As part of International Women's Day, SIC is highlighting amazing women who are leading in their field. We spoke with Kristina, Digital Innovation Manager at Breast Cancer Care, about her work on a mobile app to support and guide women who are going through breast cancer treatment.
1. Can you tell me a bit more about what you do and what inspired you to do this work?
I’m the Digital Innovation Manager at Breast Cancer Care, the only UK-wide charity providing specialist support and tailored information for anyone affected by breast cancer. I fell into a digital career and quickly discovered what an exciting, creative, challenging and fast-paced space it was to be in. Working in a digital environment you experience the odd contrast of being at the centre of everything, yet speaking a different language at times and often trying to challenge the status quo. It takes a real people-person to be effective at digital.
I’m leading on a specific project at the moment, a mobile app called BECCA (BrEast Cancer Care App). The app supports and guides women as they finish treatment, helping them to manage the ongoing impact of breast cancer and giving them the trusted information and motivation they need, any time they need it. It’s been tested in beta as a web-app for 4 months and will launch as a mobile app in the Spring, available on Android and iPhone.
The inspiration to do this work is quite simply to try and make this world a better place. Working towards a better world for people affected by breast cancer in particular was motivated from a personal experience.
2. Can you tell us about a defining moment where you could see the impact of your project? What are you most proud of in your work?
I would love to say there was a big eureka moment! In reality though, it has been more of a dawning that this is going to be something truly helpful for the 1 in 8 women in the UK who will receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Agile and lean development is my religion, ensuring no resource goes to waste, so the app has been developed in iterations. We got women using it straight away, so we could build and adapt the product based upon their feedback and the data gathered, and with each iteration we gained more users to learn from. We found out so much about the content, and the data indicated a vast improvement in retention rates and user engagement after my colleague, Claudia Knowles (content queen), learnt more and more about our users and adapted the content in response.
The beta version as it currently stands has over 1100 users, without any paid-for marketing. The steady increase in users and impressive retention rates has been an ongoing proof of concept for us since the beta was launched.
Other moments came during user interviews and data analysis throughout the beta test. Users telling you the tool is great isn’t enough, it’s them telling you about the real-life actions and positive changes they’ve made as a result of using the app, and how it’s made them feel comforted and less alone, that has been really encouraging in terms of impact. When the data supports this too, you know that you’re onto something.
Random, unexpected feedback can be incredibly moving and constructive. We received this email the other day:
Having just been through diagnosis and active treatment for breast cancer and living on Dartmoor with little access to services or groups I was desperate for support online. I'd joined forums before but was looking for something I could access on my phone quickly. Along came BECCA. Perfect. I think I looked at all of the cards, even those that weren't relevant!”
3. What is your hope in relation to social innovation in the future? How will your work contribute to this hope?
My hopes in relation to social innovation in the future would be that there were more funding opportunities available in this area for us smaller, service-led organisations. Social innovation really is the future of how we equip people with the tools they need to manage life-long conditions, share their stories, scale support and help others too.
We aim to work with two incredible organisations, Super Being Labs and start-up, Skim.it, to deliver personalised content to a BECCA user based upon their preferences and behaviour, and updated regularly in line with new research findings around breast cancer, popular breast cancer blogs and articles, new services, products and innovations and anything that could be useful for them based upon their former activity. Using machine learning and natural language models for artificial intelligence we see BECCA becoming more conversational and responsive to sub-conscious cues from the user, and therefore able to offer even more meaningful, timely and personalised support. We’re currently seeking the external funding to enable us to shape and develop the app in this way.
Breast Cancer Care is doing something new and innovative with BECCA. If it is a success then this can pave the way for other organisations like us to innovate too. Hopefully the development of digital services will become more prolific and, as a result, better understood and more attractive to funders and policy makers in the UK.
If you want to hear more about BECCA or test out the beta app then please email: BECCA@breastcancercare.org.uk.
Follow Kristina on Twitter @KrissieBarrick