Introducing MediComms

Image courtesy of Healthline.

Why this issue?

Our inspiration came from the fact that we all have to go see a medical practitioner at one point or another. How can you ever avoid seeing the doctor, especially if you need to go to your yearly check up? Along the same line, if you don’t speak the native language well, how easy would it be to communicate complications that arise as part of your medical treatment? So, most people have experienced miscommunication or misinterpretation at one point or another when attending a check up. Our goal is to mitigate or even prevent this issue from arising in the future, and even make healthcare more streamlined and efficient for future doctors working with individuals who may not be native to a certain country that they live in.

The interviews

To begin researching how we could potentially help individuals who might encounter miscommunication issues in the doctor’s office, we began with two different research methods: interview questions and fly-on-the-wall observations. We wanted to see what issues each and/or medical provider might find when communicating with each other. However, we realized that for fly-on-the-wall, there were potential issues with HIPAA regulations that may restrict us from getting information from doctor’s visits, since using the research method fly-on-the-wall would have required us to sit in any individual’s medical appointment and potentially listen to confidential data. So, early on in the research process, we dropped the idea of using the fly-on-the-wall research method.

The University of Washington — Image courtesy of Millicent Li.

Who we spoke to

We focused on two interview groups, the patient and the medical provider.

What we learned

When starting our design research, we wanted to focus on language as a tool between two different parties and how this tool could be used to facilitate communication.

Confused? We are too. Image courtesy of Isha Sadhguru

Design Iteration

In order to address both cultural bias and this confusing medical term barrier, we tried multiple prototypes. Our original design focused on two aspects of the patient to medical provider relationship: translation and cultural bias. However, we found that covering these two different areas would be too spread out, and difficult to fully cover. We realized that our focus should be on the bigger picture of communication issues between two parties. So, our proposed design focused on helping to alleviate translation and miscommunication issues.

Tactile and pictorial channels — Image courtesy of msjbutterfly

Our Final Design

Our new proposed solution focuses on the practical issues that may come up during an actual visit at the doctor’s office. Firstly, we know that there is usually a large amount of preparation between the patient entering his/her/their appointment and then the actual appointment at hand. A lot of translation required for this part. For example, a nurse initially gathers the patient information at the beginning of an appointment, so there would need to be a way to quickly do so in every doctor’s appointment. We thought that such a solution should be static in any number of appointments and relatively easy to explain to the user. We started with a few scrapped designs, those of which are listed here:

Automated Appointment Scheduling Prototype
Remote Vitals Monitor Prototype
MediComms storyboard

What’s next for us?

There’s so many more issues to address in the sphere of translation and mitigating misunderstanding in the medical area. Hopefully, our goal is to continue facilitating this design to hopefully bring our ideas to life, eventually. One step at a time, we’ll make it through.



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CSE 440 Staff

CSE 440 Staff


University of Washington Computer Science, Intro to Human Computer Interaction