About throwing everything aside and starting over

A fresh start

Although the topic “Augmented Reality in Education” is super interesting and definitely has potential for a master’s thesis, I realized that I don’t want to pursue it further. I originally chose it because I had little prior knowledge about AR and wanted to “plunge into uncharted waters”. However, I soon realized that it didn’t really fit my strengths and interests.

Therefore, I used the past semester to find a new topic for my master’s thesis. I started off with writing a list of requirements. My Master’s thesis should…

  1. … have societal relevance and added value for people/the environment
  2. … focus on visual design and user experience, since that’s where my strengths lie
  3. … be realizable from abroad, since I’m planning to go on Erasmus

Having my list in mind, I started brainstorming. I read articles and abstracts of existing Master’s theses in the field of UI/UX design, I browsed through design platforms like Behance and collected examples, ideas and inspiration. So I made a looong list in the notes app on my phone with raw ideas that came to my mind during research. In the end that list ranged from female leaders in the interaction design field to accessibility issues to family banking to blood donation to pet adoption… and more. As a next step I started to narrow that list down and came to the conclusion that I wanted to work on a UX case study for some mobile app or web application following a design process (e.g. Human Centered Design Process, Design Thinking). I felt that I was finally getting somewhere, but the most important part was still missing: The concrete topic. A mobile app for WHAT? There is already an app for everything, I thought – What could I possibly create that would have an impact? That was when I realized that talking to other people might help. So I asked my sister, who is a doctor, if there was anything in her daily life at the hospital which could be improved by digitalization. And actually there was a lot ;). Ranging from analog patient files to rehab programs for stroke patients, she had some ideas where I could see potential. But it should be something that was within the scope of a Master’s thesis (e.g. digitizing the complete patient management system of a whole association of Austrian hospitals was not). In the end there was one idea left, that would perfectly fit my plan as well as my skills: A mobile app which would help pregnant women with gestational diabetes (GDM) to keep track of their blood sugar, diet, exercise and therapy.

What is GDM?

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is one of the most common complications of pregnant women affecting up to 20% and can lead to many unfavorable outcomes for both mother and newborn. Hence, screening pregnant women for GDM and adequate treatment is essential for the short- and long-term outcome of mother and child. Being diagnosed with GDM comes with major effort including exercise, nutritional therapy, blood glucose monitoring and documentation four times per day, medical appointments every one to three weeks and in many cases insulin injections. Thus, patients tend to struggle with their compliance. Especially doctor appointments can be time-consuming, as patients usually have to document their measurement data in an analog diary. These data are then manually reviewed by the doctor and compared with data stored directly on the blood glucose meter to check for the patient’s reliability (Alfadhli, 2015). 

The road ahead

Based on this medical procedure, the aim of my thesis is to find out how a mobile app could support the process of monitoring and analyzing blood glucose data and which advantages it could have for both the patient and the doctor. There are already several diabetes-monitoring apps on the market but none of them appear to be tailored to GDM patients. Therefore, this project offers the potential to specifically address the requirements and needs of GDM patients and provide them with a digital monitoring solution as an alternative to an analog diary. The concrete idea is to design and evaluate a high fidelity prototype of a mobile app using the design thinking process, which is an iterative process that includes five phases. Potential features of the app are:

  • automatic data transfer from the glucose meter to the app as well as the possibility to enter relevant data manually
  • automatic generation of comprehensive statistics with the ability to detect limit violations
  • reminders and notifications (e.g. blood glucose measurment, insulin injection, exercise)
  • suggestions on diet and exercise based on previously entered data
  • well-founded information about GDM (e.g. videos, articles, FAQs)
  • possibility to download a report for the doctor.


After spending so much time researching, brainstorming and talking to people I think I finally found a topic, that I “burn for” (as we say in german). I think the app could really help people affected by GDM and isn’t just another useless app on the market. As the Erasmus application required an abstract of the thesis topic, I have already written a preliminary research proposal and I am happy to have DI (FH) Anika Kronberger, MA as my supervisor.



Alfadhli E. M. (2015). Gestational diabetes mellitus. Saudi medical journal, 36(4), 399–406. https://doi.org/10.15537/smj.2015.4.10307 

How to make projects relying on the medical information

When designing for medicine, the designer must be aware of various aspects of this field. He must analyze how the processes run in a particular medical institution and the first thing he must pay attention to is the medical aspects of the problem he is trying to solve.
In a short time, the designer or design team must delve into the medical aspects of the prescribing problem and use  three sources of information:

  1. Visual medical information
  2. Written medical information
  3. Scientific medical information.

Visual medical information must be collected during the procedure the designer is investigating, such information can indirectly stimulate motivation and inspiration for superior product design. Written medical information is found mainly in brochures, through which the patient is informed about the treatment. The Internet is also an important source of information. 

