Project Overview

It's official: Canada is having an opioid-overdose epidemic. At a minimum, 2300 Canadians died last year due to an opioid overdose. It does not help that current rescue strategies premise on users being in the presence of others -because statistics show that those who use, mostly use alone. How might we address this pressing need to rescue people from overdosing alone? 

This project is a collaboration initiative between UHN OpenLab and the Toronto Population Health Solutions Lab. It aims to create a rescue solution for people who use drugs alone, and are unable and/or unwilling to contact 911 for help during an overdose. 


My Role 

I am a co-leading this project, and assume the role of Service Designer and UX/UI Designer. My work includes:  

  • Conducting preliminary desk research

  • Conducting interviews and focus groups with end users and stakeholders, as well as observational studies

  • Facilitating co-design workshops and the ideation process

  • Sketching, Wireframing, & Prototyping

  • Usability testing 

We set out to adopt design thinking and participatory design to ensure the solution will be both usable and favourable to end-users. 

The Process

While existing policies are focused on banning the use of drugs all together, I think we need to take a different lens - user-centered one - to empathize with users, and design rescue solutions according to their needs. The truth is...whether you like it or not, there will be people who will continue to use drugs. How might we find ways to rescue them if they overdose alone? 

With the data and insights that we have collected thus far, we began to brainstorm potential concepts. We created a diagram of how the rescue network would look like. I also created some sketches for the potential mobile app, as well as a storyboard to go alongside to explain how the app could be used to rescue someone in the situation.

Ideation: Sketching, Wireframing

Before I joined the project team, my fellow members obtained a full year of police reports on drug overdose, and looked for trends associated with users overdosing alone. I then joined the team with conducting an environmental scan on existing resources including mobile apps with features that were designed to or could potentially be adopted to address the need for rescue.

Police Reports, Environmental Scan

User Research: Interviews, Focus Groups

We then conducted interviews and focus groups with end-users and stakeholders including staff from harm reduction groups. We were able to empathize with the users' journey, and identify current workarounds initiated by them. We are now conducting more user research with drug users and trained people with naloxone kits. I am responsible for creating the Interview Guide, as well as going into the safe injection sites around the city to meet and speak with users and volunteer rescuers. 

Next Steps

We will be testing the mockup prototype with end-users at some safe injection sites soon. We hope to get their feedback for iterative improvements. Some potential challenges expected include how to build trust with end-users, how to protect them without compromising their confidentiality, how to ensure the app can integrate into our formal legislative and health care systems? After all, I need to create something that the users will actually adopt and use in the end. I need to create value to them by taking a human-centric approach and involving them in the design process. 

Overdose Rescue Network

Rescuing drug users who overdose alone

  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon

© 2017 by Cheryl Tsui