MEX Live: Designing healthcare UX with Sofia Svanteson, CEO, Elsa Science

MEX Live: Designing healthcare UX with Sofia Svanteson, CEO, Elsa Science


Special guest Sofia Svanteson, CEO of Swedish start-up Elsa Science, joins MEX founder Marek Pawlowski for a livestream chat about designing good user experience for healthcare services, as well as sharing her pioneering career story as a design agency founder. Free to watch, donation supported (see below).

On the show

Recorded 27th May 2020, approx. 55 mins.

Summary

Sofia’s journey as a designer began in the late 90s at Razorfish before founding her own agency – Ocean Observations – which has played a defining role in shaping digital user experience for a global client list.

Equipped with those skills as a designer and agency founder, Sofia went on to co-found Elsa Science in 2017 as a spin out from a client project. Focused initially on helping patients with chronic rheumatic diseases, Elsa recently raised a further EUR 2m from investors such as the Norrsken Foundation, Inventure and Crowberry Capital. It is continuing to advance its self-monitoring tool, which helps patients identify correlations between lifestyle and health outcomes to better personalise their treatment.

Sofia last spoke to Marek in episode 48 of the MEX podcast back in June 2018. You can listen to that episode and check out the show notes – with lots of background on Sofia’s work – here in the MEX archive.

What do you think? Post your comments below!

We’d love to hear your views on designing healthcare UX or any other issue you’ve been thinking about on this theme.

Please post your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page so we can keep them together and encourage conversation in the community (you can also reach me by email if you’d prefer to discuss in private or have your email forwarded on to Sofia).

About MEX Live & invites to join future editions

This livestream experiment builds on a series of 70+ interviews with design pioneers I’ve recorded for the MEX podcast. An audio version will be released soon after the event as a podcast in the usual way (search ‘MEX Design Talk’ in your podcast player to subscribe).

To receive an invitation to participate in the next livestream, please send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

Donate to support

We need your help to keep MEX going! Make your donation today (any amount welcome) to show your support and become a MEX Patron. Your contributions go towards developing the podcast, livestream events and this journal.

Categories

3 Comments

Add yours
  1. 2
    Heba Daghistani

    Thank you for inviting Sofia for your webinar, I absolutely enjoyed the talk yesterday!

    Mainly because healthcare and design are two important topics to my heart.

    A few years ago, I embarked on a journey into designing a solution for early Alzheimers patients, to possibly help fill in the gap of certain missing skills and allow them to maintain the sense of independence for longer period of times.

    Having heard Sofia’s story brought back some good memories on the value of research, reaching out to people, hearing their stories and struggles, then using the power of design to make their challenges less extreme or manageable.

    The city we live in plays a huge role on how far design can help influence a possible solution. I live in the United Arab Emirates, where design is fairly new and mainly focused on marketing, advertising and branding.

    When I started my journey in researching Alzheimers I faced many obstacles, such as:

    – Elderly centres not allowing me in
    – Neurological doctors not taking me seriously because I’m a designer
    – Families do not allow you to meet their older parents

    …which led me to sadly rely on mainly online research and personas in order to push my design process and not having many opportunities to test out the solution.

    My questions would be:

    – How do you push your design, despite being located in a city where design value has not been established clearly yet? Or would it be wise to start targeting other cities?

    – What did you learn from the beginning of your journey until now? How did it change your thinking process?

    – How did Elsa change the way people deal with RA and their attitudes towards it?

    – Did you have previous thoughts that prototyping proved them to be wrong and gave you new ways to look at them?

    Thank you again for your time and for creating useful content.

    • 3
      Sofia Svanteson

      Thanks so much for sending this along! Interesting questions!

      How do you push your design, despite being located in a city where design value has not been established clearly yet? Or would it be wise to start targeting other cities?

      Sofia: I have been fortunate to work in an environment where design usually has been valued to a quite large extent. Before Elsa I ran a design consultancy and then clients came to us because they desired this focus. Thus I have seldom had to sell design to organisations or people with zero interest, but yes, many times I have wished one wanted to invest more in the design work and process. However, there is always something an organisation value, if it is important for an organisation you would like to work with to make money, work more lean, or have a certain impact in their area of interest, find proof for how a design approach will lead to that result in a faster, more sustainable, or more holistic way for example.

      What did you learn from the beginning of your journey until now? How did it change your thinking process?

      Sofia: My design journey started in the end of the 90-ies so it has been going on for quite some time and I have learned many things in many different areas along the way. Building trust between you and your client or partnering organisation, and having the right expectations (working with expectation management) are very important learnings. Design can sometimes be interpreted in different ways by designers who understands it thoroughly and an organisation who knows very little about the design (they might think it’s about what colours are being used or how something look and feel) when it is a process about problem solving and finding the most meaningful solution, based on peoples’ (users) needs, behaviours, interests motives etc. “Selling” this view from the beginning and setting the right expectations have been very important and required for successful design projects.

      Regarding nurturing a team working from a design process, another learning has been that a process is great to have to lean towards when necessary, but to design new solutions one has to be flexible, empathic, analytical, foresighted and open to the fact that new findings might change the expected way forward, and it is more about being able to choose what methods need to be used at different points in a journey towards a solution, rather than deciding from the beginning that one will take exactly “these steps” in “this particular way”.

      How did Elsa change the way people deal with RA and their attitudes towards it?

      Sofia: We hear from users telling us that they understand how symptoms, lifestyle habits and compliance can correlate, that there are many things they can do themselves to feel better (it’s not only about the drug), they feel less alone, they feel they share a situation with others. We hope to have a measurable impact on things like self efficacy (life quality), reduced symptoms, decreased depression, decreased isolation, etc in the future.

      Did you have previous thoughts that prototyping proved them to be wrong and gave you new ways to look at them?

      Sofia: Yes I do! With HCPs! I have also been working on a web-based screening service that is more or less a self test for RA and the results would lead to a decision support (PDF) the user could bring to their primary care doctor in their first visit to discuss their symptoms. We anticipated this would help both the patient and the doctor to set a quicker diagnosis together. But when we interviewed doctors about the idea to find out about their needs and behaviours, they said they did not need for the patients to come to their clinics and have an idea about what diagnosis they had. It was the doctors sole job to figure this out. They said: “What will happen to me, if the patients come here and tell me what diagnosis they have?” (They’ve been to medical school for like 7 years!) They were not interested in this tool.

      We moved on with the project anyway, and during the testing of the first prototype of this service, and the patient came to the doctors with this printed PDF as a decision support with some kind of neat anamnesis (medical history relevant for this particular condition) in their hand, the doctors experienced a whole new situation. They could figure out in like 5 min if this was RA or not, and what tests needed to be taken, and then they still had 10 min left of the meeting where they actually had time to talk to the patient, to listen to their possible worries about being diagnosed with a chronic disease, and for example talk about what groundbreaking results had come from scientific research in the last 10-15 years and that the patients did not have to end up in a wheelchair like their relatives. Before the decision support, the whole meeting had been spent just trying to figure out what symptoms the patient had experienced. The meetings became a lot better and the doctors liked the new service. But when we did the initial research, the doctors did not have enough foresight to foresee this.

Leave a Reply to Heba Daghistani Cancel reply