Physician burnout is a major epidemic, affecting at least 48% of all physicians. It leads to lower patient satisfaction and increased risk for medical error, estimated to be the 3rd leading cause of death in the US. To better understand the problem, my teammates and I conducted over 200+ interviews with physicians. From our findings, we realized that burnout is viewed not only as inevitable, but cyclical, as portrayed in the model on the right.
We needed to know, as designers, where we needed to intervene in the above burnout cycle. It turns out burnout, though not discussed often enough, is an all-too-familiar feeling among the physician community. However, despite the current solutions that exist to treat burnout (e.g. therapy, wellness products), the weight of the issue still doesn’t carry enough resonance.
"It'll go on my record."
Mental health support, in its traditional form of therapists, is not palatable to these physicians, because they don’t want it on record. This also leads to guilt.
“I don’t need a cheerleader. I need someone who is real and gives me guidance, but I feel bad about a person taking out time in their day.”
Emotional wellbeing is not urgen.
There is no equivalent to “brushing your teeth” for emotional wellbeing. Dealing with the non-urgent, including emotions, falls to the bottom of the list.
“If you’ve worked 40 hours straight, the last thing you want to do is go to another yoga class. You wait until you get home to cry.”
"I know what the fix is."
Physicians think they already know what they need to do to improve their mental health. After all, as physicians, shouldn’t they know better already?
“What are [the therapists] going to say? They will tell me not to work as hard. That isn’t going to happen.”
My family vs. my job
Physicians try to find balance between their work and home life, but the sense of their obligation to patients can put a strain on their family.
“When I was a resident, I would have felt guilty for having kids. It wasn’t seen as a good life priority by my colleagues.”
We created journey maps to better understand the daily ups and downs of a physician.
We asked physicians what they do to combat a bad day, week, and month.
From our findings, we narrowed our product vision down to its core functions.
We categorized the different metrics used to track a person's wellbeing.
Armed with our insights from our interviews, we began prototyping and user testing, especially where bite-sized actions were concerned. We learned that users are too overwhelmed when it comes to dealing with their wellbeing as an entirety, so most wellness solutions -- which are built toward long-term scheduling -- won’t cut it. However, if a physician is given the option to take a quick ten-minute nap? Now we’re speaking their language.
In our user tests, we created different squares that represented different metrics (e.g. sleep, personal time, exercise). Users were asked to rank the metrics that were most important to them.
Based on the metrics that users deemed the most important, our next step of our prototype was to give users a "bite-sized" action to take. For example, these two users valued sleep, so we gave them 10 minutes in a quiet corner to take a comfortable power nap. We wanted to test whether users were more willing to take small steps toward self-care because they are "easy" and urgent.
How might we create a product to help physicians proactively monitor their burnout, take bite-sized actions toward managing their burnout, and get the tangible support they need?
Enter Coral Board.
Coral Board is a quantifiable, visual mobile app that monitors a user’s burnout metrics and connects them to bite-sized actions that a user can take to maintain their wellbeing.
Coral Board’s features include:
With the dashboard, the user can easily visualize certain metrics in their life, such as where and how they’re spending their time, the amount of sleep they’re getting over time, and how well they’ve been feeling emotionally.
A user can also expand upon any of these categories for a weekly, monthly, and annual aggregate view of these metrics.
Coral Board connects the user’s personal metrics with bite-sized actions and resources that can be used to better their wellbeing.
Notifications and resources are tied to aspects of the physician’s life. For example, introspective users may receive a thought-provoking question as a means of reflection. A parent may be asked to play a game with their child if they peruse their Resources section.
FINDINGS: "I DON'T WANT TO SEE MY DATA!"
We tested the app on 50+ physicians, and received a general negative sentiment of a dashboard. Some people said they “felt guilty if [they] weren’t spending enough time with [their] kid” and experienced shame from seeing abysmal data. Some people “already knew [they] were getting too little sleep” and didn’t need yet another app stating the obvious.
However, by the time they got to the Resources section, the feelings of guilt and shame turned to intrigue. We heard quotes such as “Oh, I didn’t know there was free laundry! I should probably do that soon.” or “Oh? Discounted lunch? I’m in!”, and realized there was a prime opportunity to reframe. We realized more people were far more interested in the Resources than the actual dashboard.
FROM CORAL BOARD TO CORAL CONNECTS
We then rebranded our product from a dashboard to a resource engine, Coral Connects, with the following traits in mind:
Smart. Coral Connects provides recommendations based on stress state. Having a bad day and need a quick pick-me-up? A therapist probably isn't the solution you need now, but maybe a lunch is.
Timely. Coral Connects gives you recommendations that are timed when you're actually free to use your phone.
Easy to decide. To eliminate decision paralysis, we offer users only one resource a week, that they may choose to use, defer, or pass. Resources are "quick-fix" solutions that a user can use immediately, like laundry or lunch.
We coded Coral Board for the 2019 TreeHacks hackathon at Stanford, where we were one of 8 (out of 181 submitted projects) finalists selected to present at the Closing Ceremony in front of a live judging panel. Coral Board won the award given to the best project of first-time TreeHacks attendees.
Samira Daswani, Katie Neville, Andrea Shulman, Qiwen Wang.