Nearly half of all adults in the United States have some type of cardiovascular disease. This group of over 121 million people are often diagnosed with potential arrhythmias but physicians need to be able to diagnose them quickly and efficiently to ultimately save lives. One company is redefining the way cardiac arrhythmias are clinically diagnosed to help physicians do just that. The new device from iRhythm “combines wearable biosensor devices worn for up to 14 days and cloud-based data analytics with powerful proprietary algorithms that distill data from millions of heartbeats into clinically actionable information,” the company says.

The Zio patch provides uninterrupted monitoring of atrial fibrillation (AF) with no wires or maintenance needed. The Zio AT is a small, adhesive, water-resistant heart sensor that sticks onto the patient’s chest for 24-hour monitoring. The device is comfortable and easy to use, helping it achieve maximum patient compliance. It captures data that helps physicians understand the types of symptoms the patient has. In its current form, the device is affixed to the patient by a clinician. The instructions and packaging are all designed with the clinician in mind. After the patient is diagnosed, the physician prescribes the patch, and the patient then makes an appointment to have the device applied. The patient receives their at-home instructions at that time.

The Zio is an adhesive wearable heart monitor. (Credit: UEGroup)

“I have had palpitations for many years,” says Diana Miner, a 78-year-old patient who was prescribed the device. “The doctor told me this device was new and not clunky like the Holter monitor I had to wear 25 years ago.” Miner says that no previous tests were able to help identify her specific problem. “Up until this device, none were sophisticated enough to capture my palpitations.”

One of the things she liked best was that the Zio was convenient. “It had a sticky back and went right over my heart. It did all the work except for me pushing a button. It read my heart rate constantly. By pushing the button, it pinpointed the beats that were abnormal. I had a tiny notebook to record every time I felt a palpitation.”

Miner also says it was so comfortable that she didn’t even know it was there. “It was wireless and lightweight. It was very simple to understand. It was not disruptive to my daily routine. The only drawback was that I had to be careful not to get it wet when taking a shower.” At the end of three weeks, she put the device and her notebook in a postage-paid envelope and sent it to iRhythm. The company then sent the results to her doctor.

“It was the best medical device I’ve used in a long time because I finally got answers. Afib was my doctor’s biggest concern, and the device showed that I did not have afib because my palpitations were at the top rather than the bottom of my heart (which would have indicated afib). Now I know that it’s something I can live with. Because of the Zio, I have peace of mind that it’s not something serious. It told my cardiologist enough to know there was no need to worry.”

How They Are Making It Even Better

To improve the remote patient monitoring service, iRhythm partnered with user experience firm UEGroup to completely redefine the user experience of Zio. To empower patients with accessibility and convenience, UEGroup was tasked with converting the process to a 100 percent easy, at-home, remote experience with a mobile app. UEGroup addressed the following challenges:

  • Creating a complex medical device that patients can easily use without needing in-person doctor visits to monitor their heart rates.

  • Designing a wearable technology targeted at generally tech-averse elderly population.

  • Keeping in mind the average tech savvy user.

The box was designed to have the same voice as the other materials. (Credit: UEGroup)

“iRhythm already has this amazing powerful product. We were tasked with shifting the use from clinic to patient,” says Ashley Nicodemus, designer for the UEGroup. She is a multidisciplinary designer with “a passion for problem solving” in both industrial design as well as digital experience domains. “The new paradigm is that it would be prescribed, and that prescription would go to iRhythm who would mail the device to the patient’s home.”

The project became a way for UEGroup to help iRhythm make the product more accessible and approachable for a patient using it who might be intimidated by this process. Understanding that the patient may already be stressed because of their health, Nicodemus says they wanted using the product to be comforting. So, they worked on figuring out the right tone.

“We were always thinking about how the material was introducing someone to the Zio product and how it can walk them through each point giving them the right information they need at that moment,” she says. This included ensuring that the introduction, the web site, and the box would have the same tone and same experience that the patient saw in the brochure at the doctor’s office. They didn’t want the patient to have moments of doubt that come from disjointed materials that might add stress to an already difficult time.

Making the Materials Work

During discovery, the UEGroup identified areas for improvement, opportunities for failures, assumptions that need to be challenged, and potential competing factors. (Credit: UEGroup)

Nicodemus says younger patients — those in their 40s or 50s — tend to look for video tutorials to gain quick access to information while older patients — those in their 60s or 70s — more often want something physical like a booklet that walks them through the process step by step. She explains that they needed to have both work and work well.

“There is a motion graphic integrated into the app so that if a patient wants to, they can just use the app to walk them through the process, or they can use the booklet, which walks them through the same steps,” she says.

The current material design was created partially for a medical team, so purely shifting over the material to the patients would have resulted in a fragmented experience. (Credit: UEGroup)

In the final design, the box just tells what the instruments are and what step in the process they relate to. All the instructions are in the booklet or in the app and video. There are items on the box that link to the video, but when using the app, the patient can see it that way as well. Nicodemus says the voice and the way to access the information is consistent across all of the materials.

Using UX around the R&D process rather than just the standard marketing materials makes it more about product design, she says. It helps the teams make the product easy to use and make sure that it’s what their user groups are asking for.

For the project overall, she says iRhythm was looking for an improved out-of-box experience which required assessing all of the Zio materials. The challenge was to transform the paradigm from something that would happen in the doctor’s office to an easy-to-use at-home experience.