Strategy  |  Wireframing & Prototyping  |  Visual Design  |  Validation


The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) is the leader in wilderness medicine education, having trained over 180,000 students world-wide. 

However, remaining a leader requires a lot of hard work and continual innovation. The problem isn't in the hard work, but in identifying how to remain innovative. With research into user needs and significant brainstorming, WMI identified a problem and corresponding opportunity with the Subjective Objective Assessment Plan (SOAP) Note App. 


The Problem

It is nearly impossible to predict when a medical emergency will take place, which makes it challenging to have the right tools with you to assess a patient. Also, remembering the steps for assessing a patient—in the frontcountry or backcountry—can be challenging, and both students and professionals often end up with incomplete, scattered notes.

This could mean a sub-par patient evaluation and a sub-par medical plan. With people's lives are at stake, this won't do. 



In order to start solving these problems for students and trained medical professionals, we established four primary goals:

  • Help user assessment skills stay fresh by providing pertinent information on patient assessment steps
  • Help organize user notes with a methodical approach
  • Allow users to take notes while offline
  • Create an easy system for users to share notes with necessary parties
  • Design within the established brand standards


Once goals were established, we got started by interviewing WMI's medical students and mapping out their current user journey. This helped us understand pain points and opportunities in their patient assessment process – helping us to quickly learn from mistakes while focusing on the features that provide the highest value.

After understanding the problem in greater depth and developing a strategy, we began paper prototyping and started testing our design concepts on real users.

We continually tested and iterated on our designs based on the patterns that we discovered in the usability sessions. Moving from paper prototyping all the way to high fidelity prototypes, allowed us to start by testing our high level concepts and then move into more and more granular details of the app. 

Over the course of two months, we conducted over 25 usability tests with real WMI students and medical professionals, which helped us feel confident in the solution we established. 


The SOAP Note App

So What Was the Result?

This app was launched in November 2014 on iTunes and Google Play. By June 2015, installs of the app soared to over 10,000 with a 4.7/5 star user rating.


More importantly, this app means higher quality medical care by minimizing the cognitive load needed for medical professionals during patient evaluation. Essentially these medical professionals have a resource that can remind them of necessary details of the evaluation process. Even if they don't need reminders, this app still allows them to speed up their assessment process and store everything they need in one place

Excellent documentation app! This is exactly what is needed for emergency medicine personnel to document medical incidents. The app is easy to use, has a clear progression and helpful integrations such as location coordinate finding, photo uploading and sharing (email the note) functions. Great job to NOLS WMI for developing this! A go-to app for getting all the info down about a medical emergency in a clear format.
— Jon Lowrance

Although the WMI SOAP Note App has been successfully launched and enthusiastically received, WMI's work is never done. In order to remain a leader, they will need to continue to test and re-evaluate the on-going effectiveness of the app through usability testing. This will help ensure the highest quality medical and patient care and with it WMI's status as a leader


Want to see it for yourself? Download the app for iOS or Android.


Thanks for checking out this project!