USC Health Center Redesign


Refining the external medical referral process to better aid the mental toll on students and demand on student health centers.


Interaction Design
UI Design


Oct 2018 - Nov 2018 (3 weeks)


Pen + Paper
Adobe XD

Design Process


How might we make the referral process in campus health centers more supportive while allowing individuals to easily find the right care provider based on their needs?

Clarifying the Problem


Going to school out-of-state, the transition into college did not go as smoothly as I thought it would. Starting over and making new friends took time, creating mental health issues that made my first semester very tough. As I talked to more people, I realized that these mental health problems were rampant throughout campus, but no one sought help from the student health center. After talking to others in similar situations and learning about the lack of resources on campus, I recognized the need for an overhaul of the way that the university refers students when resources are low.

Surveying Students

To gather a better perspective on the scope of this issues, I sent out surveys to students at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Southern California. The main goal of these surveys was to understand the severity of mental health issues across college campuses as well as the reasons that people were not getting the help they need. In order to best sample the national college student population within constraint, there were 2 primary considerations:

​Students were from both public and private institutions
Public and private institutions can differ greatly in the quality/funding of student resources. By gathering data from both USC and UT, I would have a better picture of what university mental health problems look like nationwide.
​Students were from a variety of backgrounds and academic contexts
At both institutions, the students were surveyed from a pool of various majors and social involvements. This was important to me because I wanted to make sure that my data didn't tell a false narrative by focusing only on exceptionally stressful academic spaces.
Constructing the Survey

After gathering a sample that met these conditions, I sent them a brief survey to lay the foundation of my knowledge of this issues. Some of these questions included:

Do you feel that USC has provided you with adequate mental health resources?
How does USC fall short in providing quality mental health support?
How accessible are mental health professionals at USC?
Survey Results

With a sample size of 52, the survey showed results that mirrored my initial impressions of mental health on college campuses.

reported that they have suffered with mental health issues while in college
reported mental health professionals as being inaccessible
reported that their university does not provide them with adequate mental health resources, with most citing the “lack of available counselors” as being a huge reason why they did not seek treatment

After noticing the frequency of people citing mental health counselors being inaccessible​, I reached out to 5 individuals who were willing to share more details about their experience with their campus health center. These interviews consisted of 10-15 minute phone calls where I listened to their stories and guided the discussion to focus on the way the system failed them when they needed it most. ​

The most resonating quotes included:

Overwhelmed by my mental health and the concept of trying to find a therapist that I could affognored the referral list.

No one ever reached out from the health center.
If the university won't hire more qualified therapists to support our student body, then they at least need to develop more efficient and supportive procedure for referrals.

The process of seeking professional help is intimidating and terrifying.
I waited 3 weeks to get an appointment, causing me to spiral more than when I first called them.
Defining the Problem

To see the problem at a high level, I mapped out the current outcomes for different types of students seeking care.


For high-risk and low-risk patients, the process of calling and scheduling dozens of external referrals is time-consuming and mentally overwhelming, leading to many students not receiving the care that he/she needs.

From my interviews and problem-mapping, I was able to see the ways that students were experiencing this issues in different ways. In order to keep these diverse perspectives in mind, I created a persona for the main types of students I encountered.

Overwhelmed by my mental health and the concept of trying to find a therapist that I could affognored the referral list.

No one ever reached out from the health center.
If the university won't hire more qualified therapists to support our student body, then they at least need to develop more efficient and supportive procedure for referrals.

The process of seeking professional help is intimidating and terrifying.
I waited 3 weeks to get an appointment, causing me to spiral more than when I first called them.

Filling the Market Gap

Competitive Analysis

Initially, I looked to the market to determine why this problem had yet to be solved. I determined that there were three primary forms of receiving mental healthcare, each with their own weaknesses.

