This was our final Studio project for Industrial Design. Through the lens of Service Design and Speculative Design, we were able to study the current pain points and design a possible solution for senior citizens in 2060. We decided to target what Parkinson's Disease would look like in 2060 since current solutions are saturated in the market. 2060 seemed to be an appropriate approach because by that year, our group members will be senior citizens.
To combat the debilitation and isolation that accompanies a Parkinsonism Diagnosis in 2022, we imagined a virtual reality (VR) ecosystem where patients of the future can easily obtain an accurate diagnosis, connect with specialized medical professionals, build community with others afflicted by the disease, and get the care they need to live their best lives.
My role in the team focused on being the:
- Project manager: setting up a realistic research timeline, interview guidelines, kept a framework of the activities we had to do, coordinate tasks, kept work and teammates on track, and made sure work was balanced, benefiting the team;
- Through the project, I led the UX Research, this included secondary and primary research, setting up the interview guide and survey, as well as gathering academic papers and highlighting the key insights and future trends;
- Service Design principles were practiced throughout every step of the process, through the lens of Speculative Design.
As 20-something year olds, we like to believe we'll be 🎶 forever young 🎵 however, anyone with more wisdom would eloquently laugh at this preposterous belief. Since no one in our group is of elderly age, we decided to look at the pain points of a disease that has affected some of our grandparents: Parkinson and Alzheimer's Disease.
Due to the complexity and saturation of solutions geared to our target audience, we decided to focus the setting in the year 2060, the year when we'll be above 60 years old, and realistically, we all have a genetic predisposition of having either disease by that time. This opened up the door to see this project through the lens of Speculative Design, with the practice of Service Design as our overall foundation.
With the futuristic, speculative approach, we not only had to research the conflicting trends of these diseases, but we also had to familiarize ourselves with the mechanical and generic technology predicted to be present by that time. On top of the medical trends and technology patterns, we had to familiarize ourselves with what we, ethically, wanted solutions in our future to be like.
Due to Parkinson's variable condition, we found that research has been limited in understanding the role of ethnicity. This is a reflection of a problem within diversity in research and is the reason why we established efforts that we wanted to focus on:
- Understanding the genetics of Parkinsonism in underrepresented populations
- Improving treatment access for marginalized communities
- Preparing for an efficient treatment model once a cure has been found
- Developing techniques to enable earlier detection and treatment
Throughout the continuation of our project, conducting our own primary and secondary research that highlighted underrepresented communities, turned to be a bigger challenge than we anticipated.
Our solution was a Service Design Architecture and Concept Model meant to provoke viewers to think about the reality of Parkinson's Disease and what solutions to the pain points look like in the future.
We started the project with lengthy primary and secondary research to understand the current medical trends and pain points of people suffering from Parkinson's Disease, as well as the pain points of family members. We also studied current medical technological trends, as well as future projections of the user needs and the ethical side of projected solutions.
Speculative Design - The process of addressing big societal issues with design processes and systems through exploring potential future realities to discover consequences, implications, and solutions of the relationship between science, technology, and humans
Service Design - The activity of planning and arranging a service’s components in order to improve its quality and users’ interactions through multiple touch points of the main person affected, as well as the entire functioning ecosystem
From the beginning, I created a few key question with the goal of always keeping us on track as we moved forward with the project. Due to the nature of the speculation approach of speculative design, this was needed to respect our time during the following secondary and primary research phase of the project.
Our secondary research involved looking into existing medical trials, academic papers, current and future technological trends, specially as it related to research diversity. We affinitized our research into three main categories:
1. Medical Research: Precision Medicine Ecosystem, AI and Precision Medicine, Gene Therapy, and its ethical implications
2. Technological Projections for 2060: Biomarkers, Disease Modification, and Tech-Enabled Care (ETC)
3. Treatment Inclusivity: Diversity, Plain Language barriers, and Exchange/Ownership of health records
The most important factor we found was that for precision medicine, we concluded that it's more of a technology as well as an approach to identify problems and better serve the patient (as an individual and not a blanketed approach, specially those from underrepresented communities) and their families. This is where we continued research and focused our attention on Tech-Enabled Care (TEC) and Treatment Inclusivity by looking into the diversity and representation problem of current and future studies, as well as the Plain Language barrier. Ultimately, to get the best health outcomes, health-related decisions should be based on clear and correct understanding of relevant health information and services, no matter if it's 2020 or 2060.
