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Health to hand

Published on 26/04/18 at 10:43am

Kristina Barrick is the Digital Innovation Manager at Breast Cancer Care and leads on the development of BECCA, the Breast Cancer Care app – here she explains the secrets of its success.

Ideas are cheap – execution is everything.

The BECCA app is the first of its kind to help people move forward after a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, providing trustworthy, tailored information and support for people coping with the impact of cancer after hospital treatment ends. Here are three top tips for launching a health app.

Tip 1: Do the right research

You can take problems and come up with solutions until the cows come home – especially in health tech; you can involve users heavily in the process; you can create a solution that people asked for themselves, but when your product launches, will the market adopt it?

User research in the discovery phase is essential to getting the concept right. Start by finding out what kind of ‘life hacks’ your audience are already using to get around a problem. For example, we found that a lot of women were turning to bloggers for methods on how to cope with life after breast cancer treatment – they wanted guidance from someone who has been there so has authority on the subject. We saw the need for a product to mimic that expert, kind voice and also come with great tips. It was an opportunity to connect with fantastic bloggers, by directing to their content from BECCA, making it much easier to find for those in need.

Capturing the behaviours of users and tailoring your concept to them gives you a much stronger chance of building a solution they’ll embrace and, ultimately, benefit from.

Tip 2: Build the smallest thing and test it

Take the essence of your solution, test it and seek as much feedback as possible – getting to the core of how your product helps people is essential. We started by printing different hints and tips for moving forward after breast cancer and asked women to scribble their reactions on them then we asked them to share these thoughts in a workshop. We learned what kind of content resonated with them, how they liked to be spoken to and how the cards made them feel. Information gathered at this stage helps you articulate your proposition and vision for the product before you’ve even built any tech.

When you do start building your product, use the same approach: start small and build based on the learnings from your users rather than what you or your organisation thinks will work. A closed network of users who know the tool is in its beginning stages is a good start, as they are happy to give feedback and you avoid the reputational risk of putting a product out there that still needs work.

Tip 3: Build a roadmap

For our users, the value of the app is its content. It quickly became clear that improving the relevance of the content for each individual would improve their experience of the app.

We’d had lots of conversations with BECCA users to build a pattern we could respond to. Here are some snippets of what we heard:

“I’ve been using it for a while so would like to see either more ideas or new information.”

“Obviously there’s stuff that doesn’t apply to me at all, a lot of it is very useful though!”

“The beauty and fashion don’t relate to me. Mostly fatigue. And I needed information about the symptoms post-radiotherapy.”

“I don’t like the ‘get a hobby’ cards”.

“I really like the hobby and activity suggestions.”

Breast Cancer Care formed a plan which would enable ongoing commitment to our users and wasn’t confined to features. This allowed room to manoeuvre if changes needed to be made within the app itself. The next stage involves introducing machine learning technology into BECCA which will automate the content sourcing process. To do this, we are working with, whose technology mimics our work by scanning trusted sources across the net and creating cards which we can check, edit and upload. It will also discover new bloggers who we can connect with and link to in the app.

By enhancing and expanding the selection of content in BECCA, Breast Cancer Care can make sure the most diverse and up-to-date information on breast cancer is available. From there we can introduce algorithms which respond to users’ cues and start delivering tailored content to them and demoting irrelevant information.

BECCA has been widely adopted by thousands of women with breast cancer in the UK and across the world. Breast Cancer Care was awarded a generous grant of £655,000 by the Big Lottery Fund in December 2017 to support the next two phases of development.

You can read more and download the app on our website

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