digital cure on a schedule

Supercharge worked with Egis to create a cutting-edge habit building mobile application to increase adherence to treatment plans recommended by one's healthcare professional. By harnessing the power of behavioural science we developed a strong digital ally for fighting hypertension.

Habita app mockup - Supercharge x Egis
Habita app mockup - Supercharge x Egisegis pillegis pillegis pill
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egis pill
Habita mascot - Egis app

Medicine only works if patients adhere to taking their pills

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common vascular diseases, which affects more than 20% of the adult population of the European Union.

It’s especially dangerous, because in the short term it has only mild symptoms which are barely detectable, but in the long run untreated hypertension can lead to serious health complications by increasing the risk of a heart attack, stroke and other circulatory disorders.

On top of lifestyle change and regular blood pressure monitoring, drug treatment is important too, which all require the patient to take actions regularly on a daily basis for several long years. But honestly, who doesn’t miss a pill or two once in a while?

That’s exactly why Egis reached out to us to help them design a solution that would support patients in forming a solid habit of sticking to their prescribed medication schedule.

Busy schedules vs. new habits: how to bring them together?

By the time people reach their 30s and 40s – the age when hypertension usually develops – they have already established their daily routine which, combined with our fast-paced lifestyle, makes it harder to introduce new habits, such as taking medication. Patients often forget to take their pills in the morning rush, or don’t remember whether they’ve taken them that day at all. Weekends, vacations or holidays can also pose a problem, because on these days people diverge from their regular routine.

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Our goal was to build a solution that truly serves the health of users in the long run, so the app had to be able to fit into their hectic lifestyle organically” said Sára T. Kocsis, one of the project’s UX leads.

To make a real impact, we needed to go beyond the good old push notifications. Reminders can be a useful tool, but in this case we had to bring out the big guns: we had to gather a precise understanding of what makes a habit stick from a psychological point of view.

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Harnessing the power of behavioural science to facilitate habit forming

To come up with an app that has a tangible positive impact on our users’ lives, we relied on the extended version of the habit loop framework. Carefully laid out and tested during several of our product design commissions, and building on insights from György Purebl MD, PhD, Director of Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Semmelweis University, our customised system breaks down the formation of a new habit into a four-step recurring process.

Extended Habit loop
The habit loop inspired by the Hook model of Nir Eyal, expanded based on our product innovation experience

When using the Habita app, our users will have to go through the following steps in the right order:

1) Triggers

Just as with any type of behaviour, taking your medication on time starts with a trigger that would set off the routine in question. Keeping your pills on the counter could act as such a trigger, since when you see your pills sitting there, their presence reminds you that you have to take them.

However, behavioural research shows that the most effective triggers are in fact the habits you already have. For example, if you eat breakfast at home, you can link your medication intake to your morning coffee or tea, or other habits you practice every morning (like brushing your teeth).

Our mobile application first maps out the user’s existing routines, then in a personalised journey it singles out habits that can be easily connected to their medication schedule.

In the beginning the app sends the patient push notifications to reinforce the connection between the chosen habit and their medication intake and to further cement it into their daily routine. After a few months of such training the entire process becomes automatic, and notifications will not be necessary anymore.

Habita app Egis - triggers
We introduced push notifications to set users on a habit forming journey. *The Habita app is currently not available in English, we only use the translated screens for illustration purposes.

2) Motivation

Forming a new habit requires plenty of motivation. 

In order to motivate our users we introduced a reward system in which they are faced with challenges that get gradually more complex. The level of difficulty is carefully adjusted to match each user’s current progress, so successfully tackling these challenges will offer everyone a sense of accomplishment.

At first, patients are rewarded for even small accomplishments (e.g., keeping their prescribed medication schedule for two consecutive days), but later on challenges become ever more difficult to complete. This way users will experience a sense of progress, while their level of motivation is constantly fuelled by the new challenges.

Habita app Egis - challenges
Constant challenges serve as a continuous motivational force to keep users in the flow of forming new routines

3) Ability/response

The easier and the faster it is to do something, the less motivation and resolve you need to do it. This is why we designed the user interactions to be as simple as possible, whether it comes to measuring one’s blood pressure or taking their medication. Each type of pill is listed separately under the allotted time slot, and the user can indicate whether they’ve taken them (or were unable to do so) with a simple tap.

Habita app Egis - smooth interactions
We aspired to keep user interactions as straightforward as possible.

4) Accomplishment and rewards

The fourth pillar of habit formation is the reward that follows the right behaviour, eventually reinforcing the routine. This method, however, is only effective if the reward is received immediately after the desired behaviour. This is why, when opening the app after each successful day, users are greeted with a congratulatory screen. They are praised for their efforts and encouraged to continue them. 

Habita app: motivation framework
We designed a reward system that successfully supports the formation of new habits by reinforcing the right behavioural schemes.
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With the help of the extended habit loop framework, we’ve built a powerful product that effortlessly paves our users’ way towards healthier futures through helping them adopt more conscious behavioural schemes, summarised Sára T. Kocsis.

As a result, our final app reminds patients to mark if they took their pills on time, or to measure their blood pressure regularly, but with a clear purpose in mind: to successfully incorporate their tasks regarding hypertension treatment into their daily routine. 

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Emotional design and the Habita mascot: your personal companion to help you build a healthier routine

Developing a new habit does not happen overnight: it’s a process that lasts for several months, and it requires perseverance and unwavering attention. So it’s no wonder we needed to call for some extra support to successfully navigate this period with our users. Habita, a personal virtual companion, who was created as a result of dedicated teamwork of multiple partners, thoughtfully pays attention to the patients’ individual needs and never lets go of their hands while mastering their new routine. 

In the onboarding flow, she enquires about the user’s medication schedule prescribed by their healthcare professional to remind them to take their pills at the right times. Later on, she helps with measuring their blood pressure or prompts them to book a doctor’s appointment if their medical supplies are running low. However, her strongest suit remains her encouraging nature: she often recalls various milestones the user has reached and offers them a motivational boost in critical moments.

Egis Habita mascot
Habita, a virtual companion to supports users in creating healthier routines.
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A data-driven healthcare tool to help the work of medical professionals

The recently released Habita application helps hundreds of users set up their daily medication routine and avoid or mitigate later complications. But there’s more to it: the application lets not only patients but also their doctors to follow the patients’ blood pressure. Our solution replaces the paper-based blood pressure diary with an always at hand tool, allowing users to export their reports and share them with their doctors.

Although EGIS’ multi-faced digital tool was made specifically to help patients with hypertension, such an approach could benefit millions of others suffering from different types of chronic diseases. We’ll be extremely excited to support other patient groups too in the future with such groundbreaking digital solutions. By helping them improve their health, ultimately we’ll be able to improve their lives.