EZMedNotes: The story of how a cancer patient's physician family could not keep up with the patient's health information and designed an app for it

Nupur Garg garg.nupur@gmail.com

Abstract

The Problem
My father is a cancer survivor. He's a physician, my mother is a physician, and I'm a physician, and we could NOT keep up with his health information. My father is also an early adopter. He downloaded all the hospital apps and put in all the passwords, and he still didn't have the information he wanted about his health. He, like a few of the most organized cancer patients that I’ve seen in the Emergency Department (ED), reverted to keeping a binder and a notebook for his health information. Unfortunately, he landed in the ED without it at least twice. From there, he would call me with questions that his doctors asked him and I would frantically search my email accounts, usually not finding what he was looking for.
To assist with this real-time information gap, I started downloading all the note-taking apps I could find either health care related or not. I also tried using things like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Docs for keeping up with his health information. Nothing worked. It was very difficult for my father to access these systems to take a note and it also difficult for him to find what he wanted when he wanted.
Design for Patients
I viewed my first version of EZMedNotes as a simple electronic replacement for the medical binder and notebook that my father and other organized patients keep for their health conditions. Basically, it must have the ability to capture / upload documents (since patients still get a lot of those), and it must be as easy to use as Facebook for patients taking notes about their health. My father began using it for everything. He then wanted to share certain notes and receive notes that my mother wanted to share about her. This became the primary feature of the next version of EZMedNotes that we just released.
The process of designing this app has been simple and straight-forward – building only and exactly in response to my consumers’ needs. Now, I have friends who use it for their own families. Some use it with their significant other for keeping up with health information about their children. Others use it for pets. Others also use it for parents. And still others use it for just themselves.
Another Health Portal?
All the health portals or patient portals that I have ever seen have failed. After having worked on this project from the patient side, I can see at least partly why. Understanding that the customer is the patient and NOT the physician is key. It’s easy for us to imagine many ways in which a health information portal like this could be useful for a health care provider and just add a feature or two in that vein thinking that we are helping our patients, but I found that any feature like that makes the patient feel like it was not designed for them, and patients stop using it.
Having attempted other projects for patients, designing for patients with a specific patient in mind is much easier. It's less abstract than "consumers" and much more exciting to be building something for someone in particular. 
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