COPD is a chronic disease of the lungs. The symptoms, such as shortness of breath, mucus, fatigue or coughing, vary from day to day. When complaints suddenly become more severe it is called an “attack” or “flare-up”. Often extra medication, prescribed by the doctor, is needed to recover from an attack. Moreover, patients often end up in hospital as a result of such an attack. And it also has permanent negative consequences for their health.

Panton and the developers of Inspire have created an app for the UMC Utrecht, a large medical centre in the Netherlands. The app helps patients to recognise the signals of an attack in a timely manner, thus limiting negative effects on health. The project team was supported by behavioral scientists from the Publab which is affiliated with Utrecht University of Applied Sciences.

Copilot for COPD

Copilot is a mobile app that teaches COPD patients to monitor their symptoms and identify changes. In allows patients to become increasingly proficient in making the right decision, so they know what to do at the right time: learning by doing.

Self-management with COPD

Together with their research group TASTE, Jaap Trappenburg and Yvonne Korpershoek are doing research at the Julius Center of the UMC Utrecht on self-management and COPD attacks. The researchers showed that patients with the right self-management skills can have a significant influence on how a COPD attack manifests itself. To achieve this, patients need the right didactic support. Their idea to develop a COPD attack app, won the Ureka Mega Challenge 2017.

The plan of action

The design of the app was based on the paper COPD attack action plan developed by Jaap Trappenburg at the UMCU and distributed by the Dutch Lung Fund. The paper action plan is a card that both caregiver and patient fill out together. The plan uses a traffic light model. The colors of the traffic light (green, orange and red) symbolise the degree of severity of symptoms. For each color, treatment recommendations can be made.

Patient empowerment

At the moment, the paper version of action plan is successfully used with a lot of patients, but cannot eliminate the problems that patients experience in identifying the correct color zone. The app offers the possibility to provide continuous, customized and real-time didactic support to patients. This way, they learn to better manage their condition over the long term.

Design for behaviour change

To determine the content and functional requirements of the app, we collaborated with behavioral scientists from the Publab. First, the most important target behaviors were defined. Based on our knowledge of design for behavioural change and knowledge from projects – for example App.Oe – we then helped the researchers to translate these behaviours into a functional design of the app. These were tested with users and experts and later translated into a refined design.


User testing

During the design process patients were interviewed about the use of the app, the functional requirements, but also about the tone and the visual identity. This allowed us to test the interactions, functions and the visual language.

Conversational interface

Copilot uses a conversational interface. By asking questions, the app helps the user to think about his or her health. By shaping the interface as a conversation, the app not only becomes more personal, but also more accessible. This allows for complex information to be offered to the user in small meaningful pieces. We believe that more and more conversational interfaces will emerge for medical applications.


Development with Inspire

In collaboration with app developer Inspire, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was developed in 5 sprints. With the MVP, the UMCU has a first version of the app with which several practical tests can be performed in preparation for the launch of the app. The app will be made available for both iOS and Android in their respective app stores.

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