The convergence of understanding of our genes and the power of technology is an area we are witnessing exponential leaps. People can now access, understand and benefit from the endlessly exciting and diverse things about our genetics.
This opens up the opportunity to improve people's health by proactively warning them of possible health risks based on their genetic insights. Combined with the advances in wearables, we can now get real-time health data from our smartwatches.
• Literature Review
• Interviewing professionals
• User survey
• Understanding the competition
• Defining major goals
• Forming the final concept
• Target audience
• Information architecture
• Final designs
• Review with peers and seniors
I started off by looking at research papers with keywords such as fitness, diseases and genetics. I also took a look at the working population and gathered an understanding how the Indian population use their phones and smartwatches.
From here, I would go to talk to professionals in the field of genetics to understand the space that I will be working on and the potential it has. Finally, I did a user survey study to understand from a sample space how they currently use these gadgets in a daily basis.
India has witnessed a significant increase in the working population between the ages of 15 and 59. This increase essentially means busier schedules, high stress levels, and lesser time for self-care.
Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, obesity and undernourishment are on the rise. People are increasingly becoming aware and conscious of their health and wellness.
Every day, technology becomes a more integral part of our lives, and we have reached that point where you can monitor your blood oxygen levels from your wristwatches. This whole space is underused, and there's much growth potential.
40 crore is estimated to be India's overall working population as of January 2021. This is almost 30% of the country.
8 crore people in India could be suffering from rare diseases, as per an estimate from the MoHFW.
17 lakhs Indian deaths are caused by heart-related diseases every year, according to the World Health Organisation.
1 in 6 people in the world with diabetes is from India. This may be due to environmental and lifestyle choices.
1 in 9 people in India will develop cancer during their lifetime, according a report from National Cancer Registry Programme, India.
4 in 5 people in India will have smartphones by the year 2025, in a report by Statista. The wealth of the internet is at the tip of everyone’s hands now.
can be easily prevented if diagnosed at the right time.
Generally people only start considering about their health after they hit their 30s.
has made the situation worse as people are physically inactive.
every three years is recommended for healthy adults under 50.
D2C kits have been steadily getting traction in the last decade. Companies like 23andMe and DNAKit provide various information about a person just from their saliva sample.
These kits can assess a vast set of genetic variations. It can also gather information like
In most cases, the link between a given genetic variation and a complex trait like weight, athletic performance or sleep is indirect or unknown.
Relatively often, tests results include false positives. This may result in unwarranted anxiety and paranoia among users and their close ones.
As the results can be hard to interpret, it is questionable that whether a product or service will be helpful to someone with a specific diagnosis.
While wearables are becoming more mainstream, lately, whether these devices help improve health and fitness has been asked around.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fitness trackers worn by participants were "less effective at encouraging people to lose weight than simply following a diet and exercise plan".
The theory put forward by researchers was that people became too reliant on the device to change their health compared to those in the study, which monitored their exercise and diet themselves and were self-motivated.
The big takeaway over here is the fact that a wearable is just a tracker for data. There's a huge opportunity to motivate the user and nudge them to get their health in shape.
Some of the data which can be collected from the users include
Blood oxygen levels
I also had the opportunity to contact two professors who work in the field of Biotechnology and Forensics. These were contacts I got through through connections from my father's peers. I sat down on a call with them for almost 45 minutes. The goal of this interview was to gain a deeper understanding of the space and look at opportunities that I may have missed out on from my literature review.
Dr Rajaguru Aradhya
School of Biotechnology
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Kerala
Dr Sally Lukose
Galgotias University, Greater Noida
They gave me a lot more insight into how genetic testing works, D2C testing and its implications.
Many hospitals lack the facilities for genetic testing. They rely on third-party labs to provide the results for their patients.
DNA testing is a relatively complicated and niche domain. The results might be complex for the everyday user to understand.
Samples collected for testing are susceptible and can be misused in the wrong hands. Trust is an essential factor here.
Genetics is associated with family history, and any diagnosis can lead to conflict or paranoia amongst family members.
I floated a survey to understand how people perceive fitness and their understanding of genetics. The data was acquired from various age groups to make it more diverse. All of the participants were between the ages of 18 and 50.
The rise in use of wearables
From my initial study, I understood that there's a rise in the use of wearables. This is proven by the fact that more than half of the participants use wearables. This shows the potential of the technology and gives us a nudge to make it better.
Price being an entry barrier
More than 75% of the participants said that price is one of the most deciding factors when buying a wearable. Incentives to get into this technology and provide services worth that price would be a good bargain for gaining more share.
Natural and personalised onboarding
There is a massive polarity between the participants when asked whether they would share their genetic data to get a health plan. The onboarding should be natural and convincing enough to get their interest.
Call for privacy and data security
More than 60% of the participants felt unsafe while sharing their genetic data with 3rd party laboratories. A more transparent process and ensuring the users that their data is secure is an important step.
Several D2C DNA testing kits are already functioning very well around the globe. I took a deeper look at how they work to see what they lack and what I can bring to the table.
23andMe was founded in 2006 and was one of the firsts to begin offering autosomal DNA testing for ancestry. As of 2021, they operate in the US, UK and Canada. Their name is derived from the fact that there are 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell.
They send out a saliva collection kit with written instructions on how to properly collect a sample.
After receiving the kit, you have to register it on their website with the barcode to identify it as yours.
In 3-4 weeks, they would analyse the sample in their in-house lab, and you can check out your reports by logging into your account.
• Includes characteristics, family ancestry reports, and fundamental genetic anomalies.
• Athletic performance and general lifestyle analysis.
• Can predict if there is an underlying gene that might cause issues in the future.
• Can cross-check within their database to identify people who share DNA with you.
• They don't allow its genetic profiles to be used by law enforcement, as they believe that it violates users' privacy.
There were other D2C kits as well, but they had little to no distinction from 23andMe, and work in a very similar way, so I decided not to include them.
As I converge on to my solution, there are a few things which I want to achieve with my product. These include
Health and Lifestyle
To help the user make informed decisions about their health and bring about a change in their lifestyle with the help of GeneFit.
To warn the users about any pre-existing conditions they might have and connect them with the relevant professionals.
Privacy and Security
To be privacy-first, as DNA is sensitive data to handle, it must be taken care of in a delicate manner.
As with everything, I have quite a few challenges to tackle with my final solution. I decided to focus on a select few and try to solve them rather than go broad and fix every problem out there.
The integration with the smartwatch and information from the genetics report is something that can take many forms. I intend to provide the user with clear and concise information.
DNA testing can be an eye-opener for underlying genetic conditions, and I want my users to be informed about it. Genefit can tie along with various hospitals, bringing about a business angle as well.
Change is difficult to bring about, and I want my users to take a positive attitude towards life after their tests. I encourage this by gamification of everyday challenges and providing them with perks when they complete specific tasks.
User onboarding for better personalisation.
Gamification in the form of leaderboards and offers.
Suggestions based on one’s genetics.
Critical alerts for severe health risks.
Ordering kit directly from the app.
Connecting to hospitals and professionals.
Integration with wearables to provide in-depth information.
Addition of information for pre-existing conditions.
Understanding the target audience is essential in every design. So here I note down what my users are like and understand them.
Bangalore | Product Manager
“I find it harder to keep myself healthy with the busy schedule of my life.”
• Learn about her genes
• Keep herself physically active
• Personalised healthplan
How is Malvika going to use GeneFit?
To keep her healthcare in check and use it as a motivation to have a healthy lifestyle. The company she works for takes up most of her schedule, and her fitness routine should be flexible enough to accommodate it.
Malvika installs GeneFit on her iPhone, and she's taken to the sign-up page.
Upon logging in, she was asked for her permission to access Apple Health, actively populating GeneFit with Apple Watch data. The Basic Health Info is pre-filled and is re-verified.
The Privacy page, in a gist, shows how GeneFit takes care of her genetic data giving her assurance. Finally, she is brought to the screen to order her kit.
As soon as Malvika is done with the onboarding, she is asked a few personal questions to customise GeneFit's daily task suggestions to curb her fitness. It also asks for her allergies and workout patterns to determine a tailor-made fitness routine.
As she reaches her home screen, Malvika is presented with an abundance of information regarding her health.
The orange Critical alert calls the Malvika's attention, as it is a crucial detail received through her DNA test, which she should take action soon.
Below, she is presented with the daily tasks to earn DNA points, which can be used further on the Rewards page to access offers.
The screen shown here is interactive;
you may scroll, drag or click on the tiles.
As Malvika opens the DNA tab, she is provided with the key insights from her report.
Again, the orange Critical alert calls the Malvika's attention, urging her to take action against the risk of Melanoma.
BelowBelow, other alerts which may not need immediate action are laid out. Her body profile contains details that should help her in her day to day activities.
Finally, a breakdown of her ancestry is also shown with a button to take her to the complete report.
The screen shown here is interactive;
you may scroll to see the rest of the content.
The Wearable section shows brief information on what device you have paired and offers some applications you can use alongside your wearable.
The Rewards section shows one's accumulated DNA points which one can use to redeem specific discounts on products and services.
The sprint turned out to be an essential learning experience for my entire skillset, delving into a topic I had little to no understanding of. There is a potential for other features too, which can be implemented in the next version of the product, such as -
• Comprehensive diet tracking - everyone knows a key to good fitness is diet, and implementing that would ideally be the next step.
• Leaderboard system - a healthy competition between friends, is always a motivating factor while working towards something.
• Watch interface - Due to time constraints, I have not considered the watch interface, which would also be a critical factor in the ecosystem of GeneFit.