HealthConnect Forum

CMU's Student Health Services (SHS) new approach on student's health queries, doubts and self-help preventive care.

CMU HealthConnect is your one-stop to solve all of your students' health-related issues safely and privately, while providing your University staff with the opportunity to help and connect to students at large scale.​​

Prompt from SHS stakeholders and MHCI faculty

We were to research and design to improve Carnegie Mellon University’s Studend Health Services (SHS), the primary organization that serves students’ medical needs. The SHS stakeholders were concerned with student's health and well-being, but seem to be unable to reach out and connect. This leads to total darkness on SHS side about the academic community's health as a herd (herd health and prevention is mainly the work of SHS).

The SHS director urged us to design improvements to their existing systems by exploring new processes or technologies that could help and enable SHS to deliver its services more effectively, and ultimately, help students achieve better health standards and risk awareness. 

This project is the main project on the class User Centred Research and Evaluation, from CMU MHCI's program.

Role: User Researcher and UX Designer

​Carnegie Mellon University SHS building detail (SHS website)  
From current academic year (2016-20170) SHS was rebranded to UHS - University Health Service. Throughout this page I keep using the old brand name: SHS.

​Research process

Contextual Inquiry

Contextual Inquiry is a research methodology that makes use ethnographic observations methods and strong use of 1:1 interviews to understand a particular set of tasks, perceptions and motivation that users follow to reach their individual goals within a certain ecosystem. In this project, we our users were the doctors, nurses, and students that use or don't use SHS.

Tours of UHS - Shadowing and Fly-in-the-Wall

We interacted with doctors, nurses, and students. During our visits we payed close attention to the details of the physical space, organizational patters, and individual rituals and behaviors.
In addition to the visits, we shadowed various students and nurses while they used the UHS online portal to schedule appointments, order prescriptions refills, request medical records, communicate with other health care providers, and complete health history and immunization forms.
Important to get a feeling of how the system actually works when no obesrvers or shadowing is being made, we also performed some fly-in-the-wall sessions, mainly at the front desk ecosystem and automated triage.

Expert Interviews

To dig as deeper as we could the many layers of issues surrounding SHS, we conducted 8 expert interviews with the following UHS stakeholders: 2 doctor, 2 nurses, and 4 students, including one peer health advisor.

Data Analysis & Interpretation

After finishing each of the interviews, we came together as a team to discuss each interview. During these interpretation sessions, we captured fulcral ideas and key insights on Post-its, and put them put on the wall.  This tasks helps us ensure that every team member was on the same page and became equally knowledgeable.  


Part of the interpretation sessions, we synthesized our insights and key nuggets of data by creating frameworks in the form of Cultural Models, Flow Models, and Sequence Models for each interview, that is each stakeholder.  These models aid us to visualize and make sense of the complex patterns, perspectives, motivations, and contexts we would have to take acknoledge when designing a solution.

Affinity Diagram

From our interpretation sessions, we got more than 200 notes filled with design ideas, perceptions and insights.
Through affinity diagramming, we organized all the information we had collected from our observations and interviews, by clustering them into dimensions that related to each other by affinity, commom struggle, perception, theme, etc.

After clustering individual notes, we examined different dimensions that had emerged, in order to identify patterns, common issues, and/or process breakdowns. At the end of this activity and in order to provide us with a wholesome view of the issues that SHS faces, we revisited our Cultural, Flow, and Sequence Models and created consolidated models.

  1. Affinity Diagram after "Walking the Wall" exercise
    Affinity Diagram after "Walking the Wall" exercise
  2. Consolidated Cultural Model
    Consolidated Cultural Model
  3. Consolidated Flow Model
    Consolidated Flow Model
  4. Affinity Diagram
    Affinity Diagram
  5. Consolidated Sequence Model
    Consolidated Sequence Model
  6. Individual Flow Model
    Individual Flow Model

​Models developed for research and insights/brainstorm design solutions for SHS

Design Process

Walking the Wall

After building or Affinity Diagram, we spent a great deal of time "walking the wall" and immersing ourselves in the data we had gathered and synthesized. This process helped us to identify hot design ideas, key issues and open questions

Key Issues

  • Scheduling is overly restrictive
  • Wait times are annoying
  • Hard to find out about SHS events
  • Website could be more useful
  • Insurance is confusing
  • Communication between key UHS stakeholders is lacking
  • Lack of clarity around service clarity
  • Privacy needs to be maintained

Design Ideas

  • Online virtual doctor
  • Distract waiting room patients
  • Kiosk measurement for base measurements
  • Campus-wide events system with preferences
  • Forum or anonymous question submission for medical questions
  • Doctor or nurse could come to you, maybe in a truck
  • Student accessible medical records management system
  • Effortless check in

​Affinity diagram after our "Walk the Wall" exercise.  The yellow post-its contain design ideas, issues, and questions.​​

Visioning & Storyboarding

During visioning, we all came up with 7 scenarios that captured how users might experience a revamped UHS.  Each vision addressed one or more of the key issues we had identified. For concept validation, we drew various storyboards that describe how a user would accomplish a specific task within the revamped UHS system, and speed dated.

  1. Vision #1
    Vision #1
  2. Vision #2
    Vision #2
  3. Vision #3
    Vision #3
  4. Vision #4
    Vision #4
  5. Vision #5
    Vision #5
  6. Vision #6
    Vision #6
  7. Vision #7
    Vision #7

​​​Visoning results, with the Plus and Minus critique session, that leads to fruitful and addressable issues, from these "design ideas".

Speed Dating

The next big step was to put all the storyboarded concepts in front of users in order to validate the concepts and get the users' perspective.
Inspired by John Zimmerman's Speed Dating as in a Design Methodology paper, we showed our storyboards to many users, and asked them, "Could you see yourself in this situation? " This exercise led to insightful discussions that allow us to glimpse on users' motivations, attitudes, and boundaries.  

After conducting our speed dating sessions, our team determined that the SHS online health forum idea had the most potential.

Students value it because it allows them to get their health-related questions answered efficiently, conveniently, and privately, within a personal and manageable interface.
On the other hand, doctors, nurses, and peer health advisors were excited about the idea because it would give them the opportunity to connect with students at a large scale, and address their problems conveniently.

  1. Managing Director
  2. Managing Director
  3. Managing Director
  4. Managing Director
  5. Managing Director
  6. Managing Director
  7. Managing Director
  8. Managing Director
  9. Managing Director
  10. Managing Director

Scenarios that were used during Speed Dating sessions

Proposed Solution

HealthConnect rebranding and app logo

As part of a larger HealthConnect redesign, we proposed building a SHS online health forum.
The forum will give Carnegie Mellon students the opportunity to address their health-related issues safely and privately, while providing Peer Health Advisors (PHAs), nurses, and doctors with the opportunity to help and guide students at scale. We envision that PHAs will serve as the primary moderators of the forum, but nurses and doctors will be summoned to answer questions that fall outside the scope of knowledge of PHAs.

All student responses and health-related advice will be reviewed by PHAs prior to being published on the forum in order to ensure that the information is accurate and appropriate. The online health forum will be housed in a revamped and responsive HealthConnect, such that students can effectively access it wherever they are.