Healthcare · Phone app

How might we facilitate patient-centric empathy?



Healthcare systems today are facing new challenges as well as new opportunities with newer forms of technology such as telehealth. Despite these, the relationship between patients and their medical providers remains vital. A lack of empathy could lead to bad patient experience or, even worse, poor medical outcome.

In 5 months, our team conducted research with patients and medical providers, synthesized insights, and designed Patiently, a healthcare portal application, with the focus on features that empower patients to share their thoughts, feelings, and stories with their providers.




Our team worked together on conducting research, synthesizing findings, ideation, prototyping, and user testing. Individually, I led the probe part of research, and was responsible for the visual, interaction, and animation design of this app iteration shown on this page.

Jamaal Baki, Jenny Chu


Google · Corbin Cunningham, Mike Dory

Design Overview

Patiently is a healthcare portal application that aims to facilitate

empathetic relationships between patients and their medical providers.

It primarily resolves the problem of patients failing to communicate their thoughts and feelings during medical appointments, which can result from the short duration of appointments, power imbalance, and the stress they experience during the meeting.

With Patiently, patients can choose and answer prompts to give a voice to their thoughts and feelings before appointments.

More detailed mockups can be found in sections below ↓

Providers will see patients' answers to prompts when reviewing charts before walking into the appointment room.

The two parties now have a foundation to talk about patients' thoughts and feelings and to build a more empathetic relationship.

Final Design

Starting check in

Patients can easily check in for their upcoming appointments wherever they want.

We believe the best time for patients to input their thoughts and feelings are before appointments, at locations where they feel relaxed and safe and have time to reflect.


The onboarding process aims to motivate patients to share their thoughts and feelings.

Choosing who to share

Patients can select who to share their stories with among the care team, according to their own comfort levels.

We want to give patients the control to ease the power dynamic imbalance which might make them uncomfortable. This also addresses privacy concerns we observed during user testing.

Selecting a prompt

The various prompts provide patients with the freedom to choose and also serve as inspirations for them to think and reflect.

We found that patients have both negative and positive feelings before coming into the appointment. Patients also vary in how personal they want to get with providers. Having a variety of prompts will help cater to as many patients as possible.

Prompts are categorized to make the experience less overwhelming. Hand-drawn illustrations also gives a more humane and organic feeling to make the experience better.

Recording an answer

Patients can use voice to answer prompts, with typing text as an alternative.

Voice is most humane way of communication, making it the ideal form of input in this technology product that aims to improve human-human relationship. However, there remains scenarios where text input is more ideal, such as in noisy environments or if the patient doesn't want to be heard by others.

Choosing top prompts

Patients can choose up to 3 top prompts that they think are the most important.

Patients can express what they value most. This also benefits providers, as they can prioritize these starred prompts if time is constrained. We don't want to create extra work for providers.



The pandemic has changed how we interact with our medical providers forever. In this age, we as a team were curious about this question: What are patients' relationships with their providers like?

Semi-structured interviews

With a screener, we recruited 9 participants and interviewed each for 60 min via Zoom to do a qualitative deep-dive about patients’ specific experiences with their providers.

Probe interviews

Using stickers that have different emotions printed on them as probes, we asked 19 participants at 3 medical facilities about patients’ specific experiences with their providers.

Other methods

We also conducted literature review, competitive analysis, and interviewed 3 subject matter experts about current issues in patient-provider relationship as well as existing efforts and solutions tackling these problems.


After analyzing our research data, the biggest insight we synthesized was:

Patients value providers that promote a sense of empathy.

Empathy, as defined by patients, was providers being able to place themselves in patients' shoes to really understand them.

[My providers] are men. Of course men don't experience this type of [menstrual] pain - because they don't have the same organs. It's like women trying to understand prostate stuff - we can't. [...] I wish there were more female providers, because I think that they would be more empathetic.

I've also talked about how other research findings informed our design in the "Final Design" section.


With this insight, our team began to think about: how might we facilitate patient-centric empathy?


We sketched 60 ideas around the how-might-we statement, and used dot-voting to down-select our final direction: a patient portal application that facilitates communication between patients and providers.


I created a storyboard to explore the contexts and scenarios where patients and provider would utilize our design.


We went through multiple rounds of iterations, progressing from low-fi sketched version to mid-fi wireframes to high-fi version with styles applied. User testing sessions were also held in between iterations to inform our design decisions.

Next Steps

Evaluative research

We would like to evaluating success and see if this product really help to improve people’s relationship with their providers.

UX writing

We do have some initial prompts, but would like to explore further what kind of prompts or questions will truly be helpful to help bring providers and patients closer.

Real world application

We want to understand what value Patiently would bring to providers and also payers, and potentially create a business model.

E.g. The improved relationships help improve medical outcome, ultimately cutting costs because the treatments are becoming more effective or even preventative.

  • Overview
  • Final Design
  • Research
  • Synthesis
  • Prototyping
  • Next Steps




© 2021 Mike Dong