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Neuralink Patient Journey

September 2020

Neuralink is developing technology that will enable humans to "achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence" according to its founder, Elon Musk. Their goal is to solve important brain and spine problems with a seamlessly implanted device. The first application for Neuralink's Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) is focused on improving the lives of patients living with severe neural conditions and disorders. The company has ambitious plans to scale their technology by making it highly accessible, minimally invasive, and low risk, akin to a simple elective procedure like LASIK Eye surgery.


Having developed design systems for emerging medical devices entering clinical trials and commercial launch, I decided to take a brief look at how patients may one day experience Neuralink. The near-term value proposition of Neuralink hinges on a new type of experience for patients living with neurological challenges. Developing the human journey in parallel with this novel technology is critical in order to ensure a meaningful patient-centered experience.

I've broken down the experience into two parts:

  1. Guiding principles – values that guide the design of the human experience

  2. Patient journey – what the patient is thinking, feeling, and doing as a lifelong Neuralink user

The concepts and ideas in this post are a working hypothesis based on publicly available information about Neuralink (e.g., 2019 launch, 2020 update). The goal here isn't to be "right", but to imagine possibilities for the broader service  offering and design system. Creating meaningful and human-centered experiences will require patients and other stakeholders like healthcare providers to be actively engaged in co-creating, testing, and iterating upon the journey.



Before diving into the Neuralink guiding principles and journey, I've made some key assumptions about what I am calling the "Neuralink System". There are two interrelated parts of this system: the Neuralink (1) Chip and (2) App. Both technologies can be upgraded and replaced as hardware/software evolves. Together, these components enable a person to record and translate signals between their brain and the external world.



The proposed guiding principles shall shape and inform the design of the Neuralink patient experience:


Human health, safety and wellbeing come first



Adapted to the evolving and lifelong needs of the user


Practical day-to-day needs are addressed



Naturally integrated into people’s lives


Patients gain greater control over their lives and reach their full potential


The patient journey map below is relatively self explanatory (click image to view PDF). The journey envisions a future experience where Neuralink is in its second or third generation of technology: The surgical procedure is a half-day event conducted by a robotic surgeon, and the patient uses the Neuralink system on a daily basis. The App is also an integral part of the end-to-end experience -- it facilitates and guides the user experience, from the moment that the patient decides to get the surgery to when they start using the Neuralink system in their everyday life.



Conducting research with prospective and actual patients and healthcare providers will support the development of a robust patient journey and collateral (e.g., instructional material, marketing assets), and can help Neuralink develop the ideal user experience.

Tags: Information Design, Healthcare Experience, Journey Map

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