Bridge created the Circle app after one of our staff and his family went through several weeks of caring for and about his grandfather as his health declined. Circle’s goal is to help people – chief caregivers, family members, and extended circles of friends – lend support to loved ones in a range of ways when help is needed.
At the center of Circle is the patient. The patient UX sets up categorized care needs and routines, and establishes caregiver relationships. A patient can view their daily agenda, get reminders about scheduled events like appointments or medications, log things like eating or taking meds–and most importantly, reach out via the app to their circle of care with requests for help. Those might be logistical, such as for a ride to the doctor; comfort-related such as a food treat, or emotional, such as simply for some companionship at home. The app’s focus is on bringing loved ones closer, however needed.
A spouse, close family member, or friend can be designated as a primary caregiver. That person has access to the patient’s complete information, including confidential medical information. They can get notifications, around medication logging for example; they can see the requests a patient makes and who is responding to them; and they can make requests themselves. Primary caregivers can keep an eye out even when at a distance that needs are being met.
People in a wider circle of friendship can participate as secondary caregivers. They can receive and respond to requests coming from the patient (or the care team). They might sign up to cook and deliver a meal, come over and clean, pick up something from the pharmacy, or do some reading aloud at the patient’s home or hospital bed.
Circle asks vulnerable people to rely on an app for assistance with crucial tasks like managing medication routines, or communicating needs to caregivers. It was important that the design promote trust, to ease adoption by in particular older people who may be less used to entrusting so much of themselves to their devices.
Recognizing the need to reach out to patients in their own comfort zone, Circle generates printable paper daily plans, which include medication regimens and other scheduled events like visits and tasks. Medications and their dosing directions are described using names and language the patient actually uses, rather than potentially unfamiliar “official” terms.
Users of all stripes–patients but also caregivers–may have compromised vision or motor control due to age or disability. Circle settings include at a choice of scale, so users can select their optimum for view and touch control.
To make it easy for lots of people in a patient’s life to pitch in, Circle offers several routes to participation. Caregivers might connect by accessing the app, or might receive requests in the form of emails or texts providing links to a website where they can sign up. Circle makes it easy to join casually and lets caregivers help at whatever level they are comfortable with.
Circle’s care information combined with a smart phone’s gps enables support delivered at the right time and place. At appointment time Circle might help users navigate hospital corridors to get to the right office. A friend passing by a patient’s home might get a text that a short visit would be welcome. A caregiver who logged a doctor visit might see a checklist the next day including a reminder about a bandage change.