interview with Liz, a UX (User Experience) designer

How did you get involved in Health Hack? Did you come with a team?

I actually came to HealthHack completely on my own as it was only my second hackathon and I saw my colleague Steve Bennett was involved in one in another city. HealthHack was the first hackathon I’d seen coming up where there were defined project briefs posted before the hack began that already came with researched value propositions, meaning that working on a prototype solution could be the focus of the weekend. Although that didn’t quite go according to plan (does it ever?), the team grew organically and in the end there was an idea that played to all of our strengths that is still being worked on today. Since then I’ve gone on to do other hacks including Random Hacks of Kindness in Sydney, which has a similar model, and I really appreciate this approach (full disclosure: my brother is the assistant organizer).


What was your project about?

My project was glucohero. The concept of Glucohero is a website that draws on crowdsourced community reviews to drive relevant recommendations of mobile apps for patients suffering from Diabetes (primarily focussed on Type I right now). There is currently more than 300 different diabetes apps on the market, because diabetes is a condition with a very wide range of presenting features and each patient may be treated slightly differently depending both on the severity of their condition and the types of treatment that may be available or suitable for them. For example, some people have implanted insulin pumps which for some patients and their families are either too expensive or they have security concerns, but others might be looking for management that might involve finding appropriate recipes. Deciding which app is right for you is really hard to do.


What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Personally, it was giving the pitch at the end on very little sleep - but I think my team members (David and Vyoma) would agree it was changing concept almost halfway through the hack.

The project didn’t originally start as a “help me decide” service, it was a brief to make an app to take care of all of the needs for a Type I diabetes patient. Although it was understood from the outset that many apps had failed to meet the needs of the Product Owner’s nephew, it was clear that the main goals of a proposed app were the same of many apps already available. However, as there were no potential customers available for consultation at the time of the Hack, we trawled through online forums to find what patients were saying about these apps. It became very clear after a few threads on the sub Reddit for diabetes that many individuals had tried to develop apps to cover all of the needs of patients in a single design and appealed to forum members to tell them what patients needed. But this kind of one-size-fits-all approach seemed to be restrictive as many companies’ apps could do certain things better than others depending on patient needs, symptoms and equipment. Also, it seemed that patients were using multiple apps to circumvent other apps’ failings, including using those apps that aren’t specifically intended for diabetic patients.

We decided then that there was insufficient data on how this interaction occurs, and that designing a tool to collect data for this kind of situation is potentially more helpful and allows potential pivoting later. But this is one of the great things about participating in a hack -  there is great scope to come up with unexpected innovative interim solutions due to time pressure.


What was the best part of Health Hack?

The best part of HealthHack is easily it’s the people that come to a HealthHack. HealthHack attracts compassionate, honest, empathetic and genuinely lovely people who want to make real solutions to real problems where getting it wrong could also have real consequences. But getting a potential product right could potentially lead to a real difference in people’s lives and the participants are all happy to give up their weekends to do so. I only wish that I had more time to work on Glucohero with my Health Hack team :)