Project By Jacob Rader, Scott Gerlach, Bhavini Patel

Stitch: A Shared View of Medical Recovery

Introducing Stitch

Stitch is a collaborative health platform that creates a living understanding of medical recoveries by bringing together professional expertise and patient experiences. By continually drawing upon perspectives from both patients and professionals, Stitch creates a dialog that encourages a more balanced and adaptable representation of what patients can expect during a recovery from a medical procedure. Stitch also offers patients more support by delivering information when it is most relevant to a particular phase of recovery.


Our value promise

We promise to reduce the anxiety around recovery by providing the right information at the right time, in easy to understand language.


Grounding Insights & Design Principles

Stitch is an online system that creates a new way of supporting patients as they are recovering from a medical procedure. The recovery process is broken down into phases and within each phase, relevant information is focused into short, comprehensible messages. The information in these messages originates from medical professionals, but changes to the messages can be suggested by anyone. For each phase of recovery, patients can share their thoughts and experiences as well as read the experiences of other patients. Additionally, patients can use the Stitch interface to export the information in a medical recovery as a set of text messages or emails that they will receive over the course of their recovery allowing them to process the information when it is has the greatest chance of being meaningful to them.

By extending the support and expertise available to their patients beyond in-patient care, Stitch helps medical providers improve patient comprehension, reduce preventable readmissions, and improve patient perceptions of healthcare. The dialog offered by Stitch also establishes a new baseline of touchpoints between medical providers and patients. Providers can use Stitch’s system to better understand their patients and identify additional opportunities to improve patient experiences with value added services that extend the provider’s expertise outside their facilities.

Stitch is based on three core insights:

  1. Obsession with the technical nature of care drives providers to neglect many of the factors that affect patient perception
  2. Healthcare doesn’t help patients understand recovery
  3. The one-sided nature of knowledge in healthcare leaves patients feeling disconnected from their own care

Based on these insights, we developed three main driving design principles:

  1. The delivery of health services should be timely and practical for patients. We will reduce readmissions while improving outcomes and perceptions.
  2. Patients need structured frameworks to help them define their recovery. We will improve the clarity and accessibility of information related to medical recoveries.
  3. The generation of health knowledge needs to be collaborative. We will create resilient, dynamic models of medical recovery by balancing professional knowledge and patient experience.


How It Works

Using Stitch is simple.

Upon visiting the site, a patient can search for a particular problem, surgery, or symptom.



The patient can learn about the recovery process, and see a simple view of what will happen as they get better.


At each step, they can zoom in to view more detail. This detail includes information from medical professionals, but also detail from the community – people who have experienced the surgery and recovery, and have a story to tell.


Since recovery is time-based, a patient can sign up to receive text messages periodically through the recovery process. This provides a view into progressive improvement, and helps them baseline their expectations for what they are feeling.




Stitch is the result of five months of investigation and design in the context of healthcare. It’s a simple, direct idea but one that we are confident can make an impact based on the understandings we have developed through research and testing.

In research, we put ourselves into context and attempt to quickly build rich mental models in different aspects of a problem space.  By connecting with people and engaging in activities that facilitate empathy and understanding with their behavior, we inform our intuitions much more richly than we would through statistical models, abstract principles, or academic exercises.  Design research is meant to provoke new ideas and creative problem solving.  And it’s in the complex, interwoven, and often self contradictory nature of specific human interactions that we are most likely to provoke ourselves toward innovative understandings.  So the drive to relate to people isn’t just an empathetic exercise, it’s a practical primer for building new mental connections.

Our research into Healthcare focused on how documents, artifacts, and medical records affect at-risk patients as they interact with the Healthcare system.  We sought out perspectives from patients as well as medical professionals.


One of the things that stood out in talking to patients was the contrast in perceptions.  We spoke to a number of homeless veterans who were happy about the care they have access to.  And we tried to unravel what the factors are that lead to that positive relationship.

