathize and care for the doctors and care providers who are working within a sickeningly complex and stressful system to deliver care to patients like me. The Linq project keeps me close to the provider perspective.
Thoughtful UX Design & Research
This line, I have to admit, might need some wordsmithing. Basically I am always striving to be a research-driven designer, to follow a user-centered design process, to be deliberate and be good at planning my work. I want to bring the user’s voice into the work I do.
Close collaboration with fun, talented people
Ooh I have this one nailed down. I recently took on part-time work with my good friends’ start-up, Notabli, as a UX design lead. Notabli is not healthcare work – it’s a platform for parents to archive and securely share their kids’ childhood moments. No matter, these people are fun. We have pranks and in-jokes (would you just look at it!) They’re also wildly talented and smart. Great combo.
I also love my fun and talented team at Open mHealth, of course, but this year I learned something really important about myself – I get my energy from having people around me. Just ask the spectators at my work holiday party who witnessed me pull a hamstring by attempting the splits in cowboy boots (and a dress) – just boisterously showing off. This looks about right – a blurry action photo from just before the injury:
Put me in a giant room of people, and I want to learn about each one. I also get high from ‘team flow’ – getting lost in a complex task with a work partner or a team.
Thus, I’ve decided to curtail my remote work a bit for the time being; though I remain ever excited about my work with Open mHealth, I’m supplementing it with a healthy dose of in-person collaboration with Notabli.
…but there’s something else, something new, something slightly OCD
All of the above is good. I’m happy with it. But here is something else that’s making me feel high right now – let me try to explain.
I like to create order out of chaos. When I was younger I loved mowing the lawn and making the neat lines. I love sweeping the floor, putting things away in their place, and erasing chalkboards. Maybe it’s a slight sickness, but it’s also a super power.
I’m currently creating pretty big-time order out of 2 forms of chaos, and I think I have a chemical high from it. The first is with Notabli, where I am helping the team implement an awesome product development process. We’re working on how information flows between people and systems; how to communicate better with our developer partners, and how to be more transparent about what we are working on. I’m making hella diagrams and writing hella Trello cards. It’s so satisfying. Creating any product is a complex system of people and tasks and ideas, and helping optimize that system is such a wonderful challenge. (And doing it with such fun people is quite a bonus.)
Simultaneously, in the past few weeks I’ve suddenly jumped into a bit of a product manager role at Open mHealth; this has involved scouring through our existing Linq user stories and tasks, looking at them with a new lens, also writing hella Trello, and really doing a big sweep and reorganization. This work scratches my minor OCD itch.
So, to summarize: I’m happy to be ‘on-mission’ with my work and lifestyle; I’m happy to be developing as a design team leader and product manager; I love people; and I am chemically addicted to creating order out of chaos.