Healthcare Case Study:
How a Design Sprint Helped a Team Reimagine its Clinical Site Application
We led user research and an intensive 1-week design and innovation sprint with a team at a global leader in clinical trial solutions. The sprint initiated an overhaul of outdated tools and processes for assessing trial site feasibility. The team reimagined the entire experience by understanding the needs of site users and sponsors.
Photo by National Cancer Institute
Over the course of 5 days, a diverse group of stakeholders at a global leader in clinical trial solutions jumpstarted progress on a major challenge: how to reimagine its site feasibility application (SFA) experience.
Through a series of exercises including discovery, journey mapping, ideation, sketching, storyboarding, prototyping, and concept testing, the team ultimately designed a new survey experience that included a redesigned email notification, a new dashboard for sites to see available surveys, and reporting for sponsors on survey results. The team built a functional prototype and conducted one-on-one concept tests with six users to get feedback on their concepts.
The concepts fared well; while the tests revealed several areas where the ideas could be improved, the overall concept supported the target users to take, delegate, and evaluate available questionnaires, as well as communicate with different client team members for assistance. The group ended the week by listing and assigning next steps required for moving the initiative forward toward implementation.
The methodology employed during this five-day sprint was adapted from the Google Ventures design sprint model which has been used to help companies of all sizes develop and test solutions to critical challenges. Jake Knapp describes the approach in detail in his book, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days.
The design sprint method uses the following high-level structure:
- Monday: Set a goal, listen to target users, map the current user journey, and interview subject matter experts within the organization.
- Tuesday: Look outside the organization for inspiration, then brainstorm and sketch solutions to the problem.
- Wednesday: Pick one or more solutions to move forward with, then turn the winning solutions into a storyboard.
- Thursday: Create a working prototype of the concept.
- Friday: Test the prototype with representative users, analyze the results of the testing, and plan next steps.
This case study summarizes the process that we followed for this project and broadly outlines the outputs of that process.
Prior to the sprint, we led a kickoff meeting with key stakeholders to gain a clearer understanding of the challenges the team was facing and the background knowledge needed for the sprint. The team defined a goal for the design sprint that related to making its feasibility application a differentiator.
A critical role in a sprint is that of the Decider. The Decider is the person or people with the actual final decision-making authority on a project. It is essential that they be actively involved in the sprint so that they can make their preferences known early and be bought into the output of the process.
In this sprint, the Decider was a VP of client strategic services.
Others who participated in the full 5-day sprint were:
- Director, Product Strategy & Governance
- Senior Project Manager
- Information Technology Associate Director
- Director, Data Science
- Senior Feasibility Specialist
- Lead UX Designer
On the 1st day of the sprint, we went through the following steps:
After we reviewed the goal and plans, we brought in 3 customers who all had experience using the SFA application in their day-to-day work.
- An SFA site user who is a research director at a large health system
- A site sponsor at a biotech company focused on cancer treatments
- A site sponsor at a biotech/pharma company based in New York
Creating a Map
In order to understand the opportunities for supporting SFA users, the group collaboratively created a journey map. We followed these steps:
- List the various actors that may play a role in the process.
- Establish the ending point.
- Connect actors to the endpoint with a series of steps.
After conducting the user interviews and drafting the journey map, we heard from 6 subject matter experts who we recruited because of their internal knowledge of SFA. Each person shared about their experiences using SFA, and what they felt were pain points, strengths, and priorities for redesign outcomes.
During both the user and expert interviews, sprint participants captured observations in the form of How Might We (HMW) notes. Participants wrote observations on individual sticky notes in the form of questions that began with the phrase “how might we”. This helped to maintain an optimistic perspective focused on goals and outcomes.
Organizing HMW Notes
Following the expert interviews, the group underwent the following collaborative process to organize and prioritize the data captured in HMW notes:
- Participants placed all notes on a wall.
- Notes were organized into groups by common theme.
- Each group was labeled with a title on a blue sticky note.
- Each participant was given 4 dot stickers, except for the Decider, who was given 8 stickers. Each dot sticker represented a vote, and participants voted on which HMW questions were most important to address in order to achieve our goal.
- The most important questions were added to the journey map next to the step that each note applied to.
Picking a Target
At the end of Day 1, the Decider selected 1 actor and 1 step of the journey that should be the focus for the upcoming ideation.
The sprint team participates in solution ideation exercises.
