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In pediatric Cystic Fibrosis patients

Project Brief

For my independent graduate thesis, I chose to explore the pediatric Cystic Fibrosis (CF) experience. Though I began my exploration broadly, trying to understand the CF experience overall, I concentrated my thesis on optimizing the airway clearance treatments that patients must do multiple times each day. The aim of the project was to develop a solution that would both improve treatment outcomes and patient experience.

Roles I played

  • Conducted contextual interviews and observations

  • Designed prototype testing protocols

  • Prototyped at varying levels of fidelity

  • Conducted prototype testing

  • Generated actionable insights

  • Presented insights and design

Project Process

I independently defined the scope, users, and other key stakeholders for this project and was responsible for involving these parties along the way. In addition to three patients and their families, a pediatric pulmonologist, CF specialists, and a pediatric CF specialist were involved throughout the research process.

I facilitated two parent-child dyad interviews over video chat and did one in-home interview and contextual observation. One family also agreed to complete a 1-day photo diary to document their interactions with each other and with equipment during airway clearance treatment.

After initial research, I created and conducted a card-sorting activity to help narrow the scope of the project and test some of my hypotheses. As I zeroed in on more well-defined concepts, I

story-boarded these as low-fidelity prototypes which allowed for in-the-moment reactions grounded discussions around the concepts.

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Key Learnings

As most CF patients are diagnosed at or before birth, creating routines around this life-long illness are fundamental to patients' long-term health. In the same way that tooth brushing is done almost as if second nature to most adults, so, too, should CF treatments be done by CF patients. While parents and providers want children to develop a sense of autonomy over their care, adults remain responsible for the child's health well into the teenage years. Though they don't want to nag the child, monitoring what has and has not been done and gauging how treatment is working 

are critical to maintaining the child's long-term health.

Project Outcomes

I designed an experience that accommodates for children's existing routines, establishes healthy habits, and helps parents and providers encourage children to take charge of their health. The smart nebulizer engages children in the treatment experience by interfacing with existing video games, adding additional parameters, controls, and reward systems that correspond with airway clearance treatments and overall cystic fibrosis care. As the smart nebulizer monitors the airway clearance treatment process, it provides information to parents and caregivers in order to improve adherence and long-term health outcomes. Parents are able to monitor their child's progress in developing autonomy over their treatment and reward behaviors that form positive health habits.

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