Here at EchoUser, we love to tackle Any Experience, and we’re always inspired by novel ways of interacting with people, products, and places. We also get to meet a lot of the people who are crafting those experiences, and in this occasional series of interviews with experience innovators, we want to share their insights with you.
When Anish Sebastian and Juan Pablo Segura first founded 1EQ, a digital health company based in DC, they knew they were tinkering with the right ingredients: wireless devices that tracked and collected everyday biometrics, and a healthcare industry ripe for innovation. They just needed to find the perfect recipe.
At first, they planned to display personalized health tips, such as exercise and meal recommendations, based on genomic and fitness wearable data. It was a good start, but it didn’t seem to stick. Over the course of two years, however, the team found their way toward a more impactful solution.
Today, their flagship product, Babyscripts, connects expectant mothers with their healthcare providers through a mobile app, wireless scale and blood pressure cuff.
Over the course of her pregnancy, an expectant mother uses the solution to share vitals with her provider, and follows a prescribed set of tasks to stay healthy. The provider, meanwhile, benefits from improved patient compliance and the ability to detect high-risk conditions. Staying connected beyond the office reduces the number of appointments from 14 to 10: a win for both the patient and provider.
The solution has generated quite a buzz at a local startup incubator called 1776, of which they are a member, and is now being piloted in collaboration with MedStar Health, the largest not-for-profit provider of patient care in Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region.
When I sat down to talk with Anish and Juan Pablo, there were plenty of exciting things for us to talk about. More than anything, I was most curious to find out how and why their product transformed in the way that it did. Here are the valuable insights they learned along the way:
1: Better to build something for someone, than everything for everyone
“People try to create solutions before they find problems. We fell under that trap in the first year,” explained Juan Pablo, recalling their first iteration. At first, “we started by trying to be everything for everyone. The problem was that there are so many needs for so many different users.”
As a way to stay focused, they made a deliberate decision to focus on just one experience: pregnancy. It was a clean nine month period, with high patient engagement. By adopting a niche focus, they became experts in the field, and more confident in making design decisions.
For example, during user testing, they sent expectant mothers home with an oversized, matte blue box filled with monitoring devices. The feedback: at the time when you take that box home, your risk of miscarriage is high. People didn’t want their neighbors to know about their pregnancy yet, and lugging a large, clinical-looking box home wasn’t helping. Their latest product is a narrow, glossy box, fit for a more personal experience.
By diving into that single pregnancy experience, they also discovered a critical insight into the people for whom they needed to design. They examined competing products in the industry, and noticed that all focused primarily on the patient experience. Among the apps that failed, someone was routinely missing: the healthcare provider.
“Healthcare is unique in that it’s driven in collaboration with the doctor,” said Anish. “It’s important to identify the use case first: how will you provide value to the patient and doctor.”
The provider’s experience is just as critical to Babyscripts’ success as the patient’s. The two experiences go hand in hand; Anish and Juan Pablo believe that facilitating the patient/provider conversation will increase compliance and communication, ultimately benefitting both provider revenue and patient health.
2: Use data to drive - not distract from - action
Anish helps to run a meetup in DC dedicated to the Quantified Self movement. The movement harnesses technology to track personal behavior, allowing individuals to become more aware of their daily activities, and ideally, find fresh applications for that data.
Anish met one man who had 1700 days of sleep data. As a data enthusiast, he thought that the possibilities were endless. Surprisingly, however, when the data was shared with a primary care doctor, the doctor didn’t want it.
“That struck to the core of what I thought the problem was,” said Anish. “How do you translate that [data] into a something clinicians would understand?”
He found that clinicians don’t care about most of that data, as “95% of the data we collect is just noise.” As such, he and Juan Pablo designed Babyscripts to “eliminate most of the noise, and just show the 5% that matters, like risky blood pressure.”
“A doctor doesn’t want a dashboard. They just want to see the exceptions,” added Juan Pablo. The app pushes providers to reach out when their patients’ vitals are outside the norm, but does not distract them otherwise.
The insight around using just the relevant data to drive action inspired a number of critical design decisions on the patient side as well. For example, when they first pushed out their solution, Anish recalled that “we had a beautiful dashboard, but the average ‘Sally May’ out there didn’t care.” She had a busy work schedule, and didn’t have time to review her metrics. They took out all of the graphs, and just pushed out the information that mattered: a few tasks a week, tailored to her conditions, delivered at the time of need.
According to Anish, “Things just magically appear when they need it. Week 32: find a pediatrician.” Creating an actionable, focused experience drove patient engagement to almost two times the level they previously saw.
The BabyScripts experience facilitates high-value conversations between the expectant mother and provider. It keeps them comfortably connected beyond the office visit, but otherwise empowers them to continue living their lives.
3: Find your allies
Anish and Juan Pablo both recognize that the medical industry is ripe for disruption, and they’re looking to make a big impact. At the same time, they understand that healthcare is a highly regulated industry that will require a group effort to disrupt, and it will not happen overnight. They think of themselves as an important part of the solution, but not the only player.
Taking the time to understand how they can fit into the healthcare industry, and keeping the door open to partner with other innovators in the space, has enabled the team to make significant headway.
Said Juan Pablo, “Healthcare disruption will have to be incremental. When we go in, we’re not saying we want to replace the doctor. We’re just going to help you be more efficient. We come in as a partner.” By tying everything into existing provider business models, and empowering both providers and patients to succeed, Babyscripts becomes “innovation they can understand.”
In addition, they’ve found collaborating with innovation leaders in the medical space to be extremely valuable. Last December, they started a partnership with MedStar Health to run a major pilot in area hospitals. The MedStar Institute for Innovation seeks to advance health innovation in the areas of human factors, usability, simulation training, and technology development. Their team has helped 1EQ engage with real patients and providers to test their solution, and now actually deploy it throughout a number of local hospitals.
Looking ahead at the pilots to come, the co-founders still feel there’s a lot to learn about the pregnancy experience, and eventually medical scenarios beyond it. Given the valuable insights they’ve learned along the way about users, data, and the healthcare ecosystem, however, they certainly have the right mindset to keep making progress.