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SXT: In-depth user research to help reduce the spread of infections

Jul 2016

SXT Health is a social enterprise whose mission is to improve access to sexual health information and services across the UK. At the beginning of 2015, they made the decision to further expand their digital offering and after the initial Discovery phase, it was decided to build a Partner Notification service.

Partner Notification allows health professionals or patients who have been diagnosed with STIs to anonymously notify partners so that they can also get tested, therefore reducing the spread of the STIs, and also limiting the risk of a patient being re-infected.

Validating and iterating through prototypes

The best way to make sure you build a user-centric service is to validate the solution itself.

Once we had decided on the partner notification system, the next stage was for our UX and design team to begin making paper prototypes of the service. We then took these prototypes into clinics to be assessed by health professionals.

We showed the clinic staff paper prototypes, asking them about their initial reactions, and watching them try to navigate the prototype. This testing with our target users provided us with invaluable qualitative feedback so that we could then iterate on our solution.

During these visits, we also continued to interview doctors, administrators and receptionists, and observed the ‘usual’ goings-on at the clinic, as well as participating in a staff meeting.

The main goal for this phase of research was to validate our initial findings that the service would be a viable solution to the problem of partner notification, and that our proposed solution would be easy to use for health professionals and patients alike.

Experts can’t guess what users really want

Sexual health is a very delicate topic, but it becomes even more delicate when you’re notifying someone that they might be infected with an STI. For this reason we made sure to put the actual message we would be sending out to people through a few rounds of user testing.

In our initial rounds of testing – the health professionals gave us overwhelming feedback that the language used wasn’t professional enough – that it sounded too relaxed. So we adjusted the copy accordingly.

But we were keen to test with the patients themselves. Due to delicate nature of the subject, it was difficult to sit in on the real clinic sessions, so Dr Menon-Johansson introduced us to a medical student who was able to run the tests for us, and who came back with some interesting results: the patients, having read our more professional massage, wanted it to be more relaxed and more friendly. So (of course) that’s what we did.

Meeting NHS KPIs & fighting the spread of sexually transmitted infections

For sexual health clinics, one of their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is the percentage of past sexual partners who had attended a checkup after they’ve been notified of being at risk of having an STI.

The SXT Partner Notification system helps clinics to measure this, and also improve figures, as it makes it much easier for patients with infections and health professionals to notify people potentially at risk from STIs.

We went on to build the partner notification as Software as a Service, working closely with Dr Menon-Johansson, not only on delivering the software solution, but also advising on pricing strategy for the service. SXT’s Partner Notification system has just been launched across the UK, and we’re continuing to work alongside SXT to make sure that the service is a success.

Please read How discovery phase helped SXT to determine strategic direction and the Case Study to learn more about the Partner Notification project.

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