For someone who works as a caregiver in the senior care industry, you're used to carrying a paper with your scheduled visits for each day and write down any notes or anomalies in the "notes section" for each visit. Every one or two weeks, you drive to the main office, submit the paper and an coordinator or care manager will validate your hours and manually type in any notes worth documenting. Although this is the way caregivers have been managing their visits for a very long time, it poses several challenges:
- caregivers can lose or damage the paper
- note's section has limited space that isn't conducive to documenting detailed comments when necessary
- caregivers don't have visibility into a client's care plan prior to the visit
- lost papers can cause potential breach of sensitive personal health data
- families can't get timely updates about their loved one's care (especially for a family member who lives far away or experience communication barrier from the seniors due to stigma or speech challenges)
Coming Up With an Hypothesis
Knowing these challenges, we began to work on an hypothesis: caregivers want to be able to manage their visits on the go and families would love to receive timely care updates after each visit.
Getting Into the Trenches
We first began to ask questions about caregiver's daily life:
- how are they currently managing their work?
- what is the most important information about a client that they need to know prior to a visit?
- do they talk directly to the families?
- what do they in the event of a medical anomaly during the visit?
- what are the biggest challenges they face when working in the field?
All of our caregivers are constantly on the road. They are either driving to a shift or going to the grocery store to pick up food for a client. So our ideas have to be mobile first. Before we began designing any mockups, we spent one week shadowing a few of our caregivers in order to get a good understanding of what's like to be a caregiver. We sat in their cars while they were driving to work, collecting old time sheets from previous employers, and speaking to them on the phone as soon as a visit is finished. It was a lot of fun.
After around 1 week of field research, we were able to gather some interesting observations:
- caregivers always check their schedules for the day after they wake up in the morning, some of them use a wall calendar hung on the fridge with shift time and locations marked on each day
- direction to a client's home is always handy, even if it's the same client
- allergies information is extremely important. Not knowing this information can cause serious health consequences
- tasks list is very useful as tasks can change for the same client on different days
- medication information is useful but not crucial, as most clients have their medications prepared in packets ready for consumption
Testing the Hypothesis
We wanted to make sure our idea can sufficiently help caregivers manage their client visits better, instead of introducing more challenges. So we decided to model our idea based on real visits and divide it into two parts: pre visit and post visit. For each test we invited 5 caregivers to come in and use the mockup in our office. We iterated several times for each test before starting to write code.
In the pre visit test, a caregiver can see her upcoming visits for the day, click into a particular visit to see the client's detailed care plan and be able to check into a visit.
In the post visit test, a caregiver can check off tasks she's completed for that visit, leave a detailed visit note, add any expenses and check out of the visit. Our hope is to bring all small tasks that a caregiver is responsible under one roof.
In the end, we were able to develop and launch the app to the Goolge Play and get all of our caregivers to use it. About one month after the launch, our caregivers told us that the app has helped them:
- see a client's care plan prior to the visit (biggest benefit)
- check in/out of a visit with one click (the standard way is to use a landline at client's home to call the main office's automated log system)
- feeling like they are in control of their work
As another benefit, we also connected the app with our web server so that each time a caregiver submits a detailed note after a visit, our system automatically sends out an email to the family members with the note, so that family members are always staying on top of their loved one's care.