Creating awareness of PCOS
Team: Ching-Min Tseng, Medhavi Thakur, Keerti Vishwanath Hegde, Sangeetha Parthasarathi
PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a common syndrome among women. Although the syndromes might be mild for most patients, ignoring it can cause serious long-term health risks such as type II diabetes, depression, high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, and heart stroke. PCOS can’t be permanently cured and can only be managed by the patient herself by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 6-12% of women of reproductive age in the United States  suffer from it, and the number goes even higher to 20%  when it comes to the entire world. Nonetheless, 70% of women do not get a diagnosis and treatment in the first place but only find out when they try to reproduce but fail. The main reasons that PCOS patients do not sense the problems are: signs often go undetected, symptoms mimic those experienced during adolescence, and no specific test can be performed . In addition, the cost of medical treatment blocks the patients from seeking help from professionals, which lessens the possibility of them getting the diagnosis.
To help potential patients get proper assistance and prevent long-term health issues, we build “womanaid”, including an advertisement printed on the menstrual products that are distributed on campuses for free, an online test that enables potential patients to check their symptoms with simple clicks, and a website that offers experts’ assistance and useful information to help the patient deal with PCOS. In this design, we focus on creating awareness, cutting down the threshold of seeking medical help, and building a supportive community where patients can share experiences and motivate each other.
women of reproductive age in the US are suffering from PCOS
women of reproductive age in the whole world are suffering from PCOS
of women with PCOS hadn't been diagnosed.
We begin the project with a secondary review. The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown, but many researchers believe that several factors could cause it, such as genetics, high levels of androgens, and high insulin levels. Androgens are also known as male hormones. Although women generate fewer Androgens than men, when they are in excess, they can cause symptoms like acne, body hair growth, and the inability of the ovaries to release eggs [f]. PCOS has several symptoms; not all women have all of them, varying from mild to severe. The most common symptoms of PCOS are [g]:
irregular periods or complete absence of periods or excessive blood loss during periods, fertility issues
excessive hair growth - on the face, chest, back, buttocks, etc
excess sebum production, acne
Long-term risks they face in the later stage are type II diabetes, depression, high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, and heart stroke.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. There are temporary solutions that doctors prescribe to get periods on time. A minor surgery called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) can be a treatment option to solve the fertility problem associated with PCOS. Still, thus surgery also is not a complete cure. One can only control their PCOS but not get rid of it, and this is possible by switching to leading a healthy-mindful lifestyle, which is not as easy as it sounds. By making lifestyle changes, one can regulate their hormone levels. There is too much information available online and nobody knows what exactly needs to be done.
Sounds like a common syndrome,
why can’t people get diagnosis and treatment earlier?
Signs often go undetected
Birth Control Conceals PCOS
Symptoms Mimic Those Experienced During Adolescence
No specific test that can be performed
After a secondary review that helped us clarify the problem, we recruited PCOS patients to gather more first-hand information.
Demographic: age, occupation, lifestyle
Getting Diagnosed: How did you find out you have PCOS? When did you know?
Symptoms: What symptoms do you have? What is the symptom that you are mostly concerned about?
Treatment: Did you try to get help from professionals? What did the professionals suggest? Do you take medicine or other chemical treatments? Did you follow the professionals’ advice? Do you find their suggestions easy to follow?
Mental State: What is your reaction when getting diagnosed with PCOS? What are your family members’ reactions?
Difficulties: Does PCOS cause any inconvenience for you? What did you react/ do to the inconvenience?
Some of the interviewees were unaware of PCOS until they had menstrual issues for several years, then got diagnosed in their early twenties. Most interviewees suffer from hormone imbalance, irregular periods, skin problems, and gaining body weight. One interviewee has severe symptoms that greatly affect her life, including job choice and fertilization. As for mental support, an interviewee with more severe symptoms said she joined a support group that consists of sixty females who are trying IVF anonymously.
To manage different interviews were done by each individual team member, we used the affinity diagram to organize our findings.
After reviewing the information we gathered from secondary reviews and interviews, we created two personas that helped us to create understanding and empathy with the target users.