Find-a-Doctor Apps
Searchable database of doctors as well as opportunity to instant contact.
Consolidates information
Simplifies search process
Establishes contact with external doctors
Not integrated with university—students still feel alone
Mental Health Apps
Mindfulness exercises and information that encourage awareness and recovery.
Provide steps to recovery without doctor intervention
Accessible and affordable
Less effective than in-person care
Many students aren't comfortable with virtual care
Virtual Doctor Apps
Provide care through video chat sessions that permit the user to be anywhere.
Provide care from real doctors
College students find it difficult to find private spaces
Novelty factor creates some suspicion on the quality of care

The competitive analysis revealed that the only products that are accessible and easy to integrate into student's lives provide virtual care. I talked with students about these solutions, as well as read reviews. For mental health apps, I learned that these solutions can help students but cannot eliminate the need for more serious care. In terms of virtual doctor apps, I learned that students were hesitant to have these conversations over video chat due to difficulty in finding private spaces to talk about such sensitive topics.

While applications that provide nonvirtual care are more trusted, there are currently no applications that cooperate with university health centers. My peers communicated that these applications still gave them the feeling that they were alone in the process of searching for care.

Overall, I learned that the market is missing a solution that provides students with real doctors face-to-face, but in a way that is facilitated and supported by university health centers.

Deriving Design Goals

After understanding the market gap, I decided to generate goals for the product. In crafting these goals, I thought about the biggest priority to students—feeling supported throughout the referral process so that they can easily find the care they need.

Goal #1
Allow students to search, filter, and sort through a  doctors in their community.
Goal #2
Provide a sense of integration and support with university health centers.
Goal #3
Enable students to easily find and book appointments that fit their schedule.

Mapping the Journey

User Flow

With the product goals outlines, I sketched a basic user flow for a user booking an appointment with an external provider. I aimed to use this flow as an informational foundation to understand the major events in the process without being preoccupied with minor details. I found this exercise extremely helpful, as I was able to see visualize the entire process, while also noting the potential decisions that a user might make. I grew excited by recognizing the opportunity to simplify a painful, overwhelming process into something that felt as easy as ordering a meal from Uber Eats.

Crafting The Full Experience

Stylistic Decisions

When deciding on the style of the UI, I considered the product environment that this application would live in. I assumed that this product would likely need to fit within brand of the university that is using it,  so I decided to isolate the colors to white, grey, black, and an accent color that corresponds to the colors of the university. I decided to go with a more intense version of this accent color, a vibrant red in the case of USC, both to add undertones of energy and vitality, while giving the application a modern feel. I felt that this style was most appropriate for users that are mostly in their early 20s.

Furthermore, I chose Open Sans as the font family, as it is clean and friendly while being exceptionally easy to read on mobile devices. For an application that will be used for people under higher mental stress, I made it a priority to ensure that the interface felt inviting to the user.

Scheduling a Consultation
As the first touchpoint between the student and mental health services, I wanted to ensure that the consultation scheduling process was intuitive and seamless. This process consists of a simple form that allows students to be connected with the health center in just 4 steps.
Browsing Care Providers
To assist the most stressful point in the care-seeking process, the browsing interface allows users to easily view all care providers fitting user-defined criteria.
Selecting a Care Provider
For each care providers,  users can view a care profile that gives more context, such as the provider's qualifications, care philosophy, care score, and office information.
Accessing Appointment Information
When it comes time to show up the appointment, it's easy to access the most important information quickly. This reduces friction in an important moment—when students feel too busy to fit the appointment into their schedule.

Closing Thoughts

Prototyping Refines Details

Technically-speaking, this project allowed me to hone some of my prototyping skills. I found this very rewarding, as I was able to breathe in some life into my previously static screens. By reaching this point in the design process, I better understand the value of using higher-fidelity tools. While I still have a lot of room to grow, especially in terms of motion design, I am excited to continue mastering these tools.

Validation Drives Success

Designing this project also made me appreciate the potential for impact in design. Given that I have received so much problem validation, I am compelled to bring up the idea of redesigning the student health center app to my school administration in hopes of actually implementing my ideas. I believe that offering students a seamless, intuitive interface to book appointments, both at USC and externally, will transform the state of mental health on campus over time.

Good Design Requires Strong Connections with Users

More personally,  I really enjoyed designing this product because it allowed me to design for people who I have a lot of access to. I was able to have fairly intimate conversations with many of my peers which completely transformed by perception of user research. Hearing stories of struggle and hopelessness, I have truly begun to understand how powerful human-centered design is. This compelling research made it much easier to design without losing sight of personas. In essence, every decision I made was with a person in mind. While no design is perfect, I am proud of this project because it solved the design problem in a manner that is wholeheartedly tailored to the people who will be using it.

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