One in seven people in the US has kidney disease. Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys can no longer filter wastes and extra fluids from the blood.
Unfortunately, many people don't know they have kidney disease until they need lifesaving treatment: either a kidney transplant or dialysis. Since there is a shortage of kidneys available for transplant, many patients need dialysis, a routine treatment that uses a machine to clean the blood. Treatments in a clinic typically last four hours, three times a week. Some patients can do treatments at home.
Living with kidney disease is a major–and terrifying–adjustment. Patients need to absorb an overwhelming amount of new information about treatments, fluid and diet restrictions, infection prevention, transplant possibilities, and more.
As a Lead Motion Designer on the Patient Education team, I create explanimations and interactive educational programs to empower patients with kidney disease make informed choices about their health and treatment options.
People remember more of a message when it’s woven into a story rather than presented as facts. Plus, people make decisions based on emotions rather than facts and stories activate emotions. While the voiceovers in our animations don’t sound like stories and there is no dialogue, stories play out through the visuals. Characters facing relatable situations in rich environments make our animations immersive and engaging.
Like sending a car down a road that’s already built instead of building the road while trying to drive it, we use metaphors to connect ideas patients already understand to new concepts.
I took the lead on designing characters that feel relatable to patients while not being too cartoony. Since our animations communicate serious health information and are meant for older adults, we're careful that our education does not feel childish.
Characters have faces so they can show emotion, but they aren’t overly expressive like cartoon characters. Each character has a unique story that we keep track of behind-the-scenes to make sure that they are always seen doing the same type of dialysis and have the same family, house, pet and so on.
In a patient feedback session, patients told us that the characters started to become recognizable, and they felt like a trusted peer.
Simple Scientific Animations
In order to make our education as accessible as possible, we aim for a fifth grade reading level. Rather than use complex 3D medical animations to explain health information, we’ve developed a clear, simplified, yet still accurate style that’s easy to understand.
While information is a necessary first step, facts alone often aren't enough to motivate someone to make a change. Through the use of storytelling and other behavioral design tactics, we strive to not only educate, but to motivate patients to make healthy choices. For example, we connect long-term goals with short-term critical actions by animating what the future could look like. We prompt patients to remember their reason for doing dialysis in critical moments, and to choose the healthy path forward rather than the shortcut.
Interactive Classes and Training Programs
I played a key role in creating a first-of-its-kind, visually engaging and interactive program to train patients on how to do dialysis treatments at home. This program has not only shown success in the positive feedback we’ve received from nurses and patients, but it’s increased the number of patient who successfully remain on home dialysis.
I also took the lead on developing the curriculum, illustrating and animating visuals, and incorporating interactivity to create two instructor-led classes for newly diagnosed patients. The promotional video below is for one of these classes that works as a partnership with doctors, enabling them to use the resource we’ve created to meet patients where they’re at and provide easy-to-understand education.
Educating patients about kidney disease and its treatments empowers them to make healthier choices, enhancing their quality of life. By explanimating information in an easy to remember, friendly, and entertaining way, patients are more engaged in their care and have shown better clinical outcomes.
The majority of my work at DaVita is not available to the public, so there are no full-length versions of my educational animations (with voiceover) on my portfolio.
At DaVita, I work as part of a talented team with other motion graphic designers/illustrators and sometimes a content/script writer. The pieces of projects posted here are selected because they are entirely or mostly created by me. I'm happy to further describe exactly what I created.