Flow is an AI-based device for managing chronic bronchitis during COVID-19.

Time frame:

4 Weeks — April 2020


Jorge Arango


Systems Project of the MDes Interaction Design program at the California College of the Arts


Design Research, Systems Thinking, Prototyping, Visual Design, 3D Modeling

Project Outcome

This project is aimed to explore the relation and interaction between doctors, patients, and caregivers and review implementation strategies for post-acute care treatment plans. My goal specifically is to learn the challenges that patients with chronic bronchitis conditions face and design an intervention that would help better understand, implement, and control the chronic condition at home.

How might we give chronic bronchitis patients a sense of control over their physical health?

Pair Your Device
FLOW, the sensor unit that monitors the patient’s health, is placed on the chest and can be accessed through mobile application through Bluetooth.

Analyzing the respiratory rate
The device keeps track of the COPD patient’s respiratory rate round the clock and analyses their progress, for a more meaningful feedback.

Keeping Track
The mobile application also provides analytics of the patient’s health. It also alerts the therapist of any aberrations.

Project Background

“As much as 30 to 40 per cent of patients with a chronic illness have difficulties understanding their own condition, and find it difficult to interact with health care professionals.” (Friss, Karina, et al. 2016)

Due to the complexity of chronic diseases and diminishing cognitive ability with aging, patients often experience difficulty in knowing and fulfilling post-acute care therapy plans. As a result, 20% of the patients are readmitted to the hospital with even worsened conditions. Medicare alone spends about $26 billions a year due to high readmission rates.

Understanding the problem space

Literature Survey

I looked into the following topics through a complete collection of 20 articles and case studies. Besides, I utilized public online patient forums as a resource to gain an insight into the patient experience.


      • Bronchitis Disease Symptoms, Risk and Prevention

      • Perception of Aging and the Effects on Health Behaviors

      • Post-acute Care Treatment and Management


I found that social engagement and emotional support that a patient receives play an important role in their post-acute combat of their disease.

Market Research

I looked into seven examples under the standard care model. Based on these, I divided the disease management and care process into four phases: (1) Discovery, (2) Diagnose, (3) Treatment, and (4) Maintenance.



Due to the assignment’s nature, I had to narrow down toward post-acute care strategies. Patients usually self-manage based on their memory of the therapy plan. Some patients actively rely on their therapist to keep track of their tasks and progress.


CDC’s self-management program (Left) AI bot Lark Health (Right)

Internet-based care, such as chat-bots and automatic reminders, usually help patients preserve by providing remote assistance and guidance. Lark Health offers an AI chat-bot that allows diabetic patients to manage their condition better.

Primary Research

I conducted six one-on-one interviews with patients and subject matter experts. The patients I spoke with were above 50 years of age and living with COPD. The goal was to understand their experiences living and managing their chronic conditions at home.


From the interviews, I learned a typical journey that the patient would go through daily, from waking up to having a distributed sleep at night.


I incorporated my findings by transferring my interview recordings to notes and clustering everyday experiences, themes, and developing my insights.


Invisible outcome

Chronic diseases are long-term conditions, which result in a change in intangible aspects of life.

Well-Formed Goals

Establishing connections between lifestyle and medical goals is vital in developing personalized roadmaps.

Operational Restriction

The traditional medical disciplines are focused on establishing and sustaining efficiency in the workflow, instead of focusing on the patients.

Defining direction and concept generation


Due to limitations in the duration of the assignment, I was not able to test my initial concepts with elderly individuals. Jorge Arango, my advisor helped me identify the essence and limitations of the current state to brainstorm alternative solution.


I developed three design principles based on this concept, to focus on supporting positive human interactions with technology and aiding dialogue to improve the patient experience at an individual level.


By projecting a positive expression in the interactions and design intervention, patients are influenced to endure a positive healthcare perspective.


By implementing personalization capabilities, patients can be provided care tailored to their requirements. It further gives the patients more independence.

Natural Interaction

Using simple interactions to reduce cognitive load, vulnerable patients with cognitive and mobility impairments can quickly move through the application.


Based on the insights, I moved into concept development. Every patient is unique and has various goals, preferences, and requirements. By understanding the patient’s concerns, an AI can personalize therapy plans based on individual attributes while therapists can aid in increase in success rate.


FLOW is a portable module placed on the patient’s chest. The position generates fewer motion artifacts than devices placed on the wrist, ankle, or belt.

FLOW uses the accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, which can discriminate between different daily activities. It is also equipped with microcontrollers and wireless communication.



I conceive a system that collects the information about the patient using sensors. This information is encrypted and stored in the cloud for use by the therapist and for data analytics.


I further refined the concept, and developed a storyboard, feel of digital elements and props to help the stakeholders better understand my concept and the different elements they would interact with.







Future considerations

For future studies, I believe it will be worth further looking into a couple of areas.


I believe AI can be further utilized in the personalization process, especially with its capacity to process high-dimensional data to extract valuable information and representations.


In the medical context, particularly for the interaction with venerable patients, natural and smooth interactions are vital to set a positive tone for the patient experience


This project helped me understand how to work with medical stakeholders. By working on a time-restricted systems assignment, I learned to prioritize my systems thinking and design process to maximize work efficiency.

As a result, I tried to leverage creative research methods to accommodate remote participants. Interactions with elderly patients helped me get a better sense of the medical landscape with their stories.

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