Building a mobile app for the Chicago Department of Public Health



Team TechTeam

Client Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH)

Timeline 1 Year

Location Chicago

Chicago Department of Public Health

Helping medical providers quickly look up and report diseases to the CDPH

TechTeam is a Student Civic Engagement project of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. From 2018 to 2019, I volunteered as the Lead UI/UX Designer of a project for the CDPH, run under TechTeam. I was responsible for coordinating the design development lifecycle for a mobile app that would improve the reporting system of critical and contagious diseases for public safety.


Using the mockups and prototypes created by my design team, we were able to show the developers our vision, who then focused on rebuilding the app with React Native. The app design went under multiple iterations as we made sure to keep both the CDPH style guide and ideas for improved UI in mind. The app is now finished, and it includes the following core functions: disease lookup and the ability to easily call public health officials. The app—MedReport—will be pushed to the App Store for medical providers in Chicagoland to download soon.



Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, a patient's medical information is considered confidential, so health practitioners cannot disclose such information without consent. However, there are exceptions for infectious diseases (e.g., rabies and measles). By law, confidentiality must be broken when reporting these cases to public health officials, but most cases go unreported, causing diseases to proliferate. Thus, I led my design team and sought to investigate a critical question: How can we design a mobile app that provides both education and convenience for health practitioners?

I wanted to better understand the pain points of our stakeholders, so I tried to uncover usability issues through role play, secondary research, and informal interviews with our client. My design teammates and I put our “empathy hats” on, pretending to be a health provider who may use our app, and tried to imagine the steps someone would take to search and find items on a mobile app. Compelling and analogous apps that came to mind included Quizlet and Yelp. And once we shared our initial thoughts with our client, we were able to better organize the problem space:

  1. There was a communication disconnect — The CDPH struggled with effectively teaching health practitioners about HIPAA… an educational problem!

  2. Physicians have trouble navigating the CDPH website — No one knew the exact list of diseases they were mandated to report and how… a convenience problem!


From these insights, we gathered inspirational examples of existing mobile apps that focused on education (e.g., Quizlet) and easy search functions (e.g., Yelp). Then we inventoried the content of our own app—would a "save" button be helpful? How should we categorize diseases? We realized that the core goal should be to highlight the legality of mandatory reporting to users and to provide a streamlined reporting process that fits in the palm of a hand.

We worked collaboratively to design the user interface of a mobile app that would help health providers determine which diseases they are mandated to report and how to report them. Using our initial sketches of the app, I used Sketch to transform our vision into a high-fidelity prototype for our developers. I assembled a design style guide that overlapped with CDPH's brand identity and our app's goals.

Our initial sketch wireframes

Our initial sketch wireframes

Another sketch wireframe

Another sketch wireframe

Screenshots of the UI design

Screenshots of the UI design


With my awesome team, I was able to help create an intuitive end-to-end user experience that could reduce friction between public health officials and health providers. My ability to ensure stakeholder satisfaction and encourage team collaboration allowed me to turn our digital prototype into a reality that had the potential to help save lives and advocate for public health issues. Going forward, I hope to play around different features of the app, test it in the field, and conduct A/B testing to ensure high-quality user experience.

Demo provided by TechTeam

The project is open-source, so feel free to check it out <here>.