How would you design a VR product for hospitals?

A Product Design Question for Product Management Interviews

The Question

Suppose Oculus is thinking of making a VR product for hospitals. How would you design this product?

Answer Structure

A good strategy to tackle this sort of question is to use the CIRCLES Method™ from Lewis Lin’s book Decode and Conquer. The method can be summarized as:

C — Ask clarifying questions to narrow the scope (Context).

I — Identify the users/customers as personas like food lovers, soccer moms, etc.

R — Report on their needs. Describe their behaviors and based on those behaviors what are their needs and describe use cases.

C — Cut through and prioritize needs you will address.

L — List at least three solutions.

E — Evaluate these solutions’ tradeoffs

S — Summarize:

  • Which solution you would recommend
  • Recap what the solution does and why is it beneficial
  • Why you prefer this solution

Answer Example

INTERVIEWEE: I don’t know much about VR technology, except that it is a visual technology that immerses the user into a virtual world, am I right?

INTERVIEWER: Yes, that is correct. There are currently several uses for VR technology, such as diagnosis of brain related injuries such as concussions, Alzheimer’s among others, psychiatric treatment, and it is used for entertainment. We are interested in developing a VR product for the case of psychiatric treatment, such as for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With VR a person can be taken back to a traumatic event to resurface trauma that can be treated.

INTERVIEWEE: Okay, so, my understanding is that you would like to design a VR product that a psychiatrist could use in a hospital setting, and that this product will help resurface trauma that will be triggered via VR scenes.

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

INTERVIEWEE: Are there any specific requirements or constraints?

INTERVIEWER: Well, it has to be something the patients can put on and feel comfortable wearing while seated or lying down. And of course, cost is an issue.

INTERVIEWEE: Okay, please give me a minute to think about this.

(After one minute.)

INTERVIEWEE: Okay, I would like to start first by discussing who the possible users of this product will be, then possible use case scenarios, a few solutions and wrap up with my recommendation.

Use Cases

INTERVIEWEE: Let’s talk about the users. Victims of trauma can be of any age, children or adults. They can be victims of physical or verbal abuse, or have experienced trauma in their line of work like in the case of military or police personnel. So, I see several use cases that arise:

  • A child that experienced a traumatic event but cannot recollect it
  • Military person that suffered war trauma
  • Police that suffered trauma during a violent event
  • A civilian that experienced a horrific scene

INTERVIEWEE: In all of these cases, I can see the need for different types of tasks that the product should provide, such as:

  • Display scenes similar to the traumatic event. Selection of the scenes should be controlled by the doctor.
  • Ability to plan the sequence of different scenes.
  • Playback should be easily controlled by the patient and doctor.
  • The ability for the doctor to mark and associate comments to specific scenes.
  • The ability to transcribe these comments to text for the doctor to study later.
  • The ability to search for these marks/comments.
  • Maybe the ability to map emotional reactions to different areas of the brain for later analysis.
  • The VR headset should be adjustable to children and adult head sizes, or have two different sizes

Prioritization

INTERVIEWEE: Of all the users, I would focus on military personnel because government funding is likely to be available, and there is already an existing large number of war veterans in need.

Solutions

INTERVIEWEE: I think most of the cases I mentioned can be easily added to a VR headset, except for the mapping of emotions to brain areas, since that would require sophisticated sensors. I think that the most pressing need for the psychiatrist is to resurface the trauma or traumatic event they want to treat as opposed to researching deeper what parts of the brain are affected. Therefore, I would recommend focusing on all the cases I mentioned except for the brain mapping feature.

INTERVIEWEE: Here is a list of solutions:

  • A pair of VR headsets, one for the patient and one for the doctor that are synchronized when they play, so that the doctor can relate to what the patient is experiencing to understand his condition better.
  • The VR headset should be wireless enabled and light so it is easy to wear and move around.
  • A handheld wireless remote control for the patient and doctor, so that the doctor can control playback, and the patient could also control it.
  • Software for the doctor to create video sequences to present to the patient. A doctor could select videos made by experts that have been curated and associated with typical traumas.
  • The ability to load or stream the VR scenes to the headset.
  • A digital pad, that is overlaid on the video so the doctor can write annotations on the scenes.
  • A transcription of the annotations to text for the doctor.

INTERVIEWEE: For an MVP, I would prioritize the ability to create the video sequences, the remote control feature, and the use of streaming instead of loading into the VR headset. I would leave the annotation and pad for later, because it seems to me that we need to test first if the doctors find this way of treatment useful before adding more functionality. Adding more functionality would only add value if the doctors find the VR display of scenes useful.

INTERVIEWEE: The risk of delaying the annotation feature is that if doctors found the device really useful, they may feel frustrated by not having the ability to make annotations.

INTERVIEWEE: So, to wrap up:

  • I recommend making two VR headsets: one for the patient and one for the doctor that are synchronized. And add the remote control functions, video streaming, and software for content creation.
  • This solution would allow a doctor to resurface trauma that otherwise would be difficult to do since patients repress traumatic events unless triggered by reliving the experience.
  • I chose to do an MVP without annotation capabilities because I find these features of secondary value.