This series is written in collaboration with Meks McClure.
Welcome to the final post in our June 2021 Pride series! We’ll share some of the ways our core values, company culture, and inclusivity manifest in the work we produce for our clients.
Generosity, inclusivity, and putting people first sets much of our team’s communication style at work. A people-first approach defines not only how we relate to teammates, but how we design software for our clients. Generosity is defined as one of our core values:
We believe in giving back to our community. We value empathy, equity, inclusion, and are people-centric.
For our team: We stay mindful of what we've been given, derive meaning from giving back, and remember to put people first.
For our clients: Your product will be produced with empathy and designed to put your users first, resulting in an ideal experience.
We also hold the core value “Craft”, which includes improving the lives of our users and reducing harm whenever possible:
We take pride in our work. Quality matters. Designing and building quality software means improving life and reducing harm for all users, contributors, and the people they affect.
For our team: We feel fulfilled by doing good work and derive satisfaction from the artisanship of that work. We move forward with ideas while remaining open to and eager for better ones.
For our clients: You will always get our very best work, in everything we do.
We’ve had the opportunity as a team to work on a number of apps in healthcare. In 2019, we worked with Naveon to create a personalized experience for patients receiving post-acute care. We focused on helping patients, patients’ families, and their care teams get to know each other, and engage in important (and sometimes difficult) conversations. Naveon understands that medical, emotional, and spiritual crises can occur when someone is seriously ill. With this in mind, the best decisions are made when patients, families, and care teams forge meaningful, personal connections to each other.
Naveon’s focus on providing care for the “whole patient” informed our approach to much of the design, including visual flourishes and custom illustrations that reinforce Naveon’s brand messaging around guidance and support.
Some patients in facilities that use Naveon’s product may be incapacitated or unable to interact directly with Naveon’s mobile app and rely on a family member or surrogate in care settings. We realized this meant that throughout the mobile app, language presented to the user would need to change from “you/your” when used directly by the patient to “he/his”, “her/hers”, “them/theirs”, or other pronouns when used by a surrogate.
This caused us to reflect deeply on the sometimes comically awful ways that gender is reflected in software:
As Carina C. Zona says in her talk “Schemas for the Real World,” software developers often think of database design as, “It’s just forms! We’ve done that a million times.” But we have to ask, “what relationships are we fostering between the person and the app? What relationships are we accidentally inhibiting or denying?” Especially for an app meant to:
- Accelerate the process of care teams getting to know their patients’ personalities, core values, beliefs, and care preferences
- Facilitate difficult conversations between patients and their families
- Help families and loved ones make decisions even if a patient is incapacitated
We knew we needed to get it right. Establishing a sense of inclusivity, affirmation, and support were key factors in the app’s success. Support and trust are not a given, particularly in medical environments where inclusive care isn't always a given:
It is not uncommon for transgender patients to avoid sharing information about their identity and medical history with health care professionals, due to past negative experiences within health care settings. Professionals who show sensitivity to the topic and express care about health record documentation can increase a transgender patient’s trust.
Rather than ask mobile app users to indicate a patient’s birth name and biological sex, we asked what preferred name and pronouns to use for the patient. In fact, for the purposes of forging a strong connection between care teams and patients, we didn’t need to know the patient’s sex or birth name — just what pronouns and name to use to make them feel comfortable, seen, and supported.
After onboarding is completed, the patient’s pronouns are reflected in the mobile app used by the patient and their surrogate or family members as well as in the administrative portal used by the patient’s Care Team. We constructed the database such that we could insert the appropriate pronouns for the patient in the relevant interfaces:
Ultimately, when we think carefully as we're designing or developing work for our clients, we pay attention to whether the details we ask the end user to provide are things we really need. How will they be used? Will the answer actually inform a feature or improve the end user's experience? Making products inclusive improves user experience, and in Naveon's case, asking for pronouns instead of gender or sex provided an opportunity for patients to share something about themselves that immediately improved their experience of the app.
This post concludes our June 2021 Pride series, celebrating a small but important part of the queer community: people existing outside the gender binary.
- "Celebrating Pride": Introduction to important terminology, recommended media, and additional resources
- "More on Gender Identity and Pronouns": A deeper dive into the concepts of gender identities, gender expression, and how they relate to pronouns
- "Growing Our Team and Cultural Practices": How we implement and encourage sharing of pronouns in the workplace
- "Inclusivity in Our Work with Clients": How our core values and workplace culture manifest in our work with clients