AidAbroad helps sick travelers to navigate complex health services in foreign countries.


  • Team: Collaborative student project with Tracy Potter, Yoon-ji Kim, Courtney Pozzi, and Zai Aliyu
  • Context: Designing for Service (Spring 2016), Instructor Molly Steenson
  • Tools Used: Service Blueprinting, Journey Mapping, Stakeholder and Territory Mapping
  • Credits: Yoon-ji Kim for visual design

My Role

  • Design Research: I interviewed several participants during the exploratory phase, as well as helped to synthesize findings and to generate design implications and directions.
  • Concept Development: I worked on developing the pricing structure of the service concept, and worked with the team to create the journey map and service blueprint.
  • Service Prototyping: I helped devise prototyping techniques to test our service features, and helped to facilitate these sessions.
  • Photography: I took high-fidelity photographs for our final design mockups.

Design Brief

During this half-semester long project, we were tasked to "design for something that is broken" with service design principles. My team and I targeted the problem situations of travelers getting sick abroad, and the myriad of problems associated with trying to access quality healthcare in an unfamiliar environment. Our design solution was AidAbroad, a service concept that connects sick travelers with liaisons who can help them navigate through complex health systems.

A service that connects sick travelers with quality care through a trusted local Aide.

AidAbroad transforms a traveler’s experience of finding information about and receiving medical aid. We connect travelers who are in need of medical help with local medical resources via a web-based platform. The sick user would first use the AidAbroad platform to contact an AidAbroad Consultant, who would then recommend to the user a series of possible next steps. For instance, the sick user could ask to be connected to a local Aide, which is a service personnel contracted with AidAbroad who is located in the same vicinity as the user and could provide services such as transportation to the nearest medical facilities and translating medication. The AidAbroad platform also allows the user to access other medical-related services, such as the delivery of care items to the user as well as helping the user contact a concierge doctor.

How AidAbroad Works


Design Process: Developing AidAbroad

When tasked with design for something that is broken, our team went through several sessions of ideation before arriving at the problem area of healthcare while traveling. After identifying that this is the area that we would like to dig into, our team conducted extensive exploratory research with stakeholders who have been ill while traveling to develop insights into how we may intervene. We then tested our hypotheses using several prototyping methods, before refining our solution with a storyboard prototype and the development of service blueprints and user journey maps to illustrate the AidAbroad concept.

Exploratory Research


Method 1: Developing Our Problem Space

We decided to tackle the issue of travelers getting sick while traveling abroad after realizing there exists a lack of effective services addressing this essential need of travelers. From anecdotal experiences, we determined that there is a great amount of uncertainty surrounding the problem situation where the traveler requires medical attention while abroad. We also looked into current services that offer some sort of medical help when abroad, such as:

What we learned: We determined that despite the availability of these services, they are mostly concentrated on the financial side of the medical journey rather than on the user’s holistic medical experience.

Method 2: Determining Research Questions

From this initial identification of the problem space, we identified several areas we wanted to explore during our initial research using an in-class brainstorming exercise. We identified several key questions to guide our research during the next phase:

Is sickness while traveling a frequent phenomenon?
How do travelers currently deal with illnesses while abroad?
What stakeholders are usually involved in the problem situation?
How do travelers deal with the financial side of medical emergencies while abroad?

Method 3: Surveys

We sent out a survey to get a sense of people’s general impressions of dealing with health while traveling. The survey was sent out to our friends on our social networks, and we accumulated responses over the Spring Break period.

What we learned: Most people have gotten sick while traveling abroad, in varying levels of seriousness. For those who experienced sickness, they were emotionally distressed. In terms of treatment, most treated themselves by waiting it out or by buying medicine. Finally, most people had some degree of difficulty in getting medical help. Lack of information and language barriers were the most cited problems.

Method 4: In-Depth Interviews

We conducted three interviews and collected transcript data from all three. We utilized a standardized protocol of interview questions, and delved deeper into certain key pieces when the situation arose. We first asked the participants to recall a recent time when they experienced sickness while traveling abroad, and delved deeper into their emotional and logistical stressors while incapacitated abroad. We also asked for their impressions on current medical services for illnesses abroad, such as traveler's insurance.

What we learned: All interviewees reported having a local contact was crucial in helping them navigate the local medical scene as well as to quell their anxiety when they fell ill while abroad. Understanding medicine labels was very difficult, especially when it comes to side effects and allergens. Trust was also a factor for travelers, given that foreign hospitals may not trust traveler's health insurance, and travelers may not trust the quality of care offered. Finally, FOMO was present for two of our interviewees. They reported feeling like they were missing out while invalid.



Through a business model canvas exercise, we brainstormed possible design directions to bridge care providers and sick travelers.

Design Directions


Some things that we considered were a secondary contact via a trusted first degree contact, creating a network of designated doctors, concierge doctors, and possibly texting with doctors. We wondered how could we get people to not just Google treating their illness? Who were people that our clients could trust to take care of them in a state of need?


Concept Development


Our first iteration looked at the possibility of connecting sick users directly with local doctors by first connecting them to a phone doctor who could give a quick diagnosis. From here we devised several storyboard scenarios to evaluate our concepts in front of potential users of our system.

We outlined a few different scenarios that our service could take and put these in front of people to get their reactions. We alternated the scenarios based on their geographical location, the sickness or injury of the user, and the type of care they received. For example, in one scenario the user got a stomach bug and received a phone diagnosis via a remote doctor. In another scenario, the user was injured and was taken to the hospital with the help of an Aide.


Testing Hypotheses


Rapid Prototyping with Speed Dating & Bodystorming Scenarios

We put our storyboards in front of some users to test the different concepts in front of them and to get feedback on what direction to proceed in. We learned that our users were concerned with Aide professionalism, the monetary cost of seeking out the help of an Aide, and the diagnoses given over the phone by a phone doctor.

We then tested our refined scenarios in a bodystorming exercise to understand what types of information a sick traveler would like to know from a service like ours while in an impaired state. We learned that our users were interested in the cost of the service first and foremost, and also exhibited interest in having their medicines delivered to them.


After testing our hypotheses and prototyping the key interactions of our service, we began the task of mapping out the key touchpoints of our service in service blueprints and journey maps. We also narrowed down the scope of our concept to only service travelers in larger metropolitan areas, with plans to expand to less populated areas of the world once the service gets traction.



After creating the overall framework of our service, we then honed in on the details of our touchpoints. What should the Aide say when she is in contact with the sick traveler? What types of information should we show on the UI to show users trustworthiness in Aides? What qualifications should we enforce for Aide training? What script should the phone liaison say when she first makes contact with the traveler?

AidAbroad: A Service Concept

Our service is not a travel health insurance service; rather, what we do is provide care for when people need it the most, in situations where they are the most vulnerable. We learned during our research that when in a weakened state, travelers are usually more worried about how to feel better than about how much their care would cost. This is why AidAbroad provides reliable care rather than financial insurance, because care is what sick travelers need the most.

AidAbroad: Our Mission

AidAbroad helps to connect travelers to medical resources when they are get sick or injured in an unfamiliar, foreign environment. It is our mission to take the guesswork out of dealing with healthcare abroad by providing the user with a one-stop all-inclusive solution.


AidAbroad: Service Blueprint

In our blueprint we map the main user journey, human touch points, digital touchpoints, backstage channels of the aide, service, and clinic, as well as the necessary local infrastructure for our services and overall emotional effects on the user throughout their experience.


AidAbroad: Alternative User Journeys

There are a few different potential journeys through the AidAbroad service depending on the needs and preferences of the traveler. The user would first become aware of the AidAbroad service through partnerships with third party businesses such as Airbnb, travel booking sites like Expedia or Priceline, travel agents, or health care professionals. After deciding to use the service user journeys include experiences such as having the service call a concierge doctor for the traveler, the requesting of care items to be delivered to the traveler, or setting up appointments for them. These would all be additional alternate options to the main journey shown in our service blueprint where the Aide is guiding the traveler through the foreign healthcare system.


AidAbroad: Stakeholders and Value Flow

There are several different potential stakeholders in the AidAbroad service. The key stakeholders are the traveler, the local aide, and the phone consultant, who are representative of the service. We actively chose to keep local clinics and hospitals, medical staff, and pharmacies on the periphery of the stakeholder map because while they are resources that will be used by AidAbroad travelers, they act independently of our service.


AidAbroad: Proposed Pricing Structure

We priced our service in three tiers, using a hybrid of membership-based and on-demand models. Users of AidAbroad are generally recommended to sign up beforehand, like in the medical insurance model where users pay before the occurrence of an illness to be covered under the service offerings. There are two types of memberships users can enroll in before traveling - single trip, which covers a trip up to 30 days in length, and an annual membership for frequent travelers.

We also developed an ‘on-demand’ price for users who did not sign up beforehand and are enrolling in the service when they are in a situation of getting sick. The on-demand model is more expensive than the single-trip offering, and is only valid for one-time use as opposed to coverage for the the full trip.