Project Overview

Improving medical care relies on new knowledge gained from health research. Yet, recruiting volunteers into clinical research remains a significant challenge for many health research study teams across the country. We developed UMHealthResearch to meet this challenge. UMHealthResearch is an award-winning online platform where people can engage with health researchers, and get connected to appropriate health research participation opportunities.

My Role

I have led a team of designers in researching, crafting, launching and evaluating every part of the user experience for UMHealthResearch.


UMHealthResearch has users from 194 countries. It has over 35,000 volunteers registered to participate in research studies at U-M alone. Over 2,600 research studies have successfully recruited using the platform. Since 2013, over 193,000 connections have been made between researchers at U-M and potential participants.

Recognized for it’s human-centered design, the platform is now being adopted by various institutions across the country.

Visit UMHealthResearch

UMHealthResearch is the best designed, most user friendly recruitment platform we have come across. And we have looked at many. — Stakeholder at Stanford University


1. Health research studies close prematurely because of a dearth of volunteer participation

Improving medical care relies on new knowledge gained from research. Yet, recruiting volunteers into clinical research remains a significant challenge for many health research study teams at Michigan and beyond, particularly as limited funding necessitates shorter timelines to engage participants. Thousands of health researchers across the country are investigating ideas that may lead to improved health and quality of life. A major challenge is accruing volunteers willing to participate in health research studies, and as a result, some studies are closed prematurely, causing wasted time and money, and missed opportunities for discovery.

2. More volunteers would participate if they were asked and had easy access to information about opportunities

On the other hand, having access to cutting-edge health research is the reason thousands of patients choose Michigan Medicine for their care. Data show that there are over 80,000 clinical trials conducted each year in the United States, however, less than 2% of the population participates. It is well established that most of the public is either not informed of the need for volunteer participation in clinical research, or cannot access health research opportunities easily, or there is a fear or mistrust of medical and clinical research. Engaging patients around health research towards debunking myths and inviting participation is an essential strand of the Michigan experience fabric. However, knowing which research studies are taking place at the University of Michigan and which ones are right for them is a difficult ask for patients, their families, caregivers and the community at large. Research shows that more potential volunteers would participate in studies if only they were asked and had easy access to information about opportunities. Learn more.


Number of clinical trials conducted in the US each year


Percentage of population that participates in clinical trials

Medical research is vital to the advancement of health care, but many medical studies have too few people who participate.


UMHealthResearch is a platform that aims to spread awareness about health research, connect people willing to participate in health research to appropriate studies, engage people in health research and help create conversations around the topic of health research. It involves a mobile-friendly, human-centered web application, an engaged community and an inclusive brand creating a unified experience around health research.


1. Allows participants to search for studies and show interest

Participants can search using various parameters. They can then show interest in the studies that fit them.

2. Matches potential participants to appropriate studies

The platform matches potential participants to relevant studies. It then notifies participants of those studies while also notifying study teams of matching participants.

3. Lets researchers manage their participants and interact with them

Study teams can access information about interested participants and securely follow up with them from within the platform.

4. Helps the institution create a participant registry along the way

As participants show interest in studies, they are being added to a registry with their consent. This pool of potential volunteers is available for all future studies at your institution.

I like that I can message study teams and they respond to me. Other registries just let me put my information in, but I never hear anything from anyone. I can show interest and be proactive on — Participant
When UMHealthResearch launched I quickly had an amazing increase not only in participants who were interested in my studies but also many who actually qualified. — Researcher

Additional details

Emails are crucial to the successful functioning of UMHealthResearch. Emails bring back the most number of users. This is an example of an email that is sent to participants when they have new studies they might qualify for.
The platform is mobile friendly and accessible. In this picture, a patient is using UMHealthResearch to look up research studies to participate in while waiting for care.
UMHealthResearch allows caregivers at U-M and beyond who are short on time to point interested patients to one place where they learn more about health research and health research opportunities. This saves them time while also providing enhanced customer service for their patients resulting in a richer patient experience.
Complicated medical jargon is a major barrier to health research engagement. UMHealthResearch catalyzes the use of plain language while explaining studies to the lay public. The image shows the study details page, as available to a lay audience. Learn more.
Timely and effective communication is the cornerstone of high-quality research engagement. UMHealthResearch allows volunteers to engage with researchers through the use of an instant, easy and secure messaging system.
UMHealthResearch allows for the creation of a centralized brand that establishes a friendly, welcoming point of entry to health research.


193,000 +

Connections made between researchers at U-M and potential participants

35,000 +

Number of participants signed up to be a part of health research at the University of Michigan alone

185,000 +

Messages exchanged between volunteers and study teams

100 +

Number of countries that our users come from


Number of studies at U-M that have recruited using UMHealthResearch


Number of institutions across the country that are in the process of adopting UMHealthResearch
My daughter suffers from a condition and I was looking for research at U-M that may be able to help her or others like her. I didn’t know where to look at first, but I found and started a loved one account for my daughter. We get studies for her sent to us all the time, that without the site we wouldn’t have known about. — Participant
In our department we not only use UMHealthResearch for potential research volunteers, but also for our referring physicians. Our department has a referring physician liaison who goes out into the community and discusses our current research trials being conducted, and she will direct the referring physicians to UMHealthResearch to look for active trials for their patients. — Researcher

Typical Development Process

This is a simplistic, high level view of the process we follow to continually improve UMHealthResearch.


This phase involves creating empathy. Design starts with people and we spend a lot of time understanding people, what they do, how they do it and what they feel when they are doing things. This involves a lot of observations, ethnographic research, job shadowing and creative ways of getting to know what people think and feel.


This phase involves redefining the problem, questioning long held assumptions, designing in meaning, ideating, prototyping, testing and continuously iterating. We focus on creating human-driven experiences that solve problems and inspire delight.


It does not matter how good a design is if its not built well. This phase focuses on synthesis and convergence, putting our best foot forward in terms of crafting and delivering a robust, highly involved and reliable product that carries the same emotions and humanity with which it is designed.


Excerpt from a letter nominating Aalap Doshi for the Presidents Innovation Award

... Aalap Doshi, Human Centered Designer, MICHR led the design of UMHealthResearch. He used an empathy based, human-centered design process to design a tool that is useful, efficient and delightful for both the volunteers and the researchers. He has, and continues to, spend many hours in the field understanding the needs of potential volunteers and researcher teams. He has employed various user research and participatory design techniques such as deep in-context interviews, ethnographic research, co-creation workshops, surveys, casual conversations, photographic research and artifact analysis. Working closely with the development team, he then translated his findings into practical strategies and designs for implementation. Engagement was his key focus and he designed many small interactions that cued people to show interest in studies and message researchers from within the platform. He designed for efficiency for study teams. His focussed on nudging the study teams to think of recruitment as managing people and relationships as opposed to managing studies and data through his designs. Little details like empowering the study teams to thank participants for their time and making it easy for them to communicate back with potential volunteers speak towards that. He also designed an inclusive and consistent brand experience for the platform to create a friendly and welcoming aura around health research for volunteers, patients, families and researchers. Additionally, he wrote the front-end HTML, CSS and JavaScript code for our latest version of the application. He has done this in a resource crunch while being the only full-time designer on the team. He has also mentored many design students, providing them the exposure and experience of working on a sensitive and complex project like UMHealthResearch. Aalap continues to think of new ways of engaging the researchers and potential volunteers around health research as a way to improving the platform...

The letter was drafted by Jamie Racklyeft, Communication Director at MICHR, and his team. Aalap was one of the top nominees for the award and received a letter from the President of the University of Michigan complementing him on his work.

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