Breast Cancer Care and Fuse
Breast Cancer Care is the only UK-wide charity providing care, information and support to people affected by breast cancer. Every year nearly 62,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, and there are an estimated 691,000 living with a diagnosis. This figure is predicted to rise to 840,000 by 2020.
In April 2016 Breast Cancer Care joined Fuse, CAST’s three-month digital accelerator programme, keen to explore how digital could help the charity address women’s profound emotional needs, which were often overlooked because of the tremendous focus given to programmes to mitigate the physical impact of diagnosis and treatment.
The Breast Cancer Care team were well placed with conducting user research has they had a well cultivated panel of ‘digital champions’ already in place. This consisted of a self-selecting group of over 40 women who had volunteered to be available for research and interviews as well as for receiving early access to new digital initiatives.
This group were the main source of our research and one-to-one interviews. Many of the interviews were lengthy. People who have overcome intensive medical treatment and emotional stresses are often very keen to share their stories when asked.
During the first month we also mapped in detail the process from diagnosis to the end of formal treatment. This logged all the steps, appointments and medical professional contacts a typical breast cancer patient would experience. It also tracked their emotional state throughout that process based on the interviews we conducted.
There are a lot of resources available for breast cancer patients online. Cataloguing these helped us identify content opportunities and any potential signposting destinations.
Breast Cancer Care’s Fusilier, Digital Innovation Manager Kristina Barrick, wrote, “Fuse taught us how to talk to the future users of our product. While I knew how to find out what the users’ problems were, when it came to finding solutions, my method was skipping a vital step: I had no real evidence of their day-to-day needs and behaviours.”
It was during this phase of the project that we realised that the service needed to address the time after the final formal appointment. Once the survivor is given the ‘all clear’ then their appointments end. It is from that point that they often find themselves at a loss as to what to do and how to fill their time. Especially given that their family and friends think that because they have no further appointments they are better.
Our early ideas were prototyped and tested widely with the target user group – on both a one-to-one and group level. We exploited the opportunities of existing group meetings at Breast Cancer Care offices to share our ideas with ready-assembled groups.
Using mobile-based tappable prototypes we tested the both the delivery mechanism and the content.
The development was undertaken by the tech for good agency Super Being Labs. They built a browser-based web app to take to pilot post-Fuse.
Through CAST’s Fuse accelerator, the team designed and built BECCA, a new mobile app with a human name, which provides support through ‘life hacks’ and activities submitted by other community members, breast cancer nurses and sourced from trustworthy blogs and articles across the web.
These activities and ‘life hacks’ are displayed individually as cards in the BECCA app. They provide suggestions of actions the user can take to help them adapt and recover directly after treatment finishes.
Following Fuse, the Breast Cancer Care team have continued to develop the service. They recruited over 1,000 beta testers to help refine the app and created Product Champions, which continue to act as advocates and key advisors for the product’s development.
A year after beginning work on the product, it launched publicly on the Apple app store and Google Play, and by September 2017 it already had 3,600 live users.
Given the success of the product, the team came up with a more ambitious vision for further development: “An innovative new mobile product to curate the world’s trusted information on breast cancer and deliver it to every woman affected by the disease in a meaningful, personalised way.”This was borne out of input from direct users, the BECCA advisory board and engaging with wider networks.
Barrick has written a number of blogs for CAST and other sector and mainstream media about her journey as a product owner, and the learnings that come with developing a digital product as part of an established charity.
She commented, “The support and knowledge gained through CAST’s Fuse programme has shaped Breast Cancer Care’s innovation process. The app that was incubated in the programme, BECCA, goes from strength to strength in supporting women globally who are affected by breast cancer.”
In November 2017, BECCA was a runner up in the BMA awards, receiving some brilliant feedback from the judges.
Follow on funding
Fast forward to January 2018, and the app had already been used by over 7,500 users. Big Lottery Fund awarded the team a grant of £655k to further develop the app, including exploring the use of cutting-edge technologies like machine learning to bolster the content of the app. This funding will help them further roll it out to 36,000 users by 2020.
Barrick told us, “The ongoing relationship with CAST, and unwavering support that they offer, has also played a key role in the continued success of the app, which received £655,000 Big Lottery funding in December 2017.”
One of BECCA’s users was quoted in the press material. Teaching Assistant and mum-of-two Penny Sherrott, 49 from Kent, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014. She has been using BECCA since May 2017. She said: “Although I finished active breast cancer treatment over three years ago, last year I reached breaking point. I was exhausted from fatigue, dealing with the side effects of tamoxifen, and struggling with overwhelming anxiety about the cancer returning.
“Without BECCA, I don’t think I would have got through the year. It reminds me that I’m not alone and that it’s OK to be worried sometimes. It’s like a friend. Plus, I can use it whenever and wherever I need. I’m so excited BECCA is growing and becoming smarter. I can’t wait to see fresh new content chosen just for me.”
The app has now supported more than 16,000 people, with nearly 1,000 new users downloading and interacting with BECCA every month.
Want to take your organisation through Fuse?
We are currently developing a brand new, fully-funded digital accelerator programme for smaller charities, starting in July 2018.
Find out more, including how to apply.
We also offer Fuse as a paid for programme for larger charities. We’d love to talk to you about how Fuse could help your organisation.