Primary Research & Personas
Another team member conducted the series of questions to his family members since his father suffers from Parkinson's Disease. Due to the community that has come along with his father's treatment, we were able to design questions and narrow down key insights:
- Correct treatment took years to get right due to the low amount of research for POC and minorities
- Independent research was a pain point as much of the information is not written in a friendly manner
- Access to information that was understood by the patient required time and money
- Eventual loss of autonomy could be alleviated by proper route of training or a culturally-similar community
- Family members usually noticed the symptoms first; consequently, this family member would usually be the care giver
- There was much independent research done by the family member/main caregiver
- The overall process for the patient and family member was tough; without support, process would be impossible
- Care giving is a tough decision since the family member would eventually need to stop working to provide care
- For minority communities, the option of external care-giving is not only expensive, but culturally shunned
- Access to an adequate medical community can smooth out the unavoidable realities of the disease
- Extended medical community has trouble effectively communicating to patients/families of minority communities
- When addressed effectively, outside influence from the medical community gave support to both the patient and caregiver
Timeline of PD
Through the interviews and family member anecdotes, we were able to create a timeline of the current ecosystem Parkinson's Disease. Starting from the year 2015 until 2021. The purpose of this timeline is to show the length of time from early symptoms, all the way to the patient requiring assisted living due to health concerns. It's important to keep in mind that COVID-19 has accelerated some of the stages in the timeline; however, it's also important to be exposed to these global health concerns as they can happen again.
Survey of Current Sentiment
I conducted a survey made up of current 20, 30, and 40 year-olds to better understand the current sentiment of the process of aging, but also how people are currently preparing for this imminent part of life. In the survey, we explained the purpose of the study as well as defined the concept of Speculative Design and Service Design. The survey was divided into 4 parts: Demographics, current gauge of elderly care, future health preparations, and the landscape of what the future of technology could be.
- Be accessible to those with varying physical and cognitive abilities, as well as underrepresented groups
- Serve those afflicted and provide a support system/outlet for their families
- Incorporate social and emotional support elements into treatment
- Educate patients and families about what is happening and what to expect
- Connect new patients and families with the others in the community
- Improve the diagnosis and treatment processes
- And “not be like a Facebook group for old people” — Prof. Wendell
After conducting all of the tasks we set out to do for the discovery phase, we created an ecosystem map to better understand and validate the route were wanted to approach for our solution. While targeting the medical services sector would alleviate many of the current pain points, it has high barriers of entry due to the layers of bureaucracy and policy, deeming this area out of our scope. This led us to focus our efforts on the lacking communication efforts that affects patients and families today, and how future technologies and frameworks can aid in the process.
At this point of the project we had gone through discovery and defining the problem. This helped us shape our opportunity statement, highlighting the problem, the audience, the path, and the final goal of our proposed system model for Parkinson's Disease in 2060.
A Modified Experience (2022 vs 2060 Journey)
Through interviews and empathy maps, we learned that the road to a Parkinsonism diagnosis is a long, complicated process that often exacts far too many years off a patient’s life. With a VR ecosystem that streamlines the diagnosis and treatment processes, patients and their families can get the help and support they need—all in one place.
Based on our research information, we had to decide on a few assumptions about the future. These include:
- Parkinsonism will still exist
- The cause of Parkinsonism will be more clearly defined and understood
- Precision medicine will be more commonplace
- Blockchain technology will be using for medical record keeping and sharing
- VR technology will have a larger presence among the general population
- VR technologies will incorporate complex, realistic haptic feedback
- Working remotely will be commonplace for care givers to provide aid
Future Pain Points
- Increasingly complex data and privacy concerns
- Continued lack of mobility and accessibility
- Emotional toll associated with declining health
- Lack of centralized information sharing among patients and family members
- Decrease of social connections
The practice of applying Service Design into Speculative Design was a beneficial outcome since it unites pragmatic practices and artifacts with the, almost, frivolous world of Speculative Design. Through the current research, we were bothered at the lack of research being conducted on minority communities and focused our attention to that target market - this added an extra level of responsibility to the project. Through this, we added even more project efforts on top of the focus of providing a solution through VR in 2060.
Combining two mammoth areas of study into one project deemed much harder than anticipated. While we were able to create a virtual world that takes into account the community aspect of people with Parkinson's Disease through the research conducted, we had to assume some information (listed above) that was too easy, which made it seem irresponsible (even though the assumptions had some research backing it up).
Ultimately, due to the timeframe of the project, we weren't able to adequately focus on either improving the research focus for underrepresented groups, nor were we able to do sufficient research on the future of VR. While focusing on two huge topics, neither was targeted satisfactorily.
It was a great project that allowed me to further research interesting topics for my thesis (2023-2024) and allowed me to practice tangible skills related to Service Design, UX Research, and Team Management. There were also many drawbacks and lessons learned that are invaluable.