Health Care

A Substance Use Disorder Recovery Tool For Patients And Clinicians

Defining the Starting Point

The Pira team wanted to determine: Which feature had the most impact, would drive growth, and was accessible for their runway and funding stage.

Award Winning Journey Map

We visualized each portion of the journey between patient and clinician to define what our product needed to do at every stage. This visual won an award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse

Final MVP Product Designs

In partnership with our development partner, z1 digital, we guided the product into development and public release. Branding and interaction design was finalized by z1 after we laid strategic foundations.

Stages of

Research & Modeling
Prototyping & testing
Design & Branding


Pira is a clinical platform for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment designed to increase efficacy and proven outcomes. Founded by a thoughtful team of clinicians and industry veterans, their platform is grounded in firsthand experience both losing family