SAN FRANCISCO—Global design and strategy firm frog today unveils Yona, a project to spark conversation and advance practices around healthcare for people with vaginas. Created by frog designers, engineers, and alumni – with support from healthcare providers – Yona applies frog’s human-centered design approach to pelvic exams. The goal: to understand how the exam experience can be improved through industrial and interaction design for both patient and provider.
In the U.S. alone, 164,000 pelvic exams are performed by healthcare providers each day. This important exam affects half the population but remains archaically inconsiderate of the patient’s physical, emotional and experiential needs. frog conducted extensive design research to understand these needs, including interviewing both patients and OB/GYN providers, and experimented with the research method radical empathy to help those who have not experienced the exam for themselves build understanding, awareness, and empathy (watch here).
“We recognized the need for a humanized pelvic exam experience that empowers patients,” said Hailey Stewart, Industrial Designer at frog, who led the Yona project alongside her partner, frog alum Sahana Kumar. “Our research showed us that many people with vaginas feel anxious about pelvic exams, which is no help to their health. Through Yona, we wanted to create a conversation and highlight that it is possible to balance human needs with clinical needs in the pelvic exam setting.”
Stewart and Kumar, together with frog Visual Designer Rachel Hobart and Mechanical Engineer Fran Wang, developed Yona from July to September 2017 alongside billable client work, with personal time invested as well.
Reimagining the Speculum
The speculum, which is the medical device used for examining bodily orifices and the primary device in a pelvic exam, has remained largely unchanged since its development 200 years ago. Many patients view the speculum as cold and invasive, also signifying a dreaded moment of the examination. Part of the Yona experience is a redesigned speculum that is body-friendly and approachable in form and material, making it less cold and physically uncomfortable. The visual connotations of the Yona design eliminate the stress-inducing visual and auditory cues of the current speculum.
As part of the development process, frog prototyped several different speculum designs and tested them with OB/GYN providers. Providers agreed that this concept offered improved ease of use and efficiency for conducting exams, but still felt like a familiar tool for their practice. Increasing the number of bills from two to three retains the same field of view but is more comfortable for the patient. Relaxing the handle angle from 90 to 105 degrees creates more space between the providers’ hand and the exam table, eliminating the last ‘scooch’ for patients. The Yona speculum also offers ergonomic improvements for providers since they can use the device with one hand, accommodating the requirement for one sterile hand throughout the exam process.
Moments of Truth
Yona highlights several key moments through the exam process, dubbed ‘Moments of Truth,’ or opportunities for experiential improvements. These touchpoints, from pre-exam to follow-up and everything in between, weave in digital and physical moments to give patients a private guide and resource via the Yona app, and offer comforting, thoughtful touches that make the exam setting and process feel less clinically impersonal.
For example, the Yona experience begins with pre-exam ‘nice to meet you’ evaluation via the app, where patients can easily answer pertinent questions, raise concerns privately and set procedure preferences in a safe space. ‘Comfort kits’ are available for a purchase, including amenities like socks to cover your feet in the stirrups, a blanket and a stress ball. Comfort in the exam is not just a benefit for patients – the more physically and mentally comfortable a patient is, the easier and more efficient the exam will be for providers. Immediately before the exam, the app guides patients through simple meditation, offering peace and prompting relaxation in a time that’s typically anxiety-inducing. When the provider pulls the patient’s file and is on the way, the connected app winds down the meditation, creating a seamless transition from meditating to the moment when the doctor enters the room.
The Yona experience also fosters a sense of community through options to donate comfort kits for patients and no-pressure prompts to make donations to the clinic via the app. These suggestions, offered in tandem to a more empowered personal experience, create opportunities for patients to pay this empowerment forward to others who may not have the same levels of healthcare access.
“There is such phenomenal potential for design to transform Healthcare. We’re honored to partner with health and wellness organizations across the globe in service of delivering more human-centered, effective and accessible care to everyone in the care community,” said Lindsey Mosby, Vice President of frogHealth. “frog is full of passionate designers, technologists and strategists who use their collective talent to create solutions that make a real difference in people’s lives. We encourage our people to follow ‘passion projects,’ which is how Yona came to be.”
Yona and frog encourages people to continue the conversation on the Yona microsite and in their own communities. Looking ahead to the next phase of development, Yona will continue to prototype, test and refine the concepts.
NOTE: frog does not manufacture products, but is open to partnering with organizations to bring impactful products to market and ensure compliance with the appropriate regulations.