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dmi:Design Value Award Winner - Hopechat Team
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dmi:Design Value Award Winner




Hopechat Team - Hopelab, Grio and Gryt Health

Vivibot: Improving Mental Health Outcomes in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors


Seventy thousand adolescents and young adults (AYAs), ages 15-39, are diagnosed with cancer each year, making cancer the leading cause of disease-related death in young people in the United States. In addition to this disproportionate disease burden, there are significant and unique psychosocial needs for AYAs diagnosed with cancer. Adolescents and young adults are most likely to experience depression, heightened anxiety, distress, and post-traumatic stress disorder in their first 12-24 months after completing treatment —meaning that the approximately seventy thousand adolescents and young adults diagnosed each year have significant unmet mental health needs when they complete treatment. 

The design challenge was to create a scalable, digital intervention that would address the unique needs of this group of young people. Hopelab, a social innovation lab that focuses on improving the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults, created a team composed of designers, behavioral scientists, product experts, AYA cancer experts, and young people with a cancer diagnosis to deeply explore user needs, prototype alternatives, and then develop and scale the most promising solution. 

The Hopelab innovation framework is powered by a fusion of behavioral science and human-centered design and starts with Discovery: design research, market research, and an exploration of the scientific basis of a health problem and intervention frameworks. The team synthesizes the data into opportunities and an impact pathway. Opportunities: are areas where both users and market needs intersect, and in this case, it was the understanding that adolescents and young adults have unmet mental health needs. The Impact Pathway: details and links the various emotions and behaviors that lead to the health outcome that is being targeted; in this case, it was using positive psychology skills to address depression and anxiety symptoms in AYAs post-treatment. 

The next phase is Build-Test: a series of iterations to take paper concepts to increasingly higher fidelity. One prototype, called Cancer Mindshift, was imagined to digitally introduce AYAs to skills of resilience. Through several iterations, these skills were fused into a custom chatbot platform (Hopechat), and the product was born, now known as Vivibot. The bot shares tools for dealing with life beyond cancer and helps young people cope with their new normal in a non-judgemental, safe way. Hopelab worked closely with experts in the field of positive psychology to develop content that teaches skills that increase positive emotions and decrease stress and anxiety. 

Using a design lens, the team improved the product multiple times based on in-product feedback from users, changing imagery, videos, and language to better respond to the lived experience that the adolescents and young adults shared. Simultaneously a randomized controlled trial was evaluating how Vivibot affected mental health outcomes. The controlled study showed a reduction in anxiety within adolescent and young adult cancer survivors aged 15 - 29 who interacted with Vivibot,

Vivibot is being used in adolescent and young adult cancer programs in hospital systems including Stanford's Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and Sutter Health Modesto Oncology Group It is also endorsed by advocacy groups including GRYT Health, Teen Cancer America, and Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation.

Hopelab is currently in a final phase, called Distribution. In this part of the model, the team moves the product to a partner’s distribution channel. In this case, Vivibot will move onto GRYT, a platform designed for those with cancer and cancer survivors. The scale will help realize Vivibot’s full potential.

"When going through treatment it was hard not to bum out my friends... this is a way to openly talk about those changes." -Vivibot User

"Vivibot is a way you can help your patients to change their mindsets from cancer treatment to survivorship. Every patient has to make that shift on their own. Giving them a tool that's available for them at all times enables this." -Pamela Simon, Program Manager, Nurse Practitioner, Stanford AYA Cancer Program

 "Vivibot helps ease the transition from patient to survivor to thriver. Her safe, fun environment bridges the gap between AYA treatment and support group settings. She's is an essential piece of the puzzle that's been missing precisely from the middle of the current oncology formula." -Aerial Donovan, GRYT Health 

"I liked expressing myself to something non-judgemental, who could also talk back in kind words." -Vivibot User

Vivibot helps adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer see that they are not alone. It’s a clearly evidenced example of the power of design to create solutions that address complex social and mental health issues.

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Kevin BethuneKevin Bethune is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of dreams • design + life

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