Women’s College Hospital & Hamilton Health Sciences

Integrating a UX process into a cardiovascular disease research project

After having a heart attack, many patients stop following their treatment plan—attending cardiac rehab and taking medication—and one in 10 will die from a second incident within just one year. That’s why a team of doctors started a research project to mail out reminders that would engage patients and prevent another heart attack. The project began as a dense, 10-page document until Pivot joined the team to improve the UX and efficacy of this important, patient-centred intervention.

The research team originally came to us with a prototype of the booklet, which they wanted to mail out five times per year. We immediately questioned whether patients would actually pay attention to it in that format. To answer this, we worked with Patients Canada to interview patients and their caregivers.

Since individuals have various excuses as to why they stop taking their medications and attending cardiac rehab, we drafted a persona for each type of patient to better understand whom we were designing for. We also compiled user personas of physicians and pharmacists to recognize the complete circle of care. Rather than offer the same information in each reminder, we determined that each of the five touch points needed to include new content in order to engage and persuade patients to create and stick to their treatment plan.




By working with a group of healthcare experts, we gained numerous perspectives that we culled down into the final version of the design: five engaging, easy to understand and persuasive booklets. This process enabled us to incorporate Behaviour Change Techniques (BCT) into each touch point, such as worksheets that asked, “where do you see yourself in five years?” These would empower patients to articulate their goals in regards to their recovery.


Layout highlighting patient quote

Over the course of the project, we tested design iterations with real cardiac patients in various stages of recovery. Through candid conversations, these patients provided us with valuable insight. They told us, for example, quotes from other patients would help make the booklets more relatable. We took this further and designed the touch points with a friendly, sketched illustration style, which included a female patient who embodied the “patient like me” idea. She shared tidbits of information throughout each booklet.


Illustrative female patient who embodies the “patient like me” idea

We used colour to distinguish between each of the five touch points. The palette began with a high-energy reddish-coral colour to grab the reader’s attention and worked its way through a series of analogous warm colours as the booklets progressed. This harmonious colour theory application effectively tied all of the documents together while still highlighting their differences.



As part of a research project centred at Hamilton Health Sciences, approximately 500 patients will receive the booklets before the program is expanded across Ontario. The doctors who spearheaded the project will also write an academic paper about how a UX process transformed their process and findings.

Prior to working with Pivot, the team didn’t consider building a series of user-friendly booklets that emphasized different pieces of information. By conducting interviews and creating personas, we used design thinking to implement five distinct touch points with many detailed elements to create a more compelling and usable intervention. In future, we will look at adding a digital component to the project.