Hundreds of product and sales professionals at some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies are increasing their patient focus, thanks to a ground-breaking medical app developed by our team.
A Life in A Day is a unique and totally immersive experience that measurably increases empathy and awareness for participants — because it enables them to feel what patients are going through every day. Mark Doyle, Director, The Method
London-based training company The Method needed outside expertise to develop a new app. The firm had made its name delivering innovative training programmes for companies across a range of sectors, including Sainsbury’s, BAE and Lloyds Banking Group. Now its team wanted to bring a unique offering to the healthcare sector.
Put simply, a new mobile app called A Life in A Day would simulate how it would feel to spend 24 hours or more in the shoes of someone with a serious illness, including Crohn's disease, heart failure, cancer and other medical conditions.
Throughout each day, the app would trigger a series of interactive challenges that reflect the experience of living with a disease. Participants would have to respond to the challenges and walk in the shoes of a patient.
The app's aim was to increase empathy and awareness among professionals within the healthcare industry. In turn, this could lead to greater understanding, the development of better treatments, and more support for patients with these conditions. So many professionals could benefit — from researchers and medics, to sales reps and journalists.
But developing an app that could be so personalized, versatile and made available to thousands of users world-wide presented some big technical challenges.
The Method met with us in London — and our two companies selected a joint project team that began work right away.
We understood the business issues and we went deep into the design discussions, applying our IT knowledge to discover what would work best, explains Andy Green, Director at HeadChannel.
Over the following weeks, the project team built an app that enables users to experience the challenges, choices and impact that real patients face every day.
1. Intuitive design
The team at The Method had carried out extensive research into each disease, working with patients and healthcare professionals to develop interactive challenges. These bring to life the physical, emotional and social impact of each condition. A typical experience might include up to 150 inter-related challenges, with different consequences depending on the user's actions.
The app was designed by the team at HeadChannel in such a way to make it possible for non-technical administrators to populate, update and edit each challenge. This empowers them to take control of its content and journeys without needing any programming skills or special training.
The interactive challenges can be modified easily. The built-in Journey Creator allows staff to tailor templates effortlessly, clicking on timelines and adding specific challenges from a drop-down list, as well as adding links and changing the responses users receive for each challenge at the click of a button.
The solution avoids many repetitive tasks and uses time-saving templates. What's more, administrators can manage journeys, events and users from a single control panel. Changes can also be made 'live', allowing the team to adapt a journey and personalise responses in real time.
The interface is also intuitive for users — and the app can be up and running on their mobile phones in minutes.
2. Immersive experience
As soon as the app is started, then a unique and highly immersive experience puts users into the shoes of the patient for 24 hours or more. Suddenly, their lives change — as the app triggers a series of health-related events that demand a reaction.
Every medical scenario is different, but incidents might include:
3. Customised reporting
A Life in A Day sets out to improve empathy, so we found a way to track the involvement, progress, and performance of each user as well as groups of users.
While running the app, users must respond by making choices, entering data or even adding photos as proof they are engaging fully with the simulation.
Afterwards, reports can then be customised to provide exactly the insights that each client company needs to check people's changing empathy levels and how much they've learned along the way. Companies can also gain important insights into which daily challenges turn out to be the toughest for patients. Meanwhile, user feedback can also be used to improve the app itself.
4. Global deployment
The brief was to create an application for a global audience with multiple users in multiple time -zones requiring multiple languages. The Method wanted to capture the user data, but did not want a solution that required participants to be connected to the internet at all times – as this was not practical for users. What's more, a client might suddenly require a new language to be added quickly, so The Method was keen to find a solution that would enable them to prepare and test this within the application without the need for a specialist developer.
We implemented a number of solutions to meet this requirement:
We also decided to host the app using Microsoft Azure. This cloud deployment has enabled performance gains in different countries as well as a range of other benefits (see below).
5. Security and data privacy
The app has been designed to meet international security standards around how the medical content is exported/imported and the way user data is gathered, stored and shared. Also, the admin panel uses permission levels to protect the system from misuse.
What you have done brilliantly is take the idea of someone that has no technical knowledge and create something that not only brings my vision to life more intelligently than I was able to articulate, but that anyone can programme, update and use without any technical skill. You have built something that can be manipulated in all sorts of complex ways, in real time by anyone – and I don’t imagine there is much out there that does that…
Mark Doyle, Director, The Method
Today, A Life in A Day is helping to transform the way that health treatments are developed and sold around the world. The app was taken to market by The Method with outstanding results.
Within months, A Life in A Day has been used by 22 programmes run by five of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies across Europe and the United States. So far, more than 300 participants have used the app, encountering over 35,000 challenges.
The pharma companies are enabling their employees to become more empathetic and effective in their roles. The initial feedback has been excellent. Thanks to the app, researchers are gaining more knowledge to develop better treatments. Meanwhile, sales reps are understanding customer needs much better — helping them to know when and how best to sell products.
Performance, efficiency and scalability
Our decision to use Microsoft Azure has paid off significantly. The app can be scaled instantly to thousands of users — and The Method only pays for what's being consumed, keeping costs under control and maximising profitability. Meanwhile, the global nature of Azure means that servers can be close to where a programme is running, whether that's in Eastern Asia or Europe, boosting response times.
A Life in A Day has potential for wider applications. It could assist doctors, nurses, social housing managers and others within the wider care environment. The app could also help managers at corporations to develop more soft skills and provide human resources professionals with insights into how to support employees who are struggling with health conditions.
The concept has been a huge success — and now there's a second project in the pipeline. Already, The Method is talking with us about an exciting new app for trainers and coaches.
HeadChannel understood our vision right away — and applied their exceptional technical know-how to make the app a reality, simple to manage and something we could support globally for our clients
Mark Doyle, Director, The Method