Scientific medical information gives state of the art research in the form of congressional reports. The designer must understand that the researcher has hidden desires that need to be found. It should be part of an open discussion with all interested parties. The designer or design team must extract all medical information to find out the requirements and wishes of all medical parties involved in the treatment and then come to the design of the product.
Optimization should always be a topic of discussion to come up with the best product design. In a fuzzy interface, designs with medical information require special attention to communication between the designer and the specialist, otherwise, opportunities for optimized product design may be missed. Knowledge must be brought directly to the level of understanding and exchange of medical and technical information. Shared information must be known to all parties involved for the success of the project. Projects with medical science as their starting point require a new approach to design development.

Empathy in designing a program for cancer patients

Why is empathy in medical application design so difficult? Empathy is the ability to empathize with other people’s situations without having to live the same experience. Thanks to it, we can understand the problems they are struggling with and the feelings that they are going through. Unfortunately, in designing for sick people, we cannot feel and close to what they are experiencing now, we can process information only under the prism of our own experiences and the only thing we can do is, at least, generally imagine what a person was going through. That is why we need to do thorough research and talk to patients, but unfortunately, that will not be enough.

In my research, I do not have the opportunity to do an interview yet, but I need at least a little closer to the experience and feelings of one of the target groups. That is why I decided to take the appropriate steps. I found patient interviews and started watching them. I must admit that it is hard because the topic is unfortunately very difficult.

If you are interested, you can watch some interviews on this page: https://www.cancerquest.org/videos/interviews/patient

Principles of data analysis in health care

Various analytical tools are used to analyze data in the medical area, thanks to which it is easier to make decisions based on facts. These methods later help in planning, measuring, designing, and educating. Now the global health service is suffering from shortages among doctors and nurses who make primary care. As a result, already overworked specialists have to perform their duties even faster. Unfortunately, the situation is predicted to be even more difficult over the next few years, here the only right solution is to analyze the data and design a system that will make the process easier.

The benefits of analyzing medical data can be: faster delivery of results, making permanent changes, and later designing a new process that will be better, reducing the risk and the number of errors. The first step may be to introduce appropriate programs and artificial intelligence to the health system, which in the future may take on some of the responsibilities. These tools can absorb huge amounts of information and learn from many different types of data.

Research-based on:https://www.ibm.com/pl-pl/watson-health/learn/healthcare-analytics

App Cancer.Net

One of the first steps is to begin analysis from an understanding side of a patient. The reason is very simple, there is a lot of information about this in the global network.
First, I started by analyzing some of the applications that help patients in the treatment process. Today we’ll take a look at Cancer.Net specifically. I liked the application because it is really user-friendly and it has many functions that help in various aspects of a cancer patient’s life.
The application helps to track the symptoms and add new ones if they appear, write them down in the calendar and watch how the treatment process is going. If the patient has any questions, he has the opportunity to contact a specialist and ask him a question, and the program already has basic questions to which you can immediately find an answer. The application allows them to add doses of all pills that the patient takes. You can write down the date when you need to take the next dose, take a photo in case they forget what the box looks like, and also write down short notes to themselves in the future. Patients have the ability to add their own health care provider for better contact with the hospital and make the next appointment. A patient always has access to data about his health, which the program takes from the smartwatch and phone.

If you want to see it, I will leave you a link to the application here: https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/managing-your-care/cancernet-mobile

Digital symptom tracker for doctors treating cancer patients.

Today, all areas of our lives are experiencing a global digitalization. The field of medicine is no exception, but unfortunately, cancer still remains one of the worst diseases in the world. “Cancer” is the term used to describe a group of diseases that vary in type and location, but share one thing in common – remarkable cell growth beyond control. Under normal circumstances, the growth of all our cells is tightly controlled. But when the control signals of one cell malfunction and the life cycle of a cell is disrupted, the cell divides. Uncontrolled growth continues and the result is an overgrown mass called a “tumor”. From global austrians statistics we can see that there are 41,200 people newly diagnosed with cancer. Risk of getting cancer before age 75 is 25.5%. Every year 20,400 people dying from cancer. As we can see, this is still a global problem.

As a designer, it always seemed to me that we should use all our skills to help people. That’s why I want to develop in the direction of design for medicine, because that’s where we need to invest a lot of our resources. The pandemic has shown that the global health system is not working as it should and we need to fix it.

The purpose of this project is to help doctors collect data at all stages of the disease. The program should allow them to monitor medication, record treatment progress, and create visualizations of the disease in the patient’s body. The program should help monitor many cases of cancer in different patients, which in the future could help fight the disease more effectively.

The next step is to contact organizations that help people with cancer. The goal is to understand the needs of one of the audience of the program.

Olena Davletshyn