A persona is a fictional character based on potential customers — or in our case, patients. Each persona summarizes the attributes of a larger social group; it serves as an archetype to demonstrate demographics, needs, desires, and cultures.
The Health for America Fellows have made personas for patients, caregivers, nurses, primary care physicians, and cardiologists to ensure that we are continuously focused on human-centered design. With every idea we come up with, we discuss how each persona would interact with our solution given their personality, pain-points, and motivations.
There are many types of patients, caregivers, and providers, but it is important to avoid making generalizations such as "patients don't follow treatment plans." Instead we say, "Esther sometimes eats food high in sodium because that is the food her daughter Jordan brought her for the week, and she has no other access to food." Personas help keep our ideas grounded and based in truths that we have heard firsthand from our user groups.
Here are two of our personas:
Esther is 80 years old and lives by herself now that her husband has passed away. She was the caregiver for her husband, Bill, who suffered from diabetes and dementia. She has had Type II diabetes for over a decade and recently found out that she has heart failure. She was having trouble sleeping because she couldn’t breathe, so her daughter, Jordan, made her go to the doctor.
At first, Dr. Evergreen, Esther’s primary care doctor, thought she might have asthma, but after inhalers didn’t do much to help her shortness of breath, he switched his diagnosis to an anxiety disorder. After continued problems sleeping and multiple trips back to see him, he finally arrived at the correct diagnosis of heart failure. Now Esther mostly spends her time at home, watching TV and sometimes gets lonely at home by herself. She really appreciates all of the help that Jordan gives and does not want to overburden her. Esther feels guilty requiring so much of Jordan’s time, as she knows how stressed Jordan is and that she has to take off work to help her with doctor appointments and other chores. Esther also feels guilty when Jordan pays for her medications, since Esther’s sole income is social security checks, making money is tight. Sometimes Jordan forgets about what foods Esther isn’t supposed to eat, but Esther doesn’t want to seem ungrateful and eats the food anyway. To avoid being a burden, Esther tries not to call Jordan unless it is a “real” emergency. Esther gets really happy whenever her grandkids come over to visit, but lately they have been too preoccupied with other things to come around.
Jordan is a receptionist at a dentist office. She recently moved a few blocks away from her mother so that she could help take care of her. She has two teenage kids, who both live at home. Jordan does the food shopping for her mom once a week and takes time off of work to take her mom to doctor appointments, as Esther no longer drives. Jordan tries to get healthy food, but doesn’t always know which foods meet her mom’s health conditions’ needs and is put off by how expensive healthy foods can be.
Jordan manages Esther’s finances and supports her mom as much as possible, but Jordan does not have a lot of money to spare while meeting all of the demands of her family. Jordan loves her mother but has found it stressful to coordinate all of the logistics of managing her health. She spends her days getting her kids to school, going to work, going food shopping, cooking dinner, getting her kids to do homework, and visiting her mother. She wants to find a better balance, but doesn’t know what to do. She knows that she could use some help.