Based on our research, we were confident that we should address the following issues to benefit our target audiences:
1. Creating awareness
Raising public awareness is essential because even the women who have PCOS are unaware of it. Awareness can help in making people understand this disorder and the ways it can be treated. It will also help to diagnose the symptoms at an early stage. An early diagnosis can help to avoid developing associated health risks and long-term effects in the future.
2. Healthy-mindful lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be an effective approach to managing PCOS and reducing the severity of the symptoms.  Lifestyle changes can include eating nutritionally balanced food, maintaining insulin levels, indulging in physical activities, or exercising, which can help in maintaining hormonal balance. This will help in improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety, improving energy levels, and other things relating to the health factor.
3. Offering mental support
There is no cure for PCOS, and women struggle with the symptoms. This continuous battle of dealing with the symptoms may affect women's mental and emotional state of mind. Creating a safe space to share their experiences and providing assistance in their journey.
Having these goals in mind, we started brainstorming and storyboarding.
We had three sessions of brainstorming meetings to develop concepts that address our research findings. We chose the idea coming from our third brainstorming session that covered our results and problems in reasonable ways. In the second session, we received twelve design solutions from other team members, ten of which were covered in our first session. We found the solutions were very straightforward and already covered by several existing products on the market. The ideas need to be detailed and polished to become functional. However, we still found the second session valuable because it helped us focus on the main point that needs solving and the remaining possibilities we can address. Before the third brainstorming session, we tried out existing apps about the menstrual cycle and women's health, including Flo Period Tracker, Clue Period & Cycle Tracker, MyFitnessPal, Kitchen Stories, etc., to understand how others address the issue. This helped us to come up with constructive solutions.
During the third brainstorming session, we felt the depth of our discussion was greatly improved. We thought through the ideas individually, represented them on a map, and then had the final meeting, which generated our final three solutions. For the future brainstorming session, we think understanding competitors' solutions and discussing their advantages before generating our ideas are helpful for the brainstorming progress.
We created two storyboards for each proposed design alternative to depicting a critical use case for each design solution.
Design Solution Choice
After various data points, brainstorming meetings, and extensive teamwork, we could conclude that controlling PCOS involves awareness, assistance, and lifestyle modifications (including diet and exercise). We firmly believe that aid and awareness are crucial to address the root of the issue. The fact that so many individuals are unaware of PCOS is a significant problem. Suppose more people are aware of it, especially girls in elementary school. In that case, it may aid in the early detection of the symptoms, which in turn aids PCOS patients in receiving an early diagnosis and lowering the risks. The second most important solution is to assist. We learned through numerous interviews with PCOS patients that many had not received medical assistance or understanding of their condition. Since PCOS can present with various symptoms other than irregular periods, it is occasionally misdiagnosed, leaving patients unsure of how to take care of themselves. In certain circumstances, they genuinely wish to assist themselves but want to remain ignorant due to the cost of medical care. It is crucial to help those with PCOS who have received a diagnosis and those who fear they may have it.
After building the first prototype of womanaid, we conducted our usability tests by recruiting five participants to perform the two main tasks. We asked the participants to use the Think-aloud method, which helped us understand how users interpret the information given on our pages, confirm the user flow of completing the tasks is intuitive, and quarry the parts that cause users’ confusion.
To do so, we designed two tasks that best represent our value of womanaid that are:
1. Starting from scanning the QR code, trying to book an expert session
2. Explore the Community and chat with a mentor.
With the testing, we were able to find out some unclear parts of our design. We used the Usability Aspect Report (UAR) template to list down all insights based on our observations in the users' testing sessions.
Samples of Usability Aspect Report form
Overall, we got positive feedback on our main features in womanaid, some improvements that can be performed to make the community feature more clear and usable, as well as some minor usability issues that can be easily overcome. Following are the key insights we found,
All buttons should clearly indicate the functions for users to anticipate the following actions.
Related information should be grouped together visually, to prevent users from misinterpreting.
Any pop-up functions, such as the login process, should not interrupt the task that the user was performing.
The mentor-mentee system in our community page is lacking introduction.
The direct messaging function did not make it apparent who users may send
Apart from the features that can be improved, some non-PCOS-patient users mentioned that the insights page, which provides categorized information about PCOS, helps them quickly understand what PCOS is; a PCOS-patient-user also pointed out the insight page helped them identify if our service is trustworthy, that affect her later decision of booking a session with our experts.