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A web-based matchmaking application for connection and support in the dying process

A program designed to connect a dying individual or his/her loved one with a connection to someone who can provide support and guidance

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Dying individuals and their loved ones are prone to spiritual and/or emotional suffering, and many would benefit from additional social support. While family members, healthcare professionals, clergy, and support group peers are often helpful in this capacity, they may not be able to relate to specific aspects of an individual's dying/grieving process. This program would provide the user with a match based on characteristics that are important to him/her in order to provide a unique perspective.

My idea is a web-based and/or smartphone app-based program that allows dying individuals or their loved ones to connect with individuals that are uniquely suited to provide support and guidance. It is a re-imagination of the concept of a classic support group; rather than attending a more generic support group (often based on diagnosis alone), the program would allow individuals to specify the characteristics that are most important to them in an "empathizer" or  "sponsor," and match them accordingly. (updated 7/13/2016)

There are already many support groups, both online and in person, for people dealing with specific disease processes. These groups are inherently designed to bring together individuals with one thing in common - in the case of cancer support groups, this commonality is usually a unifying diagnosis. These groups are often diverse in all other respects, which is not necessarily a bad thing.... It is likely beneficial for 40-year-olds to speak with 20- and 60-year-olds, for those with children of different ages to compare family dynamic and for those of different faiths to discuss their unique approaches to adversity. However, the advice and support of someone with more similar backgrounds, beliefs and/or circumstances would likely be uniquely beneficial.

The goal of this program would be to create 1-on-1 relationships between people who are matched together based on commonalities of their choosing.  Given enough membership, such a program could match people based on any number of preferences using systems similar to dating services: gender, age, language, religious background, type of disease, predominant symptoms, etc. Video chatting and texting could allow these relationships to span the globe, and use of a phone- or web-based application could even allow for these connections to remain anonymous if desired. 

The end product of such a program would be the development of relationships, the extent of which would be up to the users themselves. Perhaps a patient is looking for a partner in dying or a family member is looking for an outlet to share a positive or negative experience to someone who wants to listen. Ultimately, we could create a social network, in which people can share their experiences and bring death out of the shadows. 7/26/2016

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

First, we could create a more primitive form of this service, in which participants fill out profiles and are manually partnered with each other. Participants could be identified at the time of referral to Hospice and /or outpatient/home-based palliative care programs and randomly assigned to receive the additional service described vs. the usual care provided by Hospice/palliative care. Survey-based outcomes could identify if the program improves quality of life over usual care alone. 7/26/2016

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Obviously such a venture would require someone with tech experience to create and manage such a service and its web and/or phone app interface. The business aspect and sustainability of such a program would also be a challenge as this service should be free and without invasive/disruptive advertising.

Tell us about your work experience:

I recently finished internal medicine residency, and started a palliative care fellowship at Kaiser Permanente in LA. I have an interest in design and I'm a firm believer that user-friendliness is the key to success in almost everything. 7/26/2016

This idea emerged from

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Welcome to the refinement phase Dov! Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:

1. How might this idea address the unique needs of the target audience you're designing for?
2. Clearly summarize the value offering of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps
4. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value offering:
5. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 07/12" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

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Hi Dov, 

Here are some feedback from our sponsors and panel of experts. Looking forward to how you'll iterate on this in the upcoming weeks! 

We're really excited by the emergence of ideas around finding a non-medical specialist who would connect with patients and families. The rise of the 'death doula' is a really interesting one, but again, thinking of a service or platform for their deployment is an interesting design challenge. Particularly for those at the very last stages of life, a personal interaction to explain how things may go, would be incredibly powerful. It also is not limited to hospices or homes, they could easily be introduced in hospitals too.

Also, you might like tot check out Jim's Mortality Coach idea!

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