health · system design

How could technology help solve the opioid epidemic?



Use of opioid analgesics for pain management has increased dramatically over the past decade. However, because of this increase in opioid analgesics prescriptions, there is also a corresponding rise in negative sequelae related to opioid use, including addiction, overdose and death.

The solution proposed is a system used among patients, medical professionals, and researchers, which serves as an EMR (electronic medical record) database, helping medical professionals make better medical decisions and facilitating research processes.

Design Overview

For patients

Genetic testing

Upon taking the genetic testing. This testing can be a whole genome sequencing, or targeting at key genes related to pharmacology, such as genes expressing CYP450 enzymes for drug metabolism. With technologies today, such kind of genomic testing are economically accessible and quick in terms of time.

These data will be stored in the cloud and are accessible to the patients from their devices.

From their devices, they can add drugs that they are taking to see if they will react well to the drug.

Report in Hand

The user's report is easily synced to the user’s phone, making it accessible anywhere and anytime, without the worry of losing the paper report or bringing it to medical appointments every time.

Search for Drug Data Quickly

Users can easily search for drugs for the information relating to their genetic data.

Easy Interpretation

Clinical interpretations are written in an understandable way to the users. Color coding is used, with information that is most important prioritized.

Adding Dosage

Users can easily add the drugs that they are taking so that they can see how they should modify their dosage or drug type according to their own genetics.

Personalized Drug List

The drug list is dynamic, so that the users can modify the list anytime they want, making the genomic data useful overtime.

See below for a simple prototype:

For medical professionals

For researchers


When choosing the company to redesign for, Helix caught my attention at first sight. It is a personal DNA testing service, which seemed like a really good place to look into as it is at the intersection of science and design. With the increased medical significance and popularity of genetic testing, the potential of such services would be very promising.


I did competitive analysis with 23andMe, which is a company that offers similar DNA testing services as Helix. Two conclusions were drawn:

  1. Helix lacks testings that are related to genetic diseases.
  2. 23andMe's package includes testing for more than five genetic diseases, where Helix only has two single packages testing for inherited diabetes and familial hypercholesterolemia, each costing more than 23andMe's entire package.
  3. Both services don't have testing for precision medicine information.
  4. Precision medicine is the idea of personalized drug prescription based on one's omics such as genomics, which is a hot topic in the medical field currently. However, neither of the companies have such kind of service.

The Helix website showed that it had an ongoing project on pharmacogenomics with Admera Health. Thus, I see the opportunity area as adding pharmacogenomics testing to Helix's services.

However, when I looked further into the sample testing report presented by Admera Health, their presentation of information was not satisfactory. Further interviews with people also confirmed this, with them complaining about the confusion when looking at the unnecessarily complex report.

Thus, I decided that my focus of this design challenge would be on how to present, in an understandable and meaningful way, the results of personal pharmacogenomics testings to customers of a future service provided by Helix.


Helix lacks a personal pharmacogenomics testing service to make it more competitive on the market.

In addition, current pharmacogenomics testing services are not presenting the data to the customers in a clear and understandable way. Specifically, the reports customers get have three main issues:

  1. They have too much information, many of which is unnecessary.
  2. They cause confusion to customers without medical knowledge.
  3. They can't be updated easily according to the customers' needs after testing.


The solution is an application that acts as an electronic medical record, and the application makes it easy for users to check their genomic data and understand the clinical interpretation according to their own needs.











© 2019 mike yilin dong