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Building a mental health app to capture and serve a new market

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Company Type
Digital Health
Cambridge, UK
Design and build a mobile app to capture and serve a new market
Prototype to validate design, user onboarding process
The app launched on time, first big client won, upskilled engineering team

Since 2011, IESO Digital Health provides an online space for one-to-one cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for people with common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety being the most predominant. It removes the access barriers of therapy by giving it to patients in the comfort of their homes, at work, or even on public transport. The therapy is delivered through their mobile devices at times that suit them in a secure environment where they communicate through text-based conversation.

IESO reached out to thoughtbot London after receiving a round of funding in 2017. They wanted help building a mobile app in order to capture and serve a new and growing market in the US, one that uses mobile phones to access therapy.

“ It’s genuinely a pleasure to work with thoughtbot. They came in and didn’t say 'let’s fix mental health', they came and said 'let’s make the best product we can'. They seem to have the same level of focus as we do as a company in doing the right thing. They took even our most muddled requirements and helped us to make something beautiful out of them. ”

Melody King, Project Owner, Ieso Digital Health Melody King, Project Owner, Ieso Digital Health


IESO needed to prove their ability to create a world-class app in order to secure a deal with their first potential client in the US, one of the big insurance companies.

Roughly 60% of users in the US were accessing therapy via IESO’s website using their phones. In order to create a more accessible and helpful experience for both the patient and the therapist, a mobile app was needed. It would have to duplicate the clinical environment already found on their website within six months. The relationship with their client, and overall user adoption were both on the line, so the stakes were high.  

IESO didn’t have a dedicated in-house team of mobile developers and building the app was no easy task. Their system had many complexities, and there were dependencies on their back-end team to deliver integration points for thoughtbot developers.

Secondly, the company needed to revise their onboarding process to make it simpler and friendlier. They wanted a design that would enable more users to schedule their first appointment without being required to either talk to a support team or complete a prerequisite questionnaire. IESO had seen these steps resulted in too many users aborting the process on the web platform.

To make all this happen, IESO needed a partner with mobile expertise who could focus on the app while collaborating and integrating with their back-end team. A partner that could make progress even though the IESO team was not necessarily ready. A partner who was UK based but with a US presence too. In short, they needed thoughtbot!


IESO and thoughtbot started small. The teams began with a product design sprint, building a prototype that could be tested to validate the design. thoughtbot designed a user flow for the onboarding process which was then prototyped and leveraged in test sessions with a number of users. This allowed designers to identify if the new user flow for the mobile app was easy to use and if it addressed the onboarding concerns effectively.

The success of the first design sprint inspired IESO to do more design sprints throughout the engagement, addressing different needs of their users that the app could solve.

“ The caliber of talent that thoughtbot brought to bear in those initial engagements demonstrated their value very quickly and was really fantastic. It represented what capabilities they had as a long term partner. ”

Craig Gravina, CTO, IESO Digital Health Craig Gravina, CTO, IESO Digital Health

thoughtbot continues to work with IESO to build out the features that were identified through design sprints.

Integrating the onboarding of patients and leveraging the app to help with patient acquisition is an ongoing project. IESO’s goal is to carry on augmenting clinical insights for the therapists to better treat their patients. This will lead to increased recovery rates. To achieve this, the company needs to leverage a mobile environment and passive data. It is important to also address how the app can help IESO deliver real-time behaviour change to the patient in their everyday life outside of therapy.

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The first version of the mobile app was created and delivered to the hands of initial customers in the US market allowing IESO to secure the deal with their first client, one of the big insurance companies.

As a bonus of working with thoughtbot, IESO onboarded Luke, their Business Analyst, into his first Product Owner role. He launched the mobile app, his first product, successfully.

“ With any consulting company, there is usually some apprehension and disconnect between the teams, especially from the client’s perspective: whether the team is delivering, is there enough interaction, are we able to impart enough knowledge to them, etc. Over the course of the last year we have seen success with the thoughtbot team because of our collaboration around innovation, the cultural and technical alignment, mutual respect, and the deliverables. ”

Craig Gravina, CTO, IESO Digital Health Craig Gravina, CTO, IESO Digital Health

The IESO team has been incredible to work with and thoughtbot London is thrilled to continue the journey with them, building a visionary digital product to improve peoples' lives.

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