Empathizing healthcare

for diabetics

As a type l diabetic that uses an insulin pump, I realized that I needed help. Life gets hectic sometimes and I need someone or something to help remind me to check my blood sugar levels, record my sugar levels and to eat. There are apps that help users track their meals, but nothing had everything a diabetic would want. Not only are the apps not focused on the user, but insulin pumps aren't user-friendly either.


Good UX can be an important factor in the success of becoming healthier and not thinking about managing diabetes as a burden. I found this as an interesting challenge to solve.

What's out there today

After going through different apps for diabetes, I saw major UX problems in many of them. I chose to focus on one of the biggest medical device companies in the world, Medtronic as a basis to the problem I wanted to fix. I downloaded and installed their iOS app to see how it works today.

The evolution of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) over the past decade has been one of the greatest diabetes management advancements of my lifetime (so far). Knowing my glucose level with a glance at a screen used to be something of my dreams. Today it’s real and can be a lot better.

Insulin pumps are also improving, but why aren't they consistent with the blood glucose monitors or apps created for them? As a user, I have an insulin pump (just like the one in the 4th photo) and many people think it's a beeper and they're right. Not only is the appearance outdated, but so is the user experience.

Current screens from Medtronic's App, Guardian Connect below

In order to build realistic user stories, I surveyed 10 people, aged between 18 to 35, who have an insulin pump, don't have an insulin pump and doctors. The questions were focused on what they wish technology had to make diabetes easier for them, why they did not like the apps out today and their day-to-day lives with the apps. Main takeaways:

  1. Five said they wanted a more straightforward experience
    'I want to use an app that empathizes with my needs as a diabetic, not a robot. When will I come first?' – User A

  2. Six said they wanted to use the app even if the CGM wasn't working

  3. Two said they were tired of using more than 3 apps to track nutrition, have an app that connects between their phone and their insulin pump, reading content about diabetes updates and a carb calculator app

  4. All of them wanted a seamless experience of what to do next

  5. Eight expressed frustration with the Medtronic insulin pumps because of the button errors they receive

  6. Seven said they hated that they were connected to a tubing-wire and that they had to carry around a dense looking device that looks like a 'beeper'.

After making a few assumptions myself, I joined it with some more questions I asked in the survey to support / contradict my assumptions with data, and help me find the major and minor pain points.


  1. The current app doesn't support any of the user stories really well. It forces the user to give all the exact details (specific transmitter number, specific CareLink number, specific boluses) before seeing if they have an account.

  2. 6/10 complained that the process feels 'REALLY LONG'.

  3. 4/10 complained about having to play around the app to understand how it works, sometimes taking up to 30 minutes by watching a tutorial online.

  4. 2/10 Complained about wanting to do more on the app, 'it feels too techy for me'.

  5. 7/10 wished their devices (insulin pump, blood glucose monitor and app) were consistent to easily navigate between them.

  6. 4/10 want reminders when their insulin pump does not deliver or needs to be changed.

  7. Other complaints mentioned the app’s low speed or bugs.

The solution takes the main user stories into account. I revamped the entire experience on the app, to focus on diabetics who use Medtronic glucose monitors or Medtronic insulin pumps along with a shorter flow for users to get started and more tailored features for their needs. I have also created a prototype of a more modern insulin pump to help keep consistency between the app, blood sugar monitor and have some direct CTAs (calls to action).



1. Differentiation between the different users 

The two main users are people who are looking to track their sugar levels, send their doctors those levels quickly on the fly, connect with their diabetes at a more empathetic level, and people who want to enjoy their time even if they have diabetes. These are just specific examples, but they help to understand what the user expects to see.

This information made it easy to make the choice of splitting the syncing of the sugar levels, to ‘Do you have an insulin pump’ and the user clicks 'Yes' or 'No'. Doing this, made the UI for both simpler and easier to navigate. It also made it easier to tap into another audience.

2. Helping the user make better choices

According to the survey, some of the frustrations come from the fact that users want to be reminded to do certain actions. This was really important for me as a user because I constantly get distracted and need to check my sugar, or even a reminder to send my doctor my sugar levels –– imagine all of that on the same app?

During the on-boarding flow, the user's phone number and doctor information are captured to be used for the following: sending the user reminders, and to send their doctor whatever information they need instead of having to wait an additional 15-30 minutes at the office to upload the sugar levels.

3. Creating a home for everything

I chose to make this app have as much information as possible so the user does not have to go out of their way to look elsewhere, create a more seamless experience and home for the user to feel empowered to use.

Letting users have the ability to create events for their upcoming appointments (and receiving reminders), have a food search engine, and a place for them to feel comfortable to read credible content would make this experience the cherry on top of the sundae.

More Features

4. Make all linking products have consistent UI elements

Showing empathy to your users means to make them think less of what is next to come. If you create products that are supposed to link between each other, having a similar flow, look and feel and UI is important.

For example, all of the Apple products have similar UI components, UI kits and design. The result of that is obvious in Apple's success throughout the years.


Looking back at the survey, many complained about the lack of consistency between the app and the insulin pump causing a lot of confusion and frustration.


A big problem that was many Medtronic insulin pump users face are button errors, and constant malfunctions

Current Medtronic Insulin Pumps below

Insulin Pump.jpg

Obviously, the prototype of this insulin pump is without taking the technology that physically puts it together into account, but without having a North Star to look up to we won't be challenged to create a better experience. This prototype of an insulin pump can be successful because of the following:

  • Lighter weight 
    Using Apple as an example, creating a lighter wireless device will let users have the flexibility to move around and place it in their purses and pockets

  • Wireless connection
    Users always get tangled with the attached tubing but splitting the infusion set to have a wireless Bluetooth to connect to the insulin pump would be successful for usability

  • Simplicity 
    The user experience is very straightforward and follows a lot of the same UI of the app itself 

If medical device companies had more awareness of user experience, I’m sure more people would want to use their products happily. Maybe with some of these changes, next time I'll start using them too!

© 2020 Gigi Mostafa