We use apps and websites every day for convenience, information, and all kinds of services. We often see the end product of these platforms and tools. We give feedback on whether we like them or not. If we do, we keep them. If we don’t, we probably decide to delete and never waste our time with them again.

Have you ever thought about who is behind these tech products/services and how they work through the design and development processes? Lyanne Mapani, a health innovation enthusiast, gives us a 411 on the life of a Product Owner working on digital health tools.

Lyanne’s background is in Global Health Innovation. As Aviro’s Product Owner,  her role sits at an intersection between the user and the developer, as she drives the vision of Ithaka and how patients and health workers experience it as a tool to support healthcare journeys and improve health outcomes.

Reflecting on how she started working in this field, Lyanne says it was more an expansion of her interest in healthcare.  “Initially  I wanted to be a doctor”, she said.  “During my undergraduate studies, I became more interested in health systems more broadly. I was drawn to data, health trends and the overall design of the healthcare system- particularly from a service delivery perspective”. She decided to take this path that stretches beyond one-to-one engagement with patients. During this time, Lyanne also worked as an outreach coordinator for the AIDS Committee in Toronto, where she engaged with various communities who are often marginalised: sharing health-related resources and information.

When she moved to South Africa to pursue her Master’s degree, she started working as an intern at Aviro. “When I started at Aviro, I was doing client-facing work and engaging with partners who were working on a Sexual and Reproductive Health project in Zimbabwe. My focus at the time was on the HIV self-testing component of the project, and I valued engaging with users and understanding how they were exploring and experiencing healthcare in their setting.”

Defining herself as a solutions-driven person, Lyanne became more interested in ways in which information and health resources can be made more accessible to users. “I learned that people have limited knowledge of their options when it comes to healthcare and sexual reproductive health, and as a result they find it challenging to navigate the healthcare system”, she said, citing that in some communities, useful information- such as about menstrual cups, female condoms, and even HIV self-testing- are still taboo. In light of this,  Lyanne’s work evolved and became more about service design and implementing user-centered principles. “It is important to center the user because the most effective solutions actually come from people facing the problem. It’s not the health system first, it’s the patient”, she said.

So, what is Lyanne’s active role in this process?

“Service Design is a broad field, and we are a small company full of passionate people. We want to provide a well-rounded product and service, and this means that sometimes one person may hold a few roles. Mine is essentially about driving the roadmap of Ithaka.  I am constantly engaging with end-users to find out what adjustments can be made to improve their overall experience using the product, ultimately with the aim of making it easier for them to make the right choices about their health”. Lyanne also engages with developers to decipher how said adjustments or improvements can be implemented (e.g. whether the feedback should translate into a training manual or a feature on Ithaka).

Lyanne’s passion is centered around patients and health workers “…and that’s why I value the qualitative aspect of our impact measure processes”. This is where Lyanne holds workshops with users to find out how they experience using the platform and improvements they would like to see. This translates into productive ideation processes on how to make the platform respond to user needs in the most frictionless manner. “Most importantly, driving positive health behaviour to achieve positive health outcomes”, she adds.

Lyanne highlights simplicity as key learning in her work. “In order to promote positive health behaviours, products and services need to not only be engaging but also be time and cost-effective. It’s important to be direct in giving the user the most important information they need when they need it. This has been mine, and I believe Aviro’s biggest lesson’, she says, adding that people mostly have the desire to take care of their health. Aviro’s work is to make it easy for them to make the right choices.

She concludes by saying that working in this environment is challenging. “It’s a challenging space, affecting real people’s lives. We are not dealing with small problems. It’s not easy work but the best thing about working at Aviro is that we center empathy as a company. One feels supported and motivated by the fact that we’re a team of passionate people. We also clearly understand that the solutions always come from people facing the problem and ours is to actively engage. So, it’s a great challenge for even greater impact”.

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