LongCo is a digital health intervention for people with long-lasting symptoms of Covid-19.
Help patients manage and reduce symptoms
For some people, Covid-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has passed. This is referred to as post-covid syndrome or "Long Covid". Patients report a range of symptoms, including extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, chest pains and impaired cognition ("brain fog").
During my master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction, I led a team tasked with producing an app to support people suffering from Long Covid. Through research, we found patients mentioning fatigue and brain fog as particularly debilitating. We didn't feel a digital experience would help resolve the remaining symptoms, given their life-threatening nature or unclear origins.
Energy envelope theory
Different things contribute to fatigue and can make it last a long time. Low levels of physical activity, a disturbed daily routine, poor sleep patterns, demanding work, caring responsibilities, low mood, anxiety and stress can all make fatigue worse. Our app, LongCo, helps patients manage and reduce these factors by promoting energy conservation behaviours such as pacing, planning and prioritisation.
It was designed based on energy envelope theory which suggests that patients who maintain their expended energy at a level consistent with their available energy will have better health outcomes and quality of life compared to those who over-expend their energy levels. I led the experience design, facilitating efforts to scope, prototype and evaluate LongCo.
- motivate patients to engage in self-management and fatigue-tracking;
- reduce fatigue levels and increase energy;
- tailor support according to individual differences;
- and help clinicians remotely monitor patient progress.
Due to ethical concerns around conducting research with vulnerable groups, UCL restricted us from collecting data directly from patients. To overcome this constraint, we used existing resources such as peer-reviewed studies, patient stories, online support groups, and news articles.
This research approach presented several challenges, including rapidly changing information and conflicting medical advice. Some clinicians argue that post-viral fatigue originates from irrational beliefs and avoidance behaviours, recommending cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise. Whereas others suggest this is an ineffective and potentially harmful treatment combination. These inconsistencies made it difficult to select a focus for LongCo. After toying around with a few ideas, we decided to base our design on energy envelope theory as it was the most supported treatment method in patient accounts.