SUITCASE (SUstainable, Integrated and Territorial CAre Services) was designed to improve the quality of telecare for seniors, foster independent living and active ageing.

To comply with my confidentiality agreement I have omitted confidential information. These designs are reinterpreted and published in low resolution.

My role

In this project I worked as a User Researcher and Interaction Designer. I analysed the call center teamwork processes and designed the software interface for a new service that empowers operators to provide better care for their older users.

The challenge

Our challenge was to redesign the interface of the call center management software to support a novel paradigm of telecare focused on the empowerement of people rather than the “rethoric of compassion“, while smoothly overcoming resistance to change long-established processes in the call center.

The process and the approach

To tackle this challenge, we needed to thoroughly and quickly understand the nature of care service provision for seniors, as well as the call center organization and teamwork. I started with a review of the literature on teamwork in healthcare call centers, and a designed a detailed plan for ethnographic research in our call center. I identified a few theoretical approaches that guided the structure of participatory design, and interviewed the call center operators. This work helped us to identify three types of services:

  • Real-time. Issues that have to be dealt with immediately. Examples are emergencies, such as fall detection.
  • Non real-time. Services that do not require an immediate answer but a good and personal relationship with the client. An example is supporting an active lifestyle.
  • Third parts. These are services that are not directly provided by the call center but are oursourced, and require to be monitored and supervised, such as home help services.

We also identified four alternative teamwork models to manage incoming requests:

  • Simple ticketing. The status-quo. First-come, first-served: requests (tickets) are listed to the operator in chronological order. Operators decide which tickets to deal with and whether to interrupt the tasks.
  • Layered. Operators are organized in teams, each dedicated to real-time, non real-time, or third parts tickets. Within the teams, requests are organized as in the simple ticketing system.
  • Hierarchical. Incoming tickets are organized and assigned by a team of managers to individual operators, based on their workload and request types.
  • Hybrid (layered + hierarchical). Entering tickets are organized and assigned by a team of managers to internal teams.

We used scenarios with Pixton to describe these ideas to a group of diverse stakeholders who gathered together to work on these models and find pros and cons of each one in a brainstorming session. We used the affinity diagram technique to organize ideas and elaborate on a new model that maximizes the benefits while minimizing the shortcomings.

The discussion of the focus group led to a new hybrid model of teamwork that combines automatic assignment of real-time tickets with the introduction of two novel roles: coordinators, who assign phone requests based on their priority, and case managers, who provide a continued service that requires a trusting relationship with the clients.

The role of the case manager emerged after a value-elicitation exercise: all stakeholders had given primary importance to the senior’s statisfaction of the service. We explored what features concurred to define a high quality service for the call center: prompt replies to emergencies and a continued relationship between the client and the operator were key. Here, case managers focus on the latter: they are proactive operators who know their clients and establish a trusting and friendly relationship with them. We envisioned primary and secondary case-managers to guarantee a continued relationship over time.

Case managers nurture a trusting and friendly relationship with their clients.

From this work, we iteratively elaborated a business process model, keeping in mind a few criteria and values such as extensibility of services, sustainability and respect for the values identified.

From the business process model, we extracted 17 pain points that helped us to elaborate a design framework and an interaction paradigm. These were key to guide later co-design activities. For example, the case manager needs an information set and interaction patterns that vary across contexts and activities. So we envisioned a fixed framework with informative and functional widgets that adapt differently depending on the ongoing activity. In this way, we maintain consistence in the overall layout (facilitating the information search, archiving of documents and global interaction). But at the same time we make available information and features that are specific to a certain activity.

Once our client approved the relevant framework, we elaborated a set of realistic scenarios that we used to guide the activities of the war-room.

Did you say “war-room”?

To organize to co-design activities, we referred to the Google Ventures war-room, which embedded some of the key concepts of design sprint: manipulation of physical ideas, spatial memory as a shared short-term memory for the team, and lots of time-pressure. We described the pain points, illustrated the scenarios and produced user stories to define the system functionalities and requirements. We ordered the user stories in three main categories:

Information access

The case manager needs concise and relevant information about her clients, needs to keep track of different events within the same request, and to organize information in a chronological order.


The case manager needs to update the information about her clients while she talks to them, and needs specific tools to manage and plan different types of tasks and priorities.

Notes and communication

The case manager needs to track both structured and unstructured information for an easier assessment, and to pass relevant information to other operators while avoiding cognitive overload.

Then, we produced a number of sketches using markers, paper, and a set of standard interface elements which I had prepared before. At this stage, working on paper rather than with digital tools fosters quick idea production and creativity, is inclusive (if you can draw lines and write text, you can do it) and requires minimal effort – meaning, you don’t get too attached to your ideas! This allows everyone to produce ideas an to openly and honestly discuss them without feeling the need to defend their own.

The design

Keeping in mind the values of the service, the business process model, the pain points and the user’s stories, I started from the sketches to elaborate a graphical mockup using Power Point first to get quick feedback on the overall structure and design proposition, and then Adobe Illustrator.

I decided to design the graphical mockup in grayscale to focus on layout and spacing, readability, consistency, without being disctracted by the contraints of a color palette in mind. Also, showing an early graphical mockup with a cleaner design to our stakeholders allowed us to focus on issues that mattered rather than a particular shade of color. I showed and discussed the mockups with our stakeholders, and we agreed on a few changes that converged in the final mockup.

The mokup is structured in two main areas: the left is dedicated to the tasks at hand (current phone call with the client and information about the previous contacts).

Since the case manager needs to access quickly to concise and personal information about her client, health issues and family relationships, the main area to the right is dedicated to the user profile. The user profile is organized in four widgets:

  1. Socio-demographic infomation that can be, in part at least, automatically exctracted from the database;
  2. Information about family relationships – this kind of information is very personal and not usually collected during the initial assessment at subscription, but is important for building a trusting relationship with the client and is gradually built by the case manager;
  3. Important information are precious information that the case manager needs to take into account when talking to her client: it could be information about friends, neighbours, the name of a favourite pet, hobbies or other daily activities – this kind of information is key when the number of clients is high;
  4. Critical issues are problematic areas that the case manager needs to treat with caution when talking to her client. They could be related to the recent death of a loved one, a problematic relationship or other matters to avoid or handle with care in the conversation.

The structure of the information, as well as the type of content, was decided based on the participatory design activities with the call centers operators and managers and on the design sprint.

SUITCASE was funded by a pre-commercial procurement challenge by Trento RISE. In collaboration with:

Let’s build something together.