PennVet | UPenn

Role: User Researcher & Designer

Type: User Research & Design

Skills: User Research Techniques & Figma


This project was initiated by Dr. Shelley Rankin, Head of Diagnostic Services at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital.

The diagnostic lab provides a wide array of traditional diagnostic services to veterinarians, but Dr. Rankin wanted our team to explore the possibility of a direct-to-consumer model for providing pet owners with at-home diagnostic services.

Dr. Rankin, as well as my team, viewed this project as an intrapreneurship opportunity within the PennVet ecosystem, and as such, we treated the prompt as though we were building a new venture.

My role

This was an academic project I worked on with Yewen Tang and Ethan Kellough . The three of us shared the roles of user researchers and digital product designers.

Original problem definition

This work arises as a proposal from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, which consisted in designing a in-house laboratory testing service for pets.

"How might we provide diagnostic tests and services directly to pet owners?"


To finish understanding the problem we were facing, we conducted a number of remote user interviews -the COVID-19 outbreak brought limitations to the project-:

Debrief & Insights

  1. Owners were afraid of performing the tests by their own and felt they weren't capable of doing so without clear instructions
  2. Pet owners rely on their vets to interpret their pets' condition, and struggle to empathize with their pet's health
  3. Booking, traveling to, and paying for vet visits are all pain points for pet owners
  4. Vets are often handcuffed by cost, time constraints, and their ability to sell the pet owner on the value of the test
  5. Veterinarians believe that although samples may be contaminated due to collection from an uneducated user, with clear indications owners would be able to do most of the testing themselves
  6. Because of a lack of proper veterinary practice, antimicrobial resistance is increasing in the animal population, and is expected to be a large issue in the coming decades
  7. Tele-vet apps were growing fast and getting a lot of attention, even before the COVID-19 outbreak

Revised problem definition

Many apps have emerged in recent times that allow pet owners to consult their veterinarians, but with some important limitations still. When it comes to animal testing, you lose the 'magic' of having a completely remote experience since the owner must bring the pet to the clinic for testing.

"How might we deliver diagnostic testing to make tele-veterinary appointments more attractive and valuable?"

Solution: HomePetLab

HomePetLab is an at-home diagnostic sampling kit that enables diagnostic testing to be performed in remote televeterinary relationships. The kit contains everything a pet owner needs to collect samples from their pet and send them directly to the PennVet Diagnostic laboratory, where they will be processed and the results shared with the televet so she can make a proper, informed, diagnosis.


We knew that we needed to convey a sense of security & trust, while also transmitting a sense of playfulness and joy for the user to not feel they are putting their pet at risk.

Platform and a process

Users would arrive to our website by their vet's recommendation, who will share the product's url with the owner to finish the purchase.

Once the box arrives, the user collects the samples, creates an account, and registers the box in our system so we can identify and match the sample with the pet owner.

Finally, you and your vet will be able to access all the tests and results from a dashboard for record keeping and sharing. This platform should also have an API to seamlessly integrate with tele-vet apps if necessary


The concept is currently in pilot testing in the PennVet ecosystem, allowing Penn-affiliated veterinarians to send kits to their clients that they can send back for testing. Considering this is an entirely new business model, the team has also developed a plan to prove the value proposition, validate the market need, de-risk the implementation of the product, and grow the customer base.

We designed this pilot in order to clarify some of the questions that are still open at this time.

  1. Will the user be able to get a good sample?
  2. What sort of instructions does the user need?
  3. What information do vets need on their end to have confidence in the system?
  4. Will results come fast enough to be useful?
  5. Will televeterinary providers be able to convince their clients to take this approach?
  6. What are the main friction points for adopting this approach and how can we mitigate them?