IBM Watson Hackathon, Medicare Mojo < Back to Home

How I Helped Seniors Effortlessly Prepare For Retirement

Enrolling in Medicare has been found to be a frustrating struggle for seniors who are either retiring or planning on retiring in the future. With so many options available to each unique individual, choosing the plan that will ensure a smooth transition to a new chapter in life could be a daunting and tiring task. I envision a time when seniors can effortlessly prepare for retirement and start living the life they want.

Seniors should have the power to say:

I’m in charge of my health care benefits.

I have chosen the right plan for me.

I know I have complied with all rules and regulations.

I have a community of friends and experts I can rely on.

I know my rights and feel empowered when working with Medicare.

I can predict what I will be paying out of pocket, given different types of medical events.

How IBM Watson Helped Make That Happen

With conversation applications becoming increasingly popular in user interfaces, IBM Watson wanted to host a conversational application hackathon that enables natural interaction using a conversational interface powered by the Watson Developer Cloud APIs.

With a small group of 3 Front-End Developeers/Engineers and 2 UX Designers — myself included, our challenge in tackling this problem was to design and build a conversational application using Watson Developer Cloud APIs, such as Dialog, Retrieve and Rank, Natural Language Classifiers, and Document Conversion, as well as Watson services, such as Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech, to help seniors enroll in Medicare — all in the span of 4 weeks.

So, What Did We Do To Help Seniors Enroll In Medicare?

With time wiring down in this online hackathon, my group was not able to spend extensive time conducting primary user research; instead, we focused on looking at many online forums and speaking to a few users who fit the target user descriptions.

After collecting all of our data and using affinity mapping to analyze the patterns, we were able to develop key insights about our users.

When enrolling in Medicare, users:

Appreciate the advice and experiences given by others in the Medicare community to ensure that they are receiving accurate and helpful information that will help them make the best decisions

Consider timing to be important because they want to be able to plan ahead to choose the best plan that will save them the most money

From our insights, we were able to come up with the problem statement that best fit the struggles our users were facing:

With the seemingly infinite options based on individual needs with unique situations, users are having trouble choosing the best Medicare plan that will save them money in the future.

Of course, when it comes to retirement, saving more money in the long run definitely sounds enticing. To ensure our users were getting that seamless and inexpensive transition that they desired, I then gathered the information from the research and used Sketch3 and Illustrator to create the user persona that best matched our target user descriptions and created a journey map that provides a visual representation of what MedicareMojo does and how it addresses the needs of our users. It especially made a difference in understanding the user’s experience when presenting the empathy map I created, which depicts some of the feelings of frustration users face when enrolling in Medicare, along with the before and after experience of using MedicareMojo to help drive the UI of the application.

Target persona for MedicareMojo’s services
Journey Map illustrating Jane’s frustrating experience before using MedicareMojo to enroll in Medicare.
Empathy Map illustrating some of the stressful feelings that might be associated with Jane’s experience enrolling in Medicare without the application.
Journey Map illustrating how MedicareMojo helps improve Jane’s overall user experience when enrolling in Medicare.

All of these assets were useful when coming up with the features and flows that needed to be integrated into the application. To brainstorm some initial ideas that incorporated all of our user’s needs with the requirements of the hackathon, our team wanted to conduct a design studio to get as many ideas as we can on the table.

While we sketch out our thoughts, new ideas will emerge. The ambiguity and lack of detail in sketches foster new ideas.” — Lennart Hennigs

Early stage sketches drawn during a design studio.

This was very useful when coming up with the ideas that will eventually make that emotional impact on the user’s experience with MedicareMojo. One idea we came up with was using calendars and recommendations as well as the ability to save information. We also knew that utilizing IBM Watson’s conversational Speech-to-Text feature to have that conversational dialogue with the application was inviting, but to leave an even bigger impact on the user’s feeling of empowerment, we needed something more.

Creating a card feature that allows the user to take control in organizing their important information and allowing them to customize their information in a timeline to be used as a decision tree gives the users a sense of empowerment that they have confidently chosen the best possible Medicare plan for them.

Medium-fidelity sketch mocked up on Sketch3

However, with only days before the hackathon’s submission deadline, we were unable to perform many usability testings. Thus, using Jakob Nielson’s 10 Heuristics for Usability Design, we were able to accomplish many revisions that we were happy with in the end.


User story to represent Jane’s needs and frustrations and how MedicareMojo addresses those needs.
MedicareMojo Mobile Client Screen Shots

Despite the roadblocks and challenges we faced on the front-end/back-end side of development, our numerous testings yielded fairly good results that allowed us to submit our project with confidence. However, the results for the hackathon will be announced at a later date.

Check out our submission below:

Google Doc Presentation

GitHub Repo

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