On the 2nd day of the sprint, we went through the following steps:
Each sprint participant researched examples of “inspiration” from within the clinical trials industry and from other industries.
Participants presented 3-minute “lightning demos” of their inspiration. Each piece of inspiration was captured with a brief description, capturing the “big idea” of the example.
At this point, the group had a goal and a target, was armed with information from users and experts, and had inspiration from outside of the company. They were now ready to ideate and sketch concept ideas to address the challenges that surfaced on Monday around survey completion and status updates.
We followed a four-step process for brainstorming and sketching ideas:
- Notes. Participants reviewed all of the information and resources posted on the walls of the sprint room, and captured notes.
- Ideas. Participants wrote down as many different ideas as possible for a redesigned product application. They then selected their favorite single idea.
- Crazy Eights. Participants quickly sketched eight different variations of their favorite idea in eight minutes. They then selected their favorite variation.
- Solution Sketch. Participants used 3” x 5” sticky notes to create a multi-panel sketch of their flow. All sketches were anonymous.
On Tuesday afternoon, we began the process of recruiting participants for concept testing sessions on Friday.
We sent emails to internal users that we wanted to speak with, as well as a site user and a sponsor who had been in touch with us previously. We sent out scheduling emails and WebEx invites for Friday.
On the 3rd day of the sprint, we went through the following steps:
We kicked off the day with the “Sticky Decision” exercise, a form of design critique that facilitates quick decisions without groupthink or sales pitches. With the help of our Decider, we needed to choose a single sketch or combination of sketches to move forward with for prototyping and testing.
We went through the following process:
- Art Museum. All of the sketches were posted on the wall.
- Heat Map. Participants received an unlimited number of dot stickers and placed them next to any components of sketches that they liked. They also wrote questions about sketches on sticky notes and posted them below the sketches.
- Speed Critique. We facilitated a 3-minute mini-critique of each sketch.
- Straw Poll. Each participant was given one red dot sticker for each of the two categories (survey and reporting) and placed it on the single sketch that they found the most promising in each category.
- Supervote. Our Decider was given 4 big dot stickers for each of the two categories,, and selected the sketch, sketches, or components thereof to move forward with for prototyping.
Our Decider selected components from various vote-getting sketches to combine into a storyboard flow in the afternoon.
On Wednesday afternoon, the group collaboratively turned the flow selected by the Decider into a comprehensive storyboard, capturing all of the necessary steps and making the difficult decisions, in order to ease the upcoming process of creating a prototype.
The completed storyboard illustrated the process of a user receiving an email about an available study, logging into the SFA portal, and choosing to complete a study from the dashboard of available studies, as well as viewing a communication hub within SFA.
Thursday was a full day devoted to dividing and conquering the hefty task of creating a prototype of our proposed flow.
In the GV sprint model, a prototype is a low-fidelity version of a proposed solution that’s just real enough to garner useful customer reactions during user research, but simple enough that it feels mutable and disposable; the team should be willing to throw it away and try again if it doesn’t work out. The value of testing with a prototype is that you can understand whether you’re heading in the right direction before committing to creating something more permanent.
We began the day by assigning the following roles to our sprint team members:
- Maker — Creating wireframes/ visual mocks
- Stitcher — Making mocks interactive
- Asset Collector — Locating images, facts & figures, etc.
- Writer — Writing any needed copy for the mocks
- Interviewers — Creating scripts and facilitating interviews
On Friday, we conducted one-on-one remote concept tests of the prototype with 6 users.
During the concept tests, the rest of the sprint participants observed via video feed from a remote observation room. While they watched, they captured both positive and negative observations on individual sticky notes and posted them on a grid on the wall.
After all of the concept tests were complete, the group scanned the compiled stickies on the wall and individually made lists of trends that they observed across multiple users. These lists were then compiled into one master list of findings.
Once the findings list was compiled, we brainstormed the next steps needed to address high-priority findings and move the concept toward implementation. The team agreed on 9 next steps and assigned an owner and deadline to each one.
This team showed engagement, enthusiasm and willingness to embrace the Sprint design model. Here are a few things that contributed to the success of the session:
- The make-up of the team was essential and the broad representation brought diverse and complementary skills to the team that was evident throughout the week as attendees learned new things about SFA and customer needs.
- The time commitment from the entire team to be present for the sessions all week was critical.
- Everyone had great contributions and the trust and cohesion of the group grew as a result.
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