Designer · Facilitator · Consultant

Zac Heisey

I help healthcare organizations adopt a more human-centered approach through strategy, design, and collaboration.It starts by asking...

How Might We...

increase adoption of a novel medical device?

How Might We...

address memory loss 100 years from now?

How Might We...

build trust in AI to provide mental health support?

How Might We...

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Strategy & Scoping Workshop

New venture, unique challenges

In 2021, Japanese medtech company Cyberdyne partnered with physical therapy practices in Southern California to form RISE Healthcare Group (RHG) with the aim to revolutionize neuromuscular treatment by integrating personalized physical therapy with Cyberdyne's Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) exoskeleton.Strategy and scoping workshops with the Cyberdyne and RHG teams uncovered several challenges to HAL's adoption among target patient populations in the U.S.:

  • Efforts centered around improving technology, not the patient experience

  • Lack of compelling clinical data and user case studies

  • No brand awareness or referral relationships in the neuromuscular space

image of post-it notes in categories from a digital workshop exercise

Business Model Canvas · User Research

Getting to know the human side of HAL

To begin addressing these challenges, a Business Model Canvas workshop was conducted in order to identify relevant opportunities and areas of need pertaining to data collection, patient insights, and raising awareness in order to cultivate clinical referral relationships for HAL therapy.This exercise highlighted the need to:

  • Gather patient and clinician feedback about their experiences with HAL in order to communicate value and show the human side of the technology

  • Collect quantitative and qualitative data that demonstrate HAL's effectiveness in order to build relationships with key partners, including patient advocacy groups, community organizations, and referring clinicians

In total, 73 online questionnaires and 9 video interviews were conducted with respondents from Japan, Germany, Australia, and the U.S., which yielded the following themes, insights, and opportunities:

Extended use yields higher patient satisfactionParticipants with 30+ sessions had more positive feedback & higher satisfaction scores than those with fewer than 10 sessionsLeverage initial enthusiasm into long-term commitment to HAL therapy (via scheduling, goal setting, etc.)
Limited Willingness to pay out-of-pocket (OOP)Likelihood to continue HAL therapy drops significantly as OOP cost increases, with ~89% of participants unwilling to pay more than of $150/sessionExplore methods to limit OOP expenses for HAL therapy (e.g. insurance coverage, hybrid, subsidies, etc.)
Importance of cliniciansParticipants had overwhelmingly positive feedback for clinicians administering HAL therapy (5.8/6 average rating)Streamline and improve the training process in order to onboard more HAL-capable clinicians

Personas · Journey Maps · Patient Stories

Creating a narrative with emotion & data

The feedback and insights gathered were used to build detailed personas, customer journey maps, and engaging content detailing the HAL experience from the patient's point of view. The motivations and goals of the RHG team were also integrated into the narrative in order to create a complete picture of what HAL therapy with RISE Healthcare Group is really like.These assets have been valuable tools in communication with potential patients, their families, and community organizations.

image of screens from outcome measures tracking platform

Outcome Measures Platform · MVP

What's next?

Work is currently underway to develop an MVP version of a HAL outcome measures tracking platform, with plans to address regulatory requirements (e.g. HIPAA, FHIR, etc.), integrate with existing technologies, and implement the platform in new locations globally.To date, the outcome measures platform has been used to track over 1,300 HAL therapy sessions for nearly 100 patients.

Designing for Future Challenges

Tallsinki, 2123

The year is 2123. The capital cities of Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia) have become morphed into a sprawling urban metropolis known locally as “Tallsinki.” As with other urban areas of the time, Tallsinki suffers from high rates of unemployment, pollution, and crime. Seeking to escape these ills, many people are forced to spend much of their time sequestered in their homes, very few of which exceed 16m2 in size due to overcrowding.Given the scenario above, the challenge for the ‘23 Tangible Design course was to design a device that solves a problem or provides entertainment for Tallsinki residents living in 16m2 spaces.

image of tallsinki in 2123
collage of old photographs

Problem Space Exploration · Concept Development

Aging in isolation

Exploring the potential challenges facing Tallsinki residents 100 years from now led us to the intersection of an aging population and social isolation, both of which are major contributors to dementia.At the predicted rate of dementia growth, there will be over 1 billion people worldwide living with Dementia by 2123.Our research into professional techniques used to combat memory loss due introduced us to Reminiscence Therapy. This approach utilizes tangible prompts such as photographs and music to evoke memories and stimulate conversation for those dealing with memory loss due to dementia.This simple, yet powerful idea of combining an image from a person’s past (e.g. a photo from their wedding day) with a relevant audio clip (e.g. the song from their first dance) provided the inspiration for our concept - Memory Cube.

image of Paula working on a Memory Cube concept
image of Nik working on a Memory Cube concept


Making it tangible

Our vision for how a person might interact with Memory Cube looked something like this:

  • Photos and associated audio files are pre-loaded onto the cube

  • The user picks up the cube and turns it to view each side

  • Each time the user turns the cube to look at another side, the audio associated with the image in view plays

To make this vision a reality, we utilized 3D designs and pre-existing laser cutting patterns to develop the cube from a single piece of 3mm plywood. The technical components of the Memory Cube consisted of an Arduino Nano, accelerometer, MP3 player, speaker, and 9V battery.

image of Zac & Nik working on Memory Cube prototype
image of Nik holding Memory Cube prototype

Public Exhibition

Testing Memory Cube in the wild

The Tangible Design course concluded with a public exhibition at Telliskivi Creative City. Attendees were positive about the unique aesthetic and practical application of our concept, and shared suggestions about engaging additional senses, such as smell, in order to make even stronger connections with memories.

Trust, AI, and Mental Health

Addressing a growing global issue

OCD and other anxiety disorders affect 374 million people globally. Sadly, 80% of those needing mental health services can't access care due to stigma, lack of resources, or professional shortages. In Estonia, these issues have led to months-long wait times and €572 million GDP loss due to mental health problems.To help combat this, Estonian startup Mental Pin aims to integrate AI into their pocket-sized calming device and app ecosystem. This 'pocket therapist' concept would utilize AI for data assessment and personalization to offer mental health support during long wait times for traditional therapy.Our team's challenge was to determine whether or not people would trust AI enough to open up about their mental health, and if so, how might we use AI to provide more intuitive, personalized mental health support?

image of MentalPin devices
image of woman using MentalPin device

Market & User Research

"Therapy is a tool, not a solution."

While physical devices like Cove and Melo provide biometric feedback to wearers, and digital applications like Woebot and Wysa are experimenting with AI support and coaching features, there didn't appear to be a product on the market that combined a physical intervention with AI-driven capabilities to help users take ownership over their own mental health journey.Additional findings from questionnaires and interviews with people who have sought mental health therapy revealed the importance of ownership, trust, experience, healing, and accessibility in addressing, and ultimately improving, a person's mental health.

Building on the themes from our research findings, our team worked to translate identified problems into actionable "How might we..." statements in order to ideate on viable solutions.

problems and HMW statements

Concept Development

Building trust with AI over time

Our concepts for integrating AI into the Mental Pin product ecosystem needed to not only focus on building trust with users, but also empowering them to take ownership over their mental health by making information and patterns about their episodes easy to access and understand.To accomplish this, we came up with AI-driven features within Mental Pin's mobile application that would:

  • Gradually introduce AI via a phased feature rollout so that users can become familiar and comfortable with Mental Pin's AI capabilities and incrementally build trust over time.

  • Encourage engagement, healing, and self-reflection through mindfulness prompts, gratitude exercises, and calming techniques during and after episodes.

  • Automate episode annotation by running sentiment analysis on voice or text input to identify symptoms and emotions for easier data assessment and pattern recognition.

mockup of MentalPin app showing saved episode screen

Contextual aftermath exercises help calm the user and reorient them to their surroundings.

episode aftermath intervention screens

AI sentiment analysis annotates episode situations, triggers, emotions, and physical changes in the body.

sentiment analysis screens
image of Emily

Impact Through Storytelling

Meet Emily...

We chose to present the final concept to the Mental Pin team by telling the story of Emily, a fictional persona based on the demographics of our interviewees and Mental Pin's current user base.Emily's journey with Mental Pin begins when she purchases her device and downloads the app after hearing an advertisement on a podcast. A few days later, while Emily is at the airport on her way to London, she has a panic attack that triggers her anxiety. After using her Mental Pin device to keep her anxiety from spiraling out of control, the Mental Pin app offers Emily a helpful aftermath exercise to provide further support.The next day, Emily is encouraged to share details of her recent episode in the Mental Pin app. The automated annotation feature utilizes AI to run sentiment analysis on Emily's voice entry, highlighting the triggers, emotions, and physical changes that occurred during her episode. She can also compare this episode to others and start to understand actionable patterns about her mental health.

The Mental Pin team is in the process of evaluating which AI features presented have the most potential as they continue to onboard interested users for the private alpha launch.

diagram of Emily's episode journey