Designing the knowledge tool for physicians

Virva Auvinen

Product design and the physician experience at AMBOSS

I’ve been working on the product design team at AMBOSS for over a year now. When I joined AMBOSS, my role consisted of understanding how physicians work, and how we could support them with the AMBOSS products.

Now we have the knowledge, we’re ready to ramp up the physician experience team (the team I’m working on) to build a great physician knowledge product. The physician experience team will be two to three designers working on related design tasks — one of those is the mobile designer we’re hiring for.

Product design at AMBOSS is currently around 10 designers and growing quickly!

We’re divided into a few different teams:

  • Physician experience
  • Education experience
  • Design system
  • Medical editorial tools
  • And growth

Product designers work collaboratively. For example, we have a contribution model for the design system to build it out in a way that reflects the product and user needs. We also deeply care for and help each other — if you have a problem, you’ll always have someone to guide you, provide tips, or even co-design with you if you’re stuck. Everyone works together.

We’re also people that want to get things done. We always have high standards and our users in mind. We value deep critical design thinking and delivering solutions.

My motto for the physician experience team is: we do a serious job, but we’re not serious people.

We joke a lot. It’s a way of working that I personally value because even if you’re sitting and working for eight hours of your day solving hard problems, you need to have fun.

Designing for doctors

Sketching out user journeys and flows

We’re ramping up the physician product right now, mainly focusing on the mobile experience. That’s really interesting to me because I’ve been designing for maps for over 10 years. Getting people from A to B using cars, on foot, or even with drones. For me, the challenge at AMBOSS is guiding people to the specific knowledge that they’re looking for, in a specific situation.

For example, finding the pharmaceutical dosage for children of a particular medicine, alternative substances in case of an allergy, helping establish the correct diagnosis, learning about alternative treatments, or simply keeping their medical knowledge up to date. With maps, you guide people around the real world, but at AMBOSS, we guide people to the right knowledge — and within sensitive time frames.

One question we want to answer is: How can you get knowledge in one to two minutes?

That’s challenging. Doctors are working under intense time pressure and face several patient cases during the day. If they need more knowledge or help to make a decision, AMBOSS provides that information.

As a designer, general consumer apps are easy to work with because often you’ll use the app yourself, or it’s easy to understand the needs and goals of the users. With the AMBOSS physician product, it’s different.

It’s a professional tool, so we really need to understand the physician’s work. We’re designing for a person who uses medical information in a work environment that as a designer, you’re probably not familiar with.

For example, I’m now learning Pharmacology because I’m designing how to access pharmaceutical information. As a designer at AMBOSS, you may need to study a little bit of medicine to understand the thought process and pain points for physicians.

We also do shadowing in different work contexts to gain knowledge. For example, how physicians think through the pharmaceutical information and come to conclusions when handling patient cases. It’s a lot of understanding various relationships between the subject matter and work itself.

Designing a physician product for mobile

Notes and sketches from user shadowing that helped us to to define and release a product feature

Mobile is one of our key products. Physicians are working in a number of different environments such as hospitals, private clinics, or doing home visits.

The AMBOSS mobile product is handy in these situations. It’s in your pocket and can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and most of all, it works offline. We want to give physicians the possibility of having big medical books in their pockets all the time.

Right now we’re putting the basics in place, but in the future we need to design a digital book that’s even more effortless to use, so doctors can consult it no matter what situation they’re in via their mobile phone. All within the one to two minute timeframe.

Another question we ask is: How can you find dosage or treatment information, both when you don’t know, or want to verify something at that exact moment?

Prototyping new interaction models

When we can provide up-to-date knowledge to physicians, ultimately we’re helping the patient they’re caring for. If we do our job well, we can help both, and physicians can provide the best possible care to their patients.

As the mobile product designer working on the physician product, you’ll first learn about the overall AMBOSS offering, and turn that to the effortless mobile experience. The next step then is to develop the product further, understand what the physicians needs and pain points are, and design mobile experiences around those.

It’s all about designing meaningful interactions and visualizing information as clearly as possible, and that can be consumed within a sensitive time frame. It’s a lot of understanding how people search, and how to visualize vast amounts of complicated information — including text, images, multimedia, videos, pharma information and even more.

Working with me

I value open discussions and understanding the problem that needs to be solved. I believe in quick iterations, and exploring the solution from various angles. Good design is done in collaboration with developers and business people, and it is always a balance between feasibility, user needs, usage, and business.

With every project we do, we establish a problem that needs to be solved, and the user’s needs that need to be covered. We then define the relative metrics, or KPIs. This could be, for example, to augment the retention by a certain percent, or increase the use of a particular function by xx%.

Sometimes it might be something small we’re fixing, other times it could be an entirely new feature that we need to come up with. Our reality varies based on what we’re working on. But in the end, it’s about getting users to use and fall in love with our product.

Tips for your application

The application process starts with reviewing a candidate’s experience and portfolio. Through this, I get an overview of what kind of problems and designs the applicant has dealt with in the past. I’ll also check their design skills and the quality of their designs.

When a candidate proceeds to the interview, we’re keen to know how they frame problems, if they’re truly driven by user needs, and how they design solutions. We’re also keen to understand their collaboration skills.

We’re a multidisciplinary team with many stakeholders, so it’s important that a designer can stand behind their solutions, but at the same time remain open to feedback and changes. To us, it’s important to understand how designers manage to deliver high quality designs in complex situations. It seems easy, but it’s not.

Applicants need to show that they’re curious and open-minded. It’s also important that they can articulate and are able to talk about design topics with people who aren’t familiar with design.

Very appreciated is that they’re able to explain clearly, get to the point quickly, and not spend a long time explaining small details, for example why a particular color was chosen for a particular button.

My advice: Embrace complexity

My advice is to stay calm and be yourself. At AMBOSS, the first few months will be overwhelming and you’ll face a lot of information that you’re not familiar with — so don’t panic.

The environment you’ll work in is complex because of the subject matter, and because we work in interdisciplinary teams. You need to understand how different people think, and what they require to create design solutions.

After one year of working at AMBOSS, I’m familiar with the terminology and the way physicians work and think. We have a great physician editorial team that works with us, and are always keen to explain things.

You only need to ask, and you’ll get answers. The job is challenging but very interesting, and truly has a big impact on all of us — physicians and their patients.