PlainMed: Award-Winning Mobile Medical Dictionary for Patients

I designed and developed the first plain language medical dictionary on Android platform, helping average people understand medical terms. It is published under the official University of Michigan name and the PlainMed app family (including apps on iOS & web) won 2013 Thompson Reuters/Frank Bradway Rogers Information Advancement Award.

PlainMed is available on Android Market. Please note that the dictionary content is out of my scope.

About PlainMed

The Plain Language Medical Dictionary is a project of the University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library as part of the Michigan Health Literacy Awareness project. It translates high-level medical terms to plain English language so that people without proper knowledge can still understand medical terms.

Design and Development

App Screenshots

The previous version of PlainMed is a web-based gadget that allows users to choose a word from a drop-down list with thousands of entries and then explanation shows up. This is very difficult to use and un-user-friendly.

My goal was designing an application that is convenient to look up for medical terms and has smooth Android-style user interactions. I first created a set of wireframes for discussing with stakeholders. During the design and development iterations I continued improving my design concept.

PlainMed has the following design highlights:

  • Different default screen for first-time users and recurring users
  • Recent search history page for non-native speakers and patients with memory symptoms
  • Universal access to search (by touching Android search button)
  • Instant search results: results appear while typing
  • For expressions with multiple words that are often seen in medical terms, match search query to every word (For example, searching "Immune" will also return "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrom")
  • Able to share the term and definition using SMS, Email, Facebook, Twitter, or any channel that is installed on the Android system
  • Visual style that resembles real paper-based dictionary