Over and over we saw that when healthcare felt most successful for patients was when it was reaching out to them and meeting them on their level.  The VA does things like help patients schedule appointments and arrange transportation.  When people didn’t have access to healthcare that reached out to them, they felt much less stable and supported.

We came to understand that a patient’s perception of care has a significant impact on how engaged they are and consequently on their outcomes from healthcare.  And these perceptions are often tied most strongly to the extent that their healthcare is able to meet them on their level and communicate with them.


In professionals we saw a group of people who are constantly working near the limits of what time will allow them.  They have to interact with a high volume of patients.  And for each patient, professionals must perform rapid problem solving and significant documentation.

So it’s in parallel with this high frequency application of their technical know how that medical professionals must also attempt to convey as much pertinent information to patients in the brief time that they have with them.

In high volume hospitals that serve at-risk populations the gap between patients and professionals is the most challenging to bridge.  When the demands on professionals and greater needs of the patients are layered over one another, it becomes almost impossible to prioritize a patient’s understanding of their situation and facilitate a stronger  perception of their own care.

Hospital Discharge and Readmission

We had the opportunity to spend time with the medical records department at a large volume hospital. Seeing the processes that support the flow of documentation was like gazing into the circulatory system of a vast, incomprehensible beast.  And although it’s impossible to align all of the complexity in a large team of individual motivations such as a hospital, we came to understand that the hospital has been adapted to–above all–create legal, billable records of the care it provides.

From the moment a patient arrives at the hospital, the hospital is preparing for their departure; it has to be.  But as the volume and complexity of the care provided by hospital has rapidly dilated, the confluence of information, instructions, and paperwork directed at patients in the discharge process has become overwhelming.

The way that hospitals attempt to convey information as patients are leaving care and the lack of support during the recovery process create an obvious opportunity for design to make an impact.  We believe that many of the complications that patients experience and the resulting hospital readmissions are preventable.

Underpinning the idea of a text message service is a frank understanding of the constraints on patients and professionals during the discharge process.

Professionals are conveying too much in too little time to each patient.  And patients are in a compromised state during the interaction that is supposed to inform much of their recovery process.

Stitch is an opportunity for mutual benefit for both patients and professionals by changing the flow and timing of this information.

Small, digestible pieces of information delivered to patients at the times when they have the most relevance will improve the chances of patients avoiding preventable complications as well as creating more opportunities for understanding and reflection during the recovery process.  This will help patients avoid reaching back for access to professionals in order to get redundant information during their recovery.  And professionals will be able to concentrate on only the most immediately relevant information during their interaction with patients.



Good design is tested and iterated early and often during the prototyping process.  Recently our design team has been testing and validating the idea of a recovery text messaging service with patients, professionals, and healthcare decision makers.


From patients we have learned a good deal about the tone and content of text messages. We’re developing heuristics for the text messages in order to give them the best chance to resonate with patients over the course of their recoveries.


With professionals we wanted to ensure that the concept of a recovery text messaging service made sense and seemed like something they could see as part of their workflow. We tested wireframes with hospital nurses and social workers and found that not only did the idea feel useful to them, but they had specific advice about how it could fit into the hospital workflow and be the most useful.

Decision Makers

Finally, we’ve had the opportunity to put Stitch in front of decision makers at large medical providers.  Our goal was to gain an understanding of how this service might fit into the current trends of healthcare landscape that large healthcare providers operate in.

We found that many large healthcare providers are rethinking the way they provide care.

While many minds in healthcare have recognized that the fee-for-service model is at odds with the some of the underlying principles of medicine, the Affordable Care Act has helped hasten an impetus for change.

In our conversations with large healthcare providers here in Austin, it’s apparent that many of them are looking to interaction design as a means to help them find innovative ideas.  They are actively seeking new approaches to improving hospital readmission and expanding outpatient support.  Stitch has a good opportunity to fit into this overall initiative by addressing preventable readmissions and establishing a new foundation for communicating with patients during recovery.