Build Fast! Technology for Caregivers and Families

Outpatient generally builds software much faster than most other technology developers in the healthcare industry. We’ve heard from our customers that most of their technology partners send out updates to their software annually. We don’t think that’s a recipe for success for our customers, or us. 

As a startup, we’ve been able to be extremely responsive to community needs to quickly solve workplace and home-based challenges. We believe our responsiveness to community feedback has been the critical reason we’ve created an indispensable technology product people love to use.

Outpatient averages a significant update to our iPhone and Android mobile apps every 3 weeks — some of our updates and features are planned long ahead (3 months or more) and some of them are a result of critical feedback from our customer community that happen in under two weeks. 

We wanted to shine a light on how we develop our software rapidly without compromising on user experience, privacy/security, or quality. Perhaps our small but nimble product team can serve as a model or inspiration for others who want to affect change in historically slow-moving industries like healthcare, finance, or government.

Befitting today’s visual world, Outpatient product development is all about image. Our framework for product development is Empathy + Artisanship + Math + Grit + Iteration. EAMGI doesn’t really roll off the 👅, so we rearranged the letters into IMAGE for easy remembering. 

Empathy – we have found it much easier to develop products in our careers when as designers or builders, we are building products that we ourselves use. While we layer in user research (interviews, panels) and math (see below), one of the ways we cut down development time is that we are designing a product we use ourselves every day and we intrinsically understand what “we” need. 

In our case, “we” also have the same product needs as the customers and users of the Outpatient app. All of our engineers are currently or recently been a family caregiver. Some of us have loved ones living in senior living communities. One of us has even been a speech pathologist inside a senior living community!

The empathy we have for our user community is critically important to a) solve a core problem, not “just” build a product and b) pattern match feedback and experience to prioritize what’s most important vs. nice-to-have vs. unnecessary. One of our hiring criteria since the onset of Outpatient is natural empathy for the family caregiving or professional caregiving use case.

Artisanship – there are products that have succeeded in the world that are clunky, complicated, and frustrating to use. Thankfully, these are exceptions in most industries. In health care however, it seems to be more the rule (though we believe it’s changing for the better). This is one of the key reasons we started Outpatient.

As consumers of healthcare, we were baffled by the products we were using and found them not helpful. They were bloated (“We do it all!”…poorly.); they were hard to find (“Call 1-800-TAP-KEYS”); they weren’t used outside of a medical facility (“If you want to continue using this, print out these 72 pages of instructions and data to take home”); and they were poorly designed — in a nutshell, most healthcare products are designed to make sure that the people providing healthcare and services get fairly paid by the organizations that reimburse healthcare. While that is an important part of healthcare delivery, it ignores the overwhelming majority of situations that require a more direct approach to simply serve patients, healthcare providers, and families to get 💩 done.

So, we wanted to take the artisanship we’d practiced at companies like Nest and Facebook and apply it to caregiving. We aim to be ruthless editors — we’ve removed more features in our app than have stayed in. We put all of our efforts on making our user experience as valuable to our caregivers and families as we can. We pay attention to every important detail and we don’t take shortcuts. Every pixel is designed and built with the care and attention our community requires to do their selfless and exhausting work more easily, more simply, and more modern.

Math – while empathy is foundational to building great product experiences, one would have to be either a true genius (👋Steve Jobs) or insanely lucky to get it right the first time, every time. As our families would tell you, we are neither. This is where we’ve found math to be very helpful! 

In our case, math really means metrics and numbers. Before we shipped out anything more than a prototype, we invested a lot of thought into metrics. How would we know if what we were shipping out to the world was valuable? What were the 3 most important things we could measure to help us constantly improve on achieving our mission? After we decided on those, we went about instrumenting our app so that we could constantly measure how we were doing on those metrics (and the rates at which we were getting better or worse) — we customized our own anonymized logging so that we knew what parts of our app were simple, modern and easy and which weren’t, in real time.

Grit – ultimately, we also believe product development has a lot in common with sales. A lot of things you set out to do, ultimately don’t work as you’d thought they would at the beginning. Therefore, you need to find another way. Thankfully, with software, there’s always another way. 

It might not feel artisanal all the time, but slogging through the obstacles and never giving up is the hallmark of entrepreneurship and product development. We’ve found that having our product development team exposed to our customers way more often than “average” has been a key motivator in increasing our team grit. When we see what our customers do every day to make life better for their loved ones, clients, and themselves, it motivates us to never stop looking for a way to help them.

Iteration – so you’ve shipped your product with empathy, artisanship, and grit. You’re measuring it with math. What’s the best way to keep your community (and your team!) engaged? Keep making the product better. Delight your community with the smart features they need or request. Delight your team with new design or development challenges.

There are no sacred 🐄’s in the Outpatient product. If a feature is highly used and positively impacts our key metrics, it stays. Otherwise, it goes, and there is whitespace to try something new in its place.

The IMAGE framework is how we think about and develop our app for caregivers and families. IMAGE has been a critical building block for us to rapidly build a simple, modern, and easy-to-use software product that our community loves. Using IMAGE has helped us avoid some of the common pitfalls of health-related software: feature bloat, long release cycles, and a non-valuable user experience. Hopefully it can help you, too! 

Brian Corey

Author Brian Corey

More posts by Brian Corey

Your Feedback is Appreciated