Effectiveness and utilization of telehealth
Telehealth has been shown to reduce no-show rates and has equivalent outcomes to in-person sessions. However, many barriers to telehealth exist, such as inability to use technology and lack of affordability or access to internet.
When telehealth services took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience of receiving healthcare through phone or video became more common. During the initial pandemic peak, telehealth use increased from less than 1% of visits to as much as 80% in certain places. Millennials and young adults (25-35 years old) were quick to start using telemental health services, but simultaneously, mental health concerns grew tremendously during the pandemic.
Millennials are one of the most technologically savvy demographic groups and are the generation most interested in telehealth than any others. However, only 56% of millennials are likely to report very good or excellent mental health and many struggle to find adequate mental health services.
I was curious to investigate teletherapy from a UX design perspective, so I put together a research plan detailing my methods and goals, and found some young adults I could talk to.
Virtual therapy is less personal - a key learning from research interviews
Primary research helped to identify the biggest obstacles of the millennial demographic’s teletherapy journey, as well as their needs and concerns.
I conducted five short interviews to delve deeper into the issue of mental health and teletherapy. Examples of questions from the interviews include:
• How do you feel about the quality of care of teletherapy services?
• What changes would you like to see when receiving telemental healthcare?
• What is your goal when seeking mental healthcare?
The most interesting theme that stood out to me was "Virtual care is less personal." Could I explore this theme further and solve it with UX?
Bringing to life a millennial who uses teletherapy
To understand the characteristics and traits of a potential user for a digital solution, I created a persona based on interview data, findings, and insights.
Approach grounded in science - cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often considered the gold standard of psychotherapy. It can be used for a wide variety of mental health issues and reaps long-term results. Sessions are flexible and can be done in-person, or over the computer, phone, or tablet. Internet-based CBT has been shown to be an effective tool for managing mental health issues.
Various techniques are used in CBT including guided discovery and questioning, journaling, and thought recording. Homework is an important part of CBT, and can help a patient develop and practice the skills learned.
I chose to center my design solution around CBT and therapy, due to the high success rates when delivered over the internet.
Design solution incorporating CBT techniques and live therapy
I thought about ways to make the virtual therapy process more engaging and personable. The outcome of this would be that patients feel interested and motivated enough to continue seeking therapy, thereby increasing success rates. By having patients complete activities and worksheets after each therapy session, they’d be able to learn about and practice skills. Also, providing feedback and reflecting about each therapy session is an opportunity to develop a better therapy-patient relationship.
The user story developed for this project was:
As a patient, I want to complete meaningful and engaging activities so that I have a more guided and hands-on role in my own mental health journey.
Ideating and building a teletherapy app, from sketches to wireframes
I began sketching concepts for screens, components, icons, and features. The app is designed around a home screen with appointment reminders and access to resources. There would be assigned activities, which can take many forms, and in CBT, usually contains a variety of response formats, and is presented step-by-step. Elsewhere in the app, the user can access all of the helping learning resources, such as informational guides and videos.
Mid-fidelity wireframes translated from sketches:
Revisions need to be made for improvement
I tested my prototype with a group of users to assess how easily users can interact with the content and to understand the limitations of my designs. I conducted two rounds of testing, each time revisiting my designs.
Introducing Luma, a CBT-based teletherapy app for teens and young adults
From the user testing sessions I was able to apply changes to the content, flow, and layout of the app, and then begin designing high-fi screens. I also developed a simple brand for Luma, with a wordmark and colors.
The name of this mobile app is Luma, which comes from Latin for light and brightness (like luminosity).
I utilized a soothing pastel color palette for the UI and branding, which conveys feelings of calmness and comfort. The pastel direction contrasts nicely with the colorful and contrasty illustrations reserved for activity and resource thumbnails, which forms a cohesive and eyecatching visual throughout the app.