Accessible Therapeutic Tools to Alleviate the Cancer Journey


Feb 2020 - May 2020


In a team of three, I was the product designer and user researcher


Adobe XD, InVision, Figma, Laser Cutting, Premiere Pro, Photoshop


Bluenote Therapeutics
IP Purchased


Cancer is a tough journey

Not only physically, but also mentally.

A patient-centered care system with full course of therapy is strongly correlated to the desired treatment outcome. However, the majority of cancer patients do not have access to mental health support.

According to the American Cancer Society

1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression

According to the American Cancer Society

1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression.

In our research, we have discovered that patients suffer from:

Difficulty communicating discomfort
Anxiety from experiencing unfamiliar physical discomfort
Lack of connections

In our research, we have discovered that patients suffer from:

Difficulty communicating discomfort

Anxiety from experiencing unfamiliar physical discomfort

Lack of connections

"I don't like to hod it all inside, and I don't always want to dump it onto my partner"

"Having the other people that had already experienced what I had was kind of like talking to a therapist."

"Anytime you have any tweak or pain in your body you're thinking oh gosh it's metastasized to my shoulder."

Client Brief

Design a digital product that will sustain patient engagement over the course of the cancer journey. In order to do so, the engagement design must solidify a therapeutic relationship or alliance between the user and the app by the second session of the digitized therapeutic intervention.

Design Problem Reframe

How might we make therapeutic tools more accessible to cancer patients using digital technology and behavioral psychology?

Introducing Agora

Using behavioral psychology and digital technology to empower patients in their fight against cancer.


Discomfort Management

Rotating and tapping on the 3D human body, the users are able to accurately allocate and document the physical discomfort. Agora visualizes the pain through scientifically-proved graphics that help users understand and document the pain without complicated verbal descriptions.


Mood Documentation

Agora encourages users to document their mood as a daily practice to keep track of their mental health. The process is easy: select a mood and jog down a few words to document the feelings.


Tips and Stories

Agora provides tailored tips and short contents for users based on their health documentations. Things like, a breathing exercise, or a broadcast of a cancer survivor.


Support Group

Agora provides an online support group where thoughts, experiences, and tips are shared and validated by the peers. By connecting with the community, patients’ find a sense of belonging.


Appointment Reminder

A reminder of the upcoming doctor appointments. Simple things like this takes the burdens away from the patients.

Meet Liz....

“I want to be there” - physically and emotionally for children and grandchildren, “I want to be the best I can be.”

Liz is a colon cancer patient. She has a 10 year-old child, 4 adult children and 5 grandchildren. She worked as a business executive and retired when diagnosed. She has many methods of support - online and in person, including meditation and yoga.

Follow Liz’s journey with Agora...

*This video plays audio.

The Process

Competitive Analysis

While there are not many products in the field of mental health for cancer patients, we studied the existing competitive products in the following aspects:

Who are their target users?
What is the onboarding experience?
What functions /features do they provide?

We created the competitive landscape to better understand the market: what is oversaturated and what needs are unmet.

The Common Features

Social media posting and blog that allows users to share thoughts and experiences with peers.

Messaging function that is either for socializing purpose or emergency scenarios.

Health exercise tracking (sleep and exercise)

The Missing Opportunities

Guidance of mental health and emotional support 

Guided activities that is tailored to the users’ unique situations

High-quality knowledge sharing

Pain and discomfort management

User Research

We conducted interviews with cancer patients, oncologists, nurses, and psychiatrists learning their first-hand experiences being as the patients and the caretakers of the cancer journey.

We also went through notes, drawings and scripts from 20 participating patients, analysing and discovering their thoughts, pain points and needs. The materials were provided by the client.

Studying smartphone ownership, educational level and its influence on digital product acceptance, and cognitive behavior therapy, we identified the demographic of our target user group.

In this process, by mapping out patients and caregivers’ social and physical environment, actions, mentalities, and emotions, we identified their pain points, which lead us to several key insights and design opportunities.

Due to the time and scope of the project, we could not pursue all the opportunities. We chose and combined the ones that the client, the patients and we thought were the most relevant and needed (higtlighted below as purple cards) , and started the design process.

Take a Closer Look at the User Journey Map
Patients stress over communicating news with loved ones. Communication can have an adverse impact on patient response.
Caregivers feel responsible to help the patients. However, while family members want to help, patients often need time to process. 
Patients and caregivers don’t know where to go for guidance and advice at the beginning. 

Patients visit waiting rooms regularly where the environment is negative

Cancer brings a change of routine.
Patients experience a certain level of difficulty communicating how they feelings and pain.
Patients go through a phase of void caused by the loss of identity and routine.

Insights from User Journey Map

Facilitated communication
Onboarding caregivers by providing action plans.
Provide guidance (financial, medical, mental, etc.)
Establish routine activity during wait time.
Help patients make smooth transitions to the new routine by introducing new activities.
Provide indirect communication that reduces the redundancy of unpleasant topics.
Establish a new identity through positive reinforced self reflection.

Design Opportunities

Scenario-Based Design

Carrying the insights and design opportunities from user journeys, we went through the ideas and discussed their implementation feasibility depending on clients’ technology, budget and talent capability. Communicating and gathering feedback from the clients, for each revision of ideation, we studied the user flow from scenarios to scenarios, breaking down the actions, postures, potential touch points, which lead us to inspirations and design opportunities.

Eventually, we decided to incorporate the following features:

Mid-Fidelity Wireframes

Avoid biased language such as “stress”, “pain”, or “progress” that assume the status of the users. Replace with neutral language.
Allow the users to have more sense of agency over the documentation process. The users should always have the choice to skip.
Remove competitiveness caused by peers’ samples of doodling and the wording “goal”
Provide graphic language of pain that’s better perceived than words while allow user to self-define the pain
Users would like a “private” option when they post content
Consider the edge cases of negativity overload in support group, or the users not making progress in their mental or physical journey

The main constructive takeaways from the user testings

Design Iterations

After gathering the constructive feedback given by users, health care professionals, psychiatrist, as well as the client, we made designed iterations as following (selected).

Let's Bring Out the Design System

The Colors. The Identities. The implementations.
UI Elements
Information Architecture
Flow Map

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