MomCare: The Principles of Human-Centred Design in the Innovation of Digital Health Products

Spindle Design
4 min readDec 14, 2022
Women sitting in a circle discussing maternal healthcare in Kenya

In the technologically advanced world that we live in today, we often find ourselves creating or using products, services, or systems that are designed around the capabilities of the technology rather than for humans. It can be quite frustrating for your customers to adapt to something new or upgraded when it doesn’t necessarily cater to their needs or desires. In fact, they might find themselves abandoning the product altogether because they’re experiencing consistent inconveniences or problems. That’s why, as a business owner, it’s important to empathise with your new, existing, and potential customers. You need to understand what they want and need, as well as the pain points they experience so that you can create solutions that address them. That’s what we refer to as human-centred design (HCD).

In 2017, PharmAccess Foundation launched MomCare — a subsidized health insurance program — to support pregnant women and maternity care providers. They shifted from a business-to-business (B2B) model to one that focuses on creating packages that cater to different stages of the pregnancy journey — antenatal care (ANC), birth, and postnatal care (PNC). To do this, we helped them to conduct HCD research to identify and understand the pain points that the women and health facilities faced when it came to maternity care so they could develop solutions to address them.

Here are the four fundamental principles that we used while conducting our HCD research:

1. We Understood and Addressed the Core Problems

Before you begin to solve the problem, you first need to identify what the problem actually is. You need to understand why it exists, how it’s affected the relevant stakeholders, and what the consequences of the problem are. It’s crucial that you identify the root cause of the problem, and not just a symptom of it. Continuously ask “why” while conducting your research until you identify the core issue.

While conducting our research, we identified that access to maternity care was the root problem for these women, not just their limited access to funds. They were finding it difficult to find a good quality facility that was near them, affordable, and provided credible information (such as pricing and package information). These, among other barriers, were restricting them from getting the maternity care they needed and deserved.

2. We Were People-Centred

The purpose of human-centred design (HCD) is to put people at the centre of the development process, and this is achieved by designing for people, not machines. It requires taking into account people’s demographics, psychographics, and behavioural patterns so you can view things from their perspective. When you design with people in mind, you’re able to create products that actually meet their needs and interests.

Our research centred around 47 women, between the ages of 21 to 37 years, in the informal sector. We wanted to understand their journey through pregnancy — their needs, goals, aspirations, and pain points. From there, we were able to create three segments: the Resilient Hustler, the Disciplined Dreamer, and the Confident Wealthy. This helped us recognise the most viable segments that would benefit from MomCare.

3. We Used an Activity-Centred Systems Approach

Think of every part of the process as an interconnected system as opposed to looking at them as isolated components. It might seem easier to address one item at a time but it doesn’t guarantee that the entire problem will be solved seamlessly in the long-run. Receiving input from all key stakeholders will ensure that you cover all necessary touchpoints and create long-lasting solutions using a holistic approach.

Though we were creating solutions to help pregnant women access healthcare affordably, we also took into account the health facilities themselves. We needed to understand the challenges they faced (such as financial loss and record-keeping) while providing maternity care so we could create solutions that benefited all stakeholders.

4. We Used Small and Simple Interventions

There’s no need to rush to find a solution to your problem. In fact, undertaking iterative testing and prototyping will yield better results with time. This allows you to refine your potential solutions so you can ensure that they truly address the root cause of the problem, and the symptoms, for the people you’re trying to serve.

Through our continuous research, prototyping, and testing, we were able to design solutions for MomCare that would enable quality care for the pregnant women, leverage technology for finances, and disseminate relevant information for service improvement.

When it comes to designing products, services, and systems, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t always the answer. In order to solve complex problems and create solutions that work for everybody, we need to approach them from a people-centred perspective.

Reach out to us today via email at hello@spindledesign.co and we’ll work together to conduct human-centred design research so you can create long-lasting solutions for your users.

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