Training doctors with a flexible, CME-crediting mobile app

For decades, JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, part of the JAMA Network family of journals, has kept doctors sharp — and licensed — by helping them earn their continuing medical education (CME) credits. What that looks like has changed over the years: from journal articles to in-person training to webinars, all of which educate doctors on the latest techniques in their fields. What hasn’t changed: physicians counting on JAMA as a source of information and a reliable way to get their CME credits.

Now, JAMA must provide the same education to a new generation of doctors used to getting everything on their phones. To create a mobile app capable of engaging these younger physicians, JAMA turned to Table XI and our agency friends at One Design. Together, we developed a dynamic app that’s informed by a modern set of needs.

Based on JAMA’s extensive user research, we decided to focus on building an app that would allow doctors to learn during their commutes or when they had downtime. That way they could tackle lessons in chunks based on their schedules, staying licensed without needing to block off several days to attend a conference or several hours to watch a webinar. The result gives medical professionals the power to earn CME credits in whatever way best suits them — and we’re only planning to improve from there.

“For as large a project as this was, it was a relaxed experience. There was never room for the uncertainty that would lead to anxiety.

It felt like a very honest and transparent working relationship, and a really strong partnership. We were all on the same side.”

Daniel Pickhardt, manager of product development at the JAMA Network

How we build trust, sometimes using Legos

JAMA came to us through One Design, a Chicago web design firm, who recommended Table XI for developing the app’s technical functionality, as well as handling project management. Because JAMA didn’t really know anything about Table XI — or have a reason to trust us — we knew we needed to start off by getting everyone comfortable with one another.

To do that, we kicked the project off with a two-day Inception designed to let us go deep on JAMA’s business, its users and how the two sides’ needs would come together.

We started by getting people out of their comfort zone. One way to build trust is to try something new — and give everyone a space where they can feel safe failing — together. So we busted out the Legos and spent a few hours playing our Agile Lego game. That taught the JAMA team how to work in Agile, by building a Lego structure using the process, and gave everyone a chance to shake off any new-partnership nerves and loosen up with some laughs.

Our Agile Lego Game is quickly teaches people how to work in an Agile framework — with the fringe benefit of building trust.

The Agile Lego game established a rapport, aligned the teams and proved that we could all meet goals while still having fun. After that, the Inception process moved quickly. All four JAMA stakeholders were able to express what they needed and wanted from the app, and we were able to cut anything that felt extraneous and suggest the best ways to accomplish the rest. By the end of those two days, we’d worked out the kinks and were ready to jump in.

“During the Inception, Table XI really invested themselves in understanding our universe. They dove in really hard to understand the market for this and how physicians get their CME credits.

It was a really great way to start the process.”

Daniel Pickhardt, manager of product development at the JAMA Network

Delivering the technical know-how — in the JAMA Network’s own systems and with cross-platform apps

In addition to proving we could understand their business and have a good time working together, we had to prove we had the technical chops to get it done. So we locked Ed, our mobile lead, and One Design’s backend developer in a closet with JAMA’s technical lead, basically.

The three hashed out how we were going to work and connect with the JAMA Network’s existing systems. By the time we walked out of that cramped room, we’d fully earned their trust and given them confidence that we could build a product that would meet user needs and maintain their existing technical ecosystem.

“They were an incredibly personable and genuine group, and they brought a lot of really impressive technical expertise. It was a very easy process.”

Daniel Pickhardt, manager of product development at the JAMA Network

Early on in the Inception, we knew that JAMA would eventually want this app to work on both iOS and Android. We advocated for building it in React Native, the best framework we’ve tested for building cross-platform apps. That would allow us to launch on iOS, then port it over to Android without having to double the work — and the cost. It wasn’t a solution JAMA knew to ask for, but it was one that saved them time and money, and allowed them to deliver the best product.

Need to find the best way to build your product?

[unex_ce_button id="content_duucl8ha0" button_text_color="#ffffff" button_font="bold" button_font_size="16px" button_width="auto" button_alignment="center" button_text_spacing="2px" button_bg_color="#54b847" button_padding="15px 25px 15px 25px" button_border_width="0px" button_border_color="transparent" button_border_radius="6px" button_text_hover_color="#ffffff" button_text_spacing_hover="2px" button_bg_hover_color="#3a3a3a" button_border_hover_color="#000000" button_link="/contact/" button_link_type="url" button_link_target="_self" has_container="1" in_column=""]CONTACT US[/ce_button]

Keeping three distinct teams working toward the same goals

Between JAMA, One Design and Table XI, there were three different teams working together on this app. From the very beginning, we knew we’d need to break down the walls and get everyone working together as one if we wanted to succeed.

“Table XI orchestrated this thing really, really well. All of the communication infrastructure was already built out, and it felt really natural. It ended up feeling like one large team.”

Daniel Pickhardt, manager of product development at the JAMA Network

Table XI was tasked with project managing the product, so we took the lead on bringing the teams together. The first step was communication. To keep all three teams on the same track — and prevent anyone from holding up the product — we needed to ensure there was always a way to get questions answered, quickly. Our project manager, Claire, set up a Slack channel to connect everyone working on the project, so anyone could be reached when needed. That kept things moving at a natural clip, and built on the trust and rapport we established at the start of the project. As the project picked up we were all able to work as one cohesive, supportive unit.

Proving out a new way to educate doctors

Working so closely allowed us to hit the JAMA Network’s deadline, even with a few additions to the scope. With a minimum viable product now out in the field, we’re able to test the functionality, make any improvements, and learn from the doctors who are using it.

The new app's quizzing functionality lets doctors listen to lessons and earn their credits on their own schedules. 

The current version of the JAMA app doesn’t have all the functionality we’ll eventually roll out, but it is a full leap from webinar-based CME. Now physicians can listen to podcasts on their commute and then take a short quiz to earn CME credits. They can work at their own pace, instead of having to set aside large blocks of time.

Even as we’re testing the app out on our first real users, we’re working on the next set of features. JAMA has big plans to transform continuing education for physicians, and we intend to be right there along with them, helping to make it possible. With the data from app users and the research we’ve already collected, we’ll continue making improvements, so JAMA can equip every doctor with the best educational tools for them.

“They made it really easy for us. The collaboration was really clean. We’re pushing pretty hard to keep this same team going forward.”

Daniel Pickhardt, manager of product development at the JAMA Network

Have a project in mind but not sure where to get started?
It all starts with a simple conversation.

[unex_ce_button id="content_amm50v91z" button_text_color="#ffffff" button_font="bold" button_font_size="16px" button_width="auto" button_alignment="center" button_text_spacing="2px" button_bg_color="#54b847" button_padding="15px 25px 15px 25px" button_border_width="0px" button_border_color="transparent" button_border_radius="6px" button_text_hover_color="#ffffff" button_text_spacing_hover="2px" button_bg_hover_color="#3a3a3a" button_border_hover_color="#000000" button_link="/contact/" button_link_type="url" button_link_target="_self" has_container="1" in_column=""]LET’S WORK TOGETHER[/ce_button]