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Carnegie Mellon University Medical Services
A solution to increase engagement with an underutilized resource at CMU.

Client  Carnegie Mellon University Emergency Medical Services (CMU EMS)

My Role
User Researcher
Interaction Designer


Team Members
Stephanie Wang
Zheng Yao

User Interviews
Speed Dating
Journey Mapping
Usability Testing
e Web Design

The Outcome

Expanding Carnegie Mellon University Emergency Medical Services (CMU EMS)

Introducing an online messenger platform where members of the CMU community can chat with trained members of CMU Medical Services without:


1. Calling CMU EMS, which sends a paramedics team to their locations.

2. Physically going to the hospital. 


The platform is geared towards minor medical situations, such as a stomach ache or an ongoing cough.

We also recommend using Freshman Orientation to introduce the feature, as underclassmen (first and second-year students) are more prone to identify resources and use them in comparison to upperclassmen.

Use the service on mobile, tablet, or desktop.


The Problem

CMU Medical Services is an organization that assists the CMU community with any medical-related issue, from a broken bone to simply needing an ice pack. Currently, to reach the service, a student must call the campus police phone number, and medical services members will arrive at the student’s physical location.


83% of Carnegie Mellon students we interviewed mentioned that they are either unfamiliar with CMU EMS or would not utilize the resource unless there was an extremely serious emergency, unaware that EMS helps students with any medically related issue, no matter how minor.

How can students better take advantage of CMU Medical Services?

The Research Process



6  CMU Students

CMU students were unfamiliar with CMU EMS, and many mentioned they"would just call 911 instead."

3    Members of CMU Medical Services

EMS student staff receive very few calls and have the resources to receive many more.

How can we address the pain points of both CMU students and CMU Medical Services?

Synthesizing the student and EMS experience

Using what we learned from listening to CMU students and members of the CMU EMS team during interviews, our team mapped out their individual journeys to more clearly understand their current state experience. 


We were shocked to find very few overlapping pain points between the two. We originally wrongly assumed that the pain points would mostly occur during the physical interaction between students and medical service providers. Instead, this interaction began when students first arrived on campus--whether it was hearing about CMU Medical Services during Freshman Orientation or through word of mouth.

We went to speak with students and members of EMS again.


New Insights

There was no trust issue between students and CMU Medical Services. Because the service was supported by CMU, students assumed it was qualified.

CMU students assume CMU Medical Services is meant for emergencies only. This stigma came from the service’s full name “CMU Emergency Medical Services”. Students don’t know that they can actually just call to get an icepack.


How can we change the reputation of and knowledge about CMU Medical Services as well as increase the ease of access to the service?

Additional information was added to the beginning of the user journey map after going back and speaking with students and EMS members again. 



In order to consolidate the information we learned, we created two representative personas whose needs we are addressing. 

CMU Student

Mike avoids unnecessary hassles because time is a valuable resource for him. He's not fully knowledgeable about the resources at CMU and does not actively learn about them. He feels like he can "tough out" any medical issues until it's necessary that he see a specialist.

Service Provider (Medical Services Member)

Remi is a senior at CMU. She values the safety of students at CMU and desires more direct medical experience. However, in the organization, she feels underutilized because very few calls come in when she's on shift. 

How can we explore the overlap between observed and perceived needs?

We created 6 different scenarios and tested the storyboards on CMU students. We found:

  • The CMU Medical Services website has very little information currently. However, students would never have the motivation to access the website in the first place

  • Users really resonated with the idea of a lower-stakes communication with CMU Medical Services where they did not have to call (especially the same phone number as CMU Campus Police) and wait for them to arrive at the student’s physical location.

The following storyboard resonated the most with users we interacted with

Design Process

Lo-Fi Prototyping and User Testing

What did we learn from usability testing?

01   Users did not care about the year of major of the EMS members, but only the                members' experience within EMS and their gender.


         Keeping this in mind, we included the EMS members' years in the program and           their pronouns but erased their major and age to prevent having too much                   information on the screen. 

02   The scrolling motion on the mobile version is not very efficient for our users.

          Therefore, we reduced the size of the profile cards so users can see more users            at once without having to scroll as much. 

User flow map of messenger platform

The Final Design

Users have the ability to select which EMS member they would like to interact with. They have the choice to stay anonymous and provide feedback at the end of their chat. 

EMS members can track how many people they've helped on the chat and how many hours they have been on shift in total

Students and medical service members can use the chat service on desktop or tablet as well.


Value and Takeaways

Value Created

Our solution creates immense value for both the CMU student and EMS service provider.

CMU Student

  • Easy access

  • Increase in knowledge about CMU Medical Services

  • More control and choice over assistance (accessible on any device and can choose member on shift to chat with)

Service Provider (Medical Services Member)

  • Ability to help a larger number of individuals

  • More opportunities for self-tracking

  • Can help people on-the-go due to flexibility of the platform

Next Steps

My teammates and I had a lot of fun pitching our solution to our professors and peers, but we also received great feedback for next steps we can consider moving forward.

More user testing and more iterations. 

In the course, we were under a time constraint and only conducted speed dating and user testing with users. However, this is problematic as we did not conduct these studies with service providers and therefore, assumed the value created for them. Moving forward, we plan to conduct speed dating and user testing with service providers as well. We will also conduct more user testing and usability testing with the live chat prototypes to continue improving the platform. Last, we hope to interact with a more representative group of users as there are many factors that can affect students' opinions of medical services such as age, cultural background, and more that our team needs to keep in mind.

Key Takeaways

1. Researchers often begin with many assumptions and biases.

Our team started off the project with a few assumptions about the users and service providers of CMU Medical services, especially because we are all CMU students. However, it was important to keep in mind that we are not the users. Separating myself from being the user was a challenge. In order to do this, our team made sure to interview students who were strangers to us to prevent bias. In addition, before interacting with users and service providers, I would pretend I was learning about a completely different university (not CMU) and step into the mindset of me learning about people and situations I was not familiar with.

​2. Research is rarely a linear process. It's okay to pivot. 

Research is an iterative process, no matter the stage the team is in. Many times, teams will go back into the field to learn new information about users and service providers, and the direction of projects will change depending on findings. Research is about being flexible, open-minded, and patient!

It is okay to not have all the answers and change your research direction as you learn more about the problem space.

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