Personalizing the cancer patient journey

Surface data on cancer & patients

With nearly 10 million deaths annually in the world, from just cancer alone, it is an area where a major portion of scientific research goes into developing cures. Aside from the issue of incurability of certain phases of cancer, there is a huge amount of anxiety that people with the disease, or their loved ones have to deal with.

It is known that healthcare is not always accessible, not just in getting diagnosed but also in understanding one's own health status. There is much medical jargon and confusion sprouted from just a lab result. The anxiety that comes with not knowing takes a toll on the patients and makes the whole diagnostic journey extremely painful.

The cancer journey is invasive for the patients and it is accompanied with heightened anxiety levels from not understanding one's own health status.
  • Timeline: 10 weeks
  • My Role: User research, UX strategy, illustration
  • Tools: Sketch, Illustrator


User Goal
Get non-invasive methods during cancer journey and personalize health status reports to understand better. Stay updated.
Project Goal
Enable users to feel less left in the dark once diagnosed and provide real-time data to patients & people who have had a family history of cancer.


A marriage of healthcare and IoT devices
Medical IoT is triggering a healthcare transformation; a new age of patient-centered care that has not been seen before.
Seed idea
With patient driven data from IoT devices feeding a system in a timely manner, generating personalized insights will majorly help in making strategic decisions towards a person’s health.
"Choosing an appropriate treatment is the beginning of the maze. Help patients make sense of this maze post treatment through support, understanding of tests, prevention, and visualization will ease the journey of millions of cancer patients."

Ted Goldstein, Ph.D,  Computational Health Sciences, UCSF

Hearing from healthcare providers

To understand current issues that could be barriers to an ideal experience for the patient, we spoke to doctors, nurses and lab technicians. This was done to understand a holistic picture of the space we wanted to design for. Knowing their painpoints was beneficial to gauging both ends of the tunnel.
Balancing charts both physically and digitally is tough. Syncing health reports from patients who use medical devices would make things efficient.

Feelings towards current medical IoT

Moving onto 1:1 sessions

With a topic that can be sensitive, discussing painpoints was something that was important and at the same time taxing on the patients we spoke to. Some had recovered from cancer and reliving it was tough but they wanted to share their story and help others like themselves in the future.

Simulo's value for its users

What began as an idea to aid cancer patients in their journey began to grow and we identified new users that were linked with our primary users (patients). Here are our users:
  • Patients: They wish to get assistance in deconstructing lab results, make exam room visits more comfortable and pray for a more non-invasive method to keeping track of health between bigger medical procedures.
  • Doctors and nurses: They wished for a better, smarter documentation of patient data that was more real-time and updated

  • Lab technicians: They are recipients to numerous phone calls from anxious patients demanding of their results. What most patients forget is that they are not authorized to give out any result details. However, they are able to provide a timeframe.

Cancer treatments & innovations

Before solidifying features we gathered secondary research and spoke to a biochemist to give rise to ideas about possible innovations in cancer treatment and up to date research areas.

We chose the electronic nose to fulfil the project goals. The electronic nose is a tiny sensor that has many uses which range from detecting poison in food, sewage blockage, etc and it has also been heavily probed into for cancer detection and treatment. This unlocks a new age for the personalization of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
With this sensor, the missing piece of personalizing and providing a non-invasive approach to our design was made possible.

Feature Ideation

A deep dive into the conversations with the patients and healthcare providers sparked ideas as to which areas were viable to give rise to features that would ease the current journey.

After brainstorming on ideas, here are some of the solidified features and their value:
  • Timeframe lab result journey: Providing a time frame (progress bar) can make people less anxious as they have a sense of what to expect, unlike the current situation where people begin feeling anxious almost as soon as the next day.
  • Simplify test results: Using dictionary APIs to break down medical jargon to help patients understand all in one platform. Getting other irrelevant results online can cause more harm.

  • Gentle reminders for upcoming doctor visits: Knowing this and pairing it with getting reminded about any queries they may have would ease exam room visits.

  • Organ data visualization: Guiding the patient in what is happening to avoid any confusion and misinformation. Coherent representation of health status.

  • Daily updated health input: Enabled by the electronic nose sensor.

Designing the experience

Creating the interaction model

Getting our hands messy

Prototype Simulo Companion

The electronic nose sensor is able to detect cancer related status from exhaled breath of a patient.

Wrapping it up

Delving into the healthcare industry with a dominant hand in UX/UI design, I saw new ways of realizing empathy for my users. Working on a very sensitive topic, such as cancer, the prime factor of knowing our user and asking them for insight was a rewarding skill I earned. With so much scientific innovations, deciding what was relevant to our area of product was a challenge and exciting.

Down the road

With the electronic nose sensor gaining much momentum in cancer research, I want to bridge the gap of the human experience and the health related issues around it, regarding cancer treatment. Sometimes even though health reports and medical procedures are done to alleviate pain and undesirables states, it can often feel like a cold experience. We have to make these experiences warmer!

Other work:-

Back to home

Copyright 2020 – All Rights Reserved to Paloma Ningthoujam