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Designing Analytics Dashboards with Municipality Health Coordinators

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December 04, 2018

Posted by: Alix Emden

Post authored by our Asia Design Team. Pictured above, Design Manager Ranju Sharma sketching mockups in our Kathmandu office.

Medic Mobile has equipped over 6,200 Female Community Health Volunteers in Nepal with SMS-based mHealth tools for maternal and child care coordination in partnership with Ministry of Health. This feature-phone based intervention was designed to support FCHVs in their work, increase their connection and communication with the health facilities, and ultimately support better coordinated and more consistent care.

Each time an FCHV sends an SMS through the mHealth tool, valuable information is collected on the content and timing of her report. Compiling and analyzing this data not only gives us insight into user engagement, but also offers a valuable look into key activity and impact metrics for maternal and child health.

At Medic Mobile, we use this data to internally monitor our deployments through online analytics dashboards, as well as to provide external project dashboards for partners. Since each set of users and what they are interested in monitoring varies, Medic’s designers employ human-centered methods to design dashboards that fit users’ needs, both content-wise, and through data representations that make sense to them.

In Nepal, our current focus is on designing an analytics dashboard uniquely for municipality health coordinators and sub-coordinators. To kick off the design process, our Asia design team traveled to Sindhupalchowk and Banke to hear from our future dashboard users themselves.

First, in Chautara, Sindhupalchowk, we conducted a focus group discussion with health coordinators to learn more about their roles, responsibilities, and relationship to data. This session marked the initial (and most continuous) phase of the design process: empathizing. We engaged the officials in participatory activities such as listing and ranking their daily tasks, group discussions about what they like and dislike about data, and a role-play about their response to seeing concerning data.

After the session, we debriefed our findings through the define phase of the design process, compiling what we heard from participants, and zeroing in on the realities, challenges, and opportunities that they experience around data. From there, it was time to start ideating.

During the ideation phase, you can find the design team surrounded by whiteboards and sketch pads in our meeting room, contemplating the implications of each and every detail of our design. Throughout this phase, we refer back to insights and quotes from the field. Our time with users maps our way forward, and serves as a tool for validation and/or iteration once our ideas have been mocked-up. After our visit to Sindhupalchowk, with initial insights in mind, we created a rough set of mocked-up ideas to test with users on our next site visit.

Three weeks later, we traveled to Nepalgunj and Kohalpur in Banke, and with the help of Project Officer Pawan Baishya, conducted two more sessions with users. After our initial discussions about their roles and data more broadly, we encouraged the coordinators to put on their designer hats and join us in ideating. To avoid potentially influencing their ideas with our own, we asked them to think through each of the metrics presented, and represent the data in whatever way felt most relevant to them.

Armed with some of our favorite ideation tools: markers and chart paper, they began sketching! From pregnancy registration to death reporting, the coordinators shared their sketches, we shared our own, and we talked through preferences as a group: What did they like about certain representations? Why? What was clear and what was confusing? Was this information necessary or not? The participants were surprised by the participatory nature of the session, and expressed enthusiasm about being able to share their perspectives and opinions in this way.

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Service Designer Danielle Aron getting feedback on dashboard mockups from Municipality Health Coordinators in Banke.

All in all, we walked away from these sessions with many insights. We learned that health coordinators are a diverse group of very busy people, managing anywhere from 5-20 health facilities in a variety of rural, and sometimes urban, municipalities. In their roles, they not only monitor and support health facility activities, government programs, and I/NGO programs, but often perform other administrative tasks, as well. They believe that data is foundational to their jobs, and empowers them with the ability to better support the health system at many levels. They expressed that to-date, the data that they have “is not enough”; national indicators often do not give them the whole story about maternal and child health in their municipalities. They voiced a  desire for a dashboard with “eye-catching” widgets, which allows them to understand information quickly, and without the need for extensive data-analysis experience. Finally, they shared their excitement about having access to a comprehensive set of data from the mHealth intervention, as well as an accompanying training, to support them in their work.

Design work at Medic Mobile is an involved, multi-faceted, and iterative process. Designing an analytics dashboard means employing user insights to contemplate everything from the pros and cons of different groupings of metrics, to the fine line between useful and unnecessary detail, to how to represent it all in a way that is simple but comprehensive. Our intention is to create something that users will enjoy looking at, feel at-ease understanding, and therefore want to share, and take action on, at many levels.

Now, with insights from our users in mind, we are back in the meeting room, immersed in the next phase of the design process: prototyping. We are sketching, defining specifications for, and organizing mockups that will be user-tested again, before ultimately being built by our tech team. Thereafter, we will be able to hand over the first iteration of municipality-level analytics dashboards to the very users who helped us build them.

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