Improving the pre-treatment experience for cancer patients


According to Cancer Research UK we could soon be able to save 50% of all cancer patients. Focusing on catching and treating cancer at an early stage, including the mental and physical preparation of patients before an intensive treatment, is crucial to this work. These pre-patients, patients that have not yet started treatment, often suffer from depression and anxiety. This often results in less exercise and more fast-food, when they should be preparing their mind and body. Together with MSD, Aktiv Mot Kreft, GE Healthcare, Microsoft, Accenture, Cisco, Helseetaten and Lungekreftforeningen we conducted a 48-hour hackathon to take a stab at designing an improved user journey for pre-treatment.

😢 The challenge

MSD (Merck & Co), a globally leading research-based pharmaceutical company, wanted to explore how they could support patients that are experiencing mild, but not to be over-looked, symptoms and have a high probability of being diagnosed with cancer. Furthermore, they wanted to do this with real patients who had recently gone through, fought and survived treatment – all compiled into a 48-hour hackathon.

🏎 Our approach in a nutshell

Preparing for the event

We prepared for the weekend hackathon by running a workshop in order to map success criterias for the project. First, we needed a lot of insight about pre-patients and rehabilitation patients. Secondly, we had to invite healthcare personnel – a difficult task due to their very busy workdays. We then had to find and invite cancer patients in order for hackathon participants to test their solutions. Last, but not least, we needed to redesign the classic hackathon process, so that participants who knew nothing about innovation methodology could take part and create real value. 

MSD leveraged their extensive network in order to book meetings with oncologists, radiologists, rehabilitation specialists and general doctors to gather insight. With them, we examined the current patient journeys. For each big problem we discovered we designed a persona to represent that problem. This was done to spark empathy and creativity among the hackathon participants. The MSD network was also tapped into, to contact and invite specific healthcare professionals and patients. 50 people signed up and took part in the event. 

Day 1 – insight and ideation

The participants were split into groups and kickstarted by reading the collected insight. They were then asked to choose one problem to focus on. We facilitated an idea generation workshop for each chosen problem, with several exercises to structure an idea that solved the identified problems. They continued by storyboarding and prototyping their solution, as well as designing their experiments and tests.

Day 2 – testing, iterating and pitching
The participants welcomed cancer patients into the working area and started to test their solutions. All groups had to rework their designs and ideas as nothing usually survives the first encounter with a future user. The participants spent the end of the day to put together a presentation of their solution and test results. The second day was rounded off with group presentations in front of other participants, a panel of innovation specialists and healthcare personnel. 

🧡 The output

After an intense weekend, we ended up with six new ideas being pitched. The participants addressed problems such as screening, depression and inefficient processes on a system level. A group with representatives from Aktiv mot Kreft, Cisco and the St. Olav Hospital in Trondheim ended up with the winning concept Fit4Fight. The group addressed the concept of “pre-habilitation”, which has shown to be very effective for cancer survival. By adding a digital layer to the pre-habilitation process, Fit4Fight could complement existing systems and processes with a more patient-centered solution that could support and motivate patients through a tough time.