A platform for parents to get the help they need post-NICU by leveraging both existing support networks and a community of volunteers
During my sophomore year of college, I collaborated on a healthcare design project as part of the graduate-level course PEDS 219: Design For Child Health Equity, co-taught by Stanford’s Chief of General Pediatrics and an experienced professional designer.
Our project began with basic secondary research and preliminary user interviews to understand the needs of medically-complex children and their families. Our three-person team toured the Stanford Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to understand the process by which babies transition from round-the-clock hospital care to home. We also conducted hours-long interviews with several parents of children with medical complexity.
One clear need area emerged over and over in all of our initial conversations: a pressing need for parental support during the weeks after their baby is discharged from the NICU. During this time period, parents have just been inundated with complex information about their child’s care needs, often from multiple decentralized sources. They are newly-tasked with being the sole caretaker(s) of a sick infant. Financial pressure and personal fatigue likely compound the anxiety. This led us to frame our design challenge around the following question:
How might we help parents of medically complex children leverage support outside the medical system and nuclear family to ease the overwhelming transition from NICU to home?
We began to prototype several solution concepts in this space. One early team frontrunner was the idea for a NICU Transition Volunteer Program (NTVP), an initiative in which medical students seeking care-taking experience would be matched with new parents seeking extra support. When we consulted physicians, parents, and designers for user feedback, a few key questions about the prototype emerged:
What about the parents’ existing support networks? Where do they fit in?
How could we leverage already-existing volunteer communities? Won’t it be hard to recruit the necessary base of committed, engaged volunteers?
How will we make sure this program provides support to the parents who need it most (particularly people lacking strong systems of support already)?
With these questions in mind, we headed back to the drawing board. We conducted additional need-finding interviews with hospital social workers and clinic staff members who interface with babies and their families after the hospital stay. We also researched solution analogs: other platforms that help connect parents to the solutions they need, such as TaskRabbit and SignUpGenius.
Several more rounds of additional prototyping led us to our final concept: Village, a platform for parents to get the help they need post-NICU by leveraging both existing support networks and a community of volunteers. Essentially, the platform functions as like a “wedding registry” for post-NICU support.
Village functions as a platform for parents to post tasks they need help with post-NICU. Tasks can be picked up by either:
Friends/family/acquaintances of the parents who want to provide help OR
Volunteers who pick up tasks on the Village platform as service work (these people will help “fill in the gaps” where parents’ personal networks might not be tight enough)
As the parents are transitioning home from the NICU, they or their loved ones can share their Village profiles with their communities, much like someone would share a wedding registry or GoFundMe page.
Further user-testing and prototyping of the Village platform are currently underway. Click through the pitch deck above to learn more about the platform and our team’s design process.