In keeping with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s holistic approach—treating the whole patient, not just their cancer—we collaborated to design a new way for older teen and young adult cancer patients to connect. The Lounge app is for this unique population (teens and young adults, or “TYA”) at MSK and serves as an extension of their physical lounge space. Combined, the two engender a community where TYA patients identify with one another, share experiences, and find reliable answers to their questions. Unlike mainstream social networks, The Lounge app is a private network designed specifically for this cohort to discuss life during and after cancer treatment at MSK.
At any given time, MSK has close to 700 young people—ranging in age from early teens to late twenties—in treatment for illnesses like leukemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, and sarcoma. Because these young patients are a relative minority among the overall cancer population, they’re often treated in pediatric or other wards alongside patients whose ages vary dramatically from theirs. This can be very isolating, so MSK partnered with Teen Cancer America, an organization founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who, to create a physical space to help young patients connect. Recognizing the need to take those same sentiments beyond the physical lounge’s walls—when patients are at home, in treatment, or in their hotel during hospital visits—MSK brought Moment on as a partner to craft a digital companion. Thanks to our previous work on MyMSK, Moment had a deep understanding of MSK’s objective of extending their network outside the hospital.
“When you look in the hospital system as it was, there was absolutely nothing for teenagers. They were too old to be treated as children but too young to be treated as adults—so they were completely isolated.”
— Roger Daltrey, The Who
For cancer patients, confiding in a cohort that understands what they’re going through is important. It’s also important for them to be able to engage without feeling a huge burden to interact face-to-face, especially when they’re in multiple locations or fatigued by treatment. Social media provides an opportunity for that engagement, but turning to Facebook to share treatment experiences just doesn’t feel right. These sentiments uncovered the need for a special network that could help them make connections with fellow and former cancer patients.
With this knowledge, Moment and stakeholders at MSK kicked off the design phase with a brand workshop that set a bold, non-clinical visual tone, value proposition, and content strategy for the app. With an understanding of the user needs and MSK’s goals, we developed a concept for a secure, monitored (by MSK staff) way for users to virtually meet other young adults in treatment; ask questions of their peers and MSK clinicians; post to a daily newsfeed; find resources; and get alerts about programming and events. We also built unique features that allow patients to react with emoji for the days when treatment leaves them with low energy levels. Additionally, we created a service blueprint for the community managers moderating forums and interactions. The mix of topical content, along with deeper, facilitated discussions caters to the whole patient, beyond the hospital walls.
Bridging the gap between a physical space and a digital companion, The Lounge sets the blueprint for future digital products for MSK. Considering the patient’s journey through treatment and transforming the hospital stay will change the way the healthcare system cares for highly segmented groups.
The Lounge app allows MSK to facilitate connections between more patients across facilities. For those who’ve already gone through treatment, it harnesses their desire to give back, and keeps them involved in the community.
TYA patients have different emotional and social needs than older adults or children. This app targets their needs directly, providing a “digital native” community to engage in.
Converging a specialty physical space with a digital companion and a palette of services, events, and social resources makes it easier for patients to interact with MSK’s support services and stay connected.
Cancer treatment for teens and young adults can be life altering, but the experience needn’t halt every aspect of daily life. The Lounge app allows them some respite from their medical issues and to re-focus on normal life. The connections young patients and alumni make via the app help them receive reliable answers to their questions (supplemented by trained clinicians) and ultimately strengthens MSK’s level of care. The Lounge app helps MSK maintain their position as a forward-thinking healthcare provider and helps raise awareness of the hospital’s innovations and fundraising initiatives.