Case Study — Going On Site: Ethnographic Research of Medical Practices to Drive Product Discovery

Kristin Zibell
2 min readJul 19, 2023


“What do healthcare providers need (and don’t need) to deliver the best digital therapeutic treatments to their patients?”

A common adage in healthcare is that physicians won’t do anything that takes time, they averse to new technologies, and that it’s about “not interrupting” their current workflows. As director of product at a digital health company, I led the discovery work for a new ecosystem of products for a patient’s care team, include products for healthcare providers, or doctors.

I needed to understand if these adages were true or if they were old tales that could prevent much-needed innovation in the healthcare space. To get started on research and discovery, I believed the on-site visits were the best method to uncover a physician’s natural environment.

The insights from this research would drive not only product design choices, but could also inform design of the entire customer journey.

Research Goals

  • Understand treatment context to see the environment and materials present
  • Observe and understand the diagnosis, prescription, and monitoring workflows for doctors with their patients to see how they currently accomplished their goals and what the pain points were along the way
  • Review and gain feedback on low-fidelity design concepts in order to find most valuable and most confusing information in order to iterate on the designs


  • Designed a research protocol that outlined the participant description and screening criteria, recruiting method, research procedures, test materials, and data collection methods
  • Engaged an outside vendor to recruit participants and facilitate logisitcs
  • Worked with cross-functional team to create and review all test materials, data collection methods, and release documentation
  • Conducted on-site interviews with colleague and summarized data at end of each session
  • Showed the doctors wireframes of product concepts and asked them to mark and rank desired functionality using qualitative methods
  • Analyzed data and looked for patterns and insights to share with stakeholders
  • Generated a report with insights and recommended next steps for product and customer journey design for executive stakeholders


  • Revealed minimum viable product (MVP) opportunities to intersect with a doctors’ existing practices instead of disrupting them
  • Created personas of the Healthcare Provider and Office Staff to share with the product and marketing teams
  • Generated a list of pain points and made recommendations on priority items to solve for in the product roadmap to solve for the product team
  • Identified the most valuable patient information and desirable designs for doctors to iterate on in next version of product designs
  • Communicated to team that doctors and their staff are people too — they’ve been beaten up by technology and IT infrastructure investments over the years, but they have a bent for innovation because it’s best for the patient.

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