“beyond the diagnosis”

In coming to Genentech and applying my user experience skills here, one of my first realizations was that a patient’s journey doesn’t begin with diagnosis, and it doesn’t end with the completion of treatment.  It begins with the early symptoms that the person might not even recognize immediately.  Getting to a diagnosis is not the start of the journey; instead, it’s one of the milestones.  For some patients, especially for many of the treatments that Genentech makes, their journey is a lifelong one.  For others, it ends not when treatment is completed, but when they have recovered and completed everything associated with their diagnosis and treatment.

We published an article called “Beyond the diagnosis” which explores a lot of these ideas.  I’m very happy to see others here who are thinking about the whole experience of being a patient.  This passage certainly resonates with a lot of the work that I have been doing in the past few months:

Sometimes the cause of a health problem is clear. Other times, it takes years to pinpoint what’s happening in a patient’s body. The uncertainty associated with noticing early symptoms but not understanding their causes can be as debilitating as a disease itself.

This article is a great way to think about what it means to be a patient, and what we in healthcare can do to improve the experience and the outcome for the patient.

finding my people

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by the US Digital Service.  I got a last-minute invitation to attend, I didn’t have any plans, I didn’t really know what the US Digital Service is but I rarely get email with the seal of the White House on it, so I figured I might as well attend.  It was so very much worth my time.  I learned that USDS are my people, which is something that I’ve been kind of lacking at Genentech.

My new role is pretty awesome.  I work on Genentech Access Solutions, which is a program where we help patients get access to the medicines that they need.  At first gloss, this doesn’t necessarily sound like it’s a good fit for someone with a UX background.  It’s actually a perfect fit.  We’ve got people who understand how to deliver great services to patients and their healthcare providers.  We’ve got people who understand how to run such services internally.  We’ve got an IT team to deliver the software that’s necessary for patients, their healthcare providers, and our internal team.  What they don’t have is an understanding of the overall user experience for each of the different types of people who use our system and services.

On the other hand, I don’t exactly fit in with my direct team, who are all very focused on business and operations.  I don’t exactly fit in with the IT team either, who are very focused on delivering a solution to my team.  I’m the one who’s tasked with understanding the experience of everyone who comes in contact with our system and services, and ensuring that we’re delivering the right user experience for each of those groups.  Patients have different needs than healthcare providers, and both have different needs to our various internal users.

From a UX perspective, this all makes perfect sense.  As a UX professional, it’s my job to understand not just what people do (or don’t do) with our software and services, but the context in which they do it.  I have to understand what they’re really trying to accomplish, and what else they’re using to accomplish it, what works and what doesn’t about their current method, and design a solution that meets their needs.

I’ve spent my time so far getting up-to-speed on Genentech and Access Solutions: what we do, how we do it, who interacts with us.  I’ve spent some time in the offices of healthcare providers, talking to everyone from doctors to nurses to office managers to front office staff to billing managers.  I’ve learned so much in the past few months.  It’s been amazing.  And I’ve shared what I’ve learnt with my team, to help them see our services through the lens of UX, and to consider ways we can better meet the needs of our patients.

I get to use my UX skills in a way that we often don’t get to.  It’s been fun, it’s been eye-opening, and I have high hopes for the future.  But I also don’t have a built-in UX community that I can turn to.

And then I got to meet the US Digital Service team and hear about projects that they’ve worked on, and suddenly I realized that I’d found my people.  They understood the challenges of doing UX in an organization that hasn’t exactly considered UX before.  They understood the challenges of doing UX in an organization that has deep ties to processes and technology that are often considered outdated elsewhere.  They understood the challenges of communicating about UX in an organization that knows they’re missing something but isn’t quite sure what it is. And they understood how deeply satisfying it is to improve the UX of something that is used by people not because they want to, but because they have a very different driver behind their usage.

There are other UX people out there who are trying to do the same thing that I’m doing.  It was a great feeling.  I’ve already had coffee with a couple of people that I met that night, and it was so exciting to have found my community again.  Thank you, US Digital Service.  You’re doing awesome work.  I can’t wait to share with you the results of what I’ve been doing.

MacIT submissions

I spent most of this morning on one of my tasks as a member of the MacIT advisory board: reviewing submissions.  It’s a hard task: there’s a lot of great submissions, and there’s not room for all of them.  Complicating matters is the need to select not only great individual sessions, but a group of sessions that will come together and somehow create a cohesive conference.

Work is ongoing, so those who submitted ideas will be notified in the coming weeks.  I hope to see all of you in Santa Clara, CA, on July 14-16.

missing album artwork on iPhone

After spending hours figuring out a fix for 43 GB of mysterious “other” on my iPhone a few months ago, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I ran into yet another problem syncing my iPhone and iTunes.

This time, the problem is with an iPhone 6 running iOS 8, and iTunes 111.  I’ve got over 60GB of music on my iPhone.  One afternoon earlier this week, I noticed that after syncing my iPhone, all of my album artwork was missing.  I’ve got album artwork for everything in iTunes, and it was quite annoying to have it go missing.  I tried the basic fix, which was re-syncing the iPhone.  That didn’t work: my iPhone still didn’t have any album artwork.

Next, I decided that I would try to delete the music from my iPhone, and then re-add it.  That didn’t work.  I connected my iPhone to my Mac, unchecked “sync Music”, and then clicked the “Sync” button.  I let it go for 3 hours, and it seemed stuck.  In the Music app on my iPhone, the list of songs was constantly updating, but nothing was actually getting deleted.  So I cancelled the operation, then tried to sync again.  When I did that, I discovered that I had 60GB of “other” on my iPhone.

At least I’ve been here before.  I tried rebooting the phone, and that didn’t make a difference.  I did the same thing as last time: erased the phone and let iTunes restore it.  This time, the mysterious “other” was missing.  Of course, the sync stalled again.  I let it go for about 20 minutes before pulling the plug and restarting the sync.  On the second sync, I had a functional iPhone, but no music.  I re-checked “Sync Music”, and started yet another sync.  A couple of hours later, my iPhone had its artwork back.

All told, I lost a whole evening to this.  Come on, iTunes.  Get it together.

  1. Yes, I haven’t updated to iTunes 12. It’s so unusable, and it’s not like I have a lot of confidence that the problems that I experience are any better.

Miss Manners on women’s pages

I adore Miss Manners, and so it’s no surprise that I find her article looking back on the women’s pages of the 60s and 70s quite interesting.

The women’s section reported the feminist revolution of the ’60s and ’70s when other parts of the paper mentioned it rarely and then only as a joke. The Women’s Strike for Peace was ridiculed as being a bunch of housewives who should have stayed home, but we took them seriously long before their actions grew into the wider youth movement protesting the war in Vietnam.

Her anecdote about asking President Kennedy a question is an excellent one, too.

iPhone announcement anniversary

Eight years ago today, the iPhone was officially unveiled.  Since I was working for Microsoft on Office:Mac at the time, I was at the Moscone Center.  We also officially announced Office:Mac 2008 (whose previous codename was Magnesium) that week, an announcement which got overshadowed by the iPhone announcement.

I remember that announcement.  Since we were going to announce Office:Mac 2008, several of us got to sit in the VIP section for the Stevenote.  Behind me in the VIP queue was the guitarist of Cheap Trick, which meant that I knew who the super-secret band was for the Macworld Blast party that night.  During the Stevenote, I sat next to my then-manager.  Just before it began, he told several of us that he was sick of seeing John Mayer at these things, and he swore he was going to storm the stage in protest if Mayer showed up again.  He didn’t, but we had a lot of fun coming up with what the headlines in the tech press would’ve been.

I also remember the announcement because that’s the time that I got blind-quoted by Cult of Mac.  I remember the calls that night to let the PR team know that it was me.  They told me that no-one else would notice this thing because nothing was going to get column inches if it wasn’t iPhone-related.  I was still freaked out.  They were, of course, right.  (It does mean that when I got approached a few months ago by the self-same writer of that story to do an interview, I laughed and laughed and laughed.)

Looking back at my blog post that considered what little we knew about the UX of the iPhone, it’s fun to see what I got right and what I didn’t.  I guess it’s a toss-up about whether I was right about scrolling behavior, since the iPhone and Mac scrolling behavior was divergent for awhile, but now has converged to the iPhone model, and scrollbars have mostly disappeared, too.  I was right about the apps that I can’t delete.  I still have a stock ticker that I never use, and there are even more apps that I can’t get rid of.  Tips?  Really, Apple?  Tips is like Clippy but even less useful.

My iPhone immediately replaced my iPod, and I effectively haven’t used one since.  Once my iPhone got Exchange support, and thus I could stop trying to use Exchange Web Access 2007 on my iPhone1, my iPhone became something that I didn’t let out of my sight.  And, ever since I got that launch-day no-subsidy iPhone, I don’t think I’ve let an iPhone out of my sight.  I’ve got an iPad to keep my iPhone company, too.  The iPhone replaced my flip phone, my Palm, and my iPod.  My iPad hasn’t replaced anything, although it has reduced my laptop usage some.  Perhaps when the iPad hits its eighth anniversary, it will have replaced more.

  1. Now that was a website not optimized for mobile!

“what happened when … ” the Yahoo! board made yet another bad decision

The recent New York Times article titled “What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs” is frustrating.  It’s frustrating to watch Yahoo! continue to flounder (and oh, flounder it has).  It’s frustrating to see a new CEO come in with the goal of righting the ship, but insufficient experience to do so.  It’s frustrating to see the Times resort to a clickbait headline involving Steve Jobs.  And it’s frustrating that the Times puts the blame solely on the shoulders of the CEO, only noting that Yahoo!’s board of directors had “hesitations”: “One of the Yahoo board’s hesitations upon hiring Mayer was her relative lack of experience as a manager.”

So let me get this straight.  The board makes the decision to hire a CEO who doesn’t have sufficient experience leading an organization, and who is well-known to be extremely (one might say excessively) hands-on in an organization.  Somehow, though, her failure is solely hers.  The board gets no blame for making a poor decision.

Welcome to the glass cliff.  I’m relieved that New York Magazine also noticed that the Times story should have been more appropriately titled “Marissa Mayer and the Glass Cliff”.  The board of Yahoo! did not set up Marissa Mayer to succeed, and apparently didn’t give her the right resources where she could succeed.  And they get to blame her, instead of themselves, if Yahoo! does fail.  Nevermind all of their bad decisions long before she came on board (passing up the Microsoft offer is but one of them).  No, if Yahoo! fails, the blame will fall solely on her, and she will be pushed off of the glass cliff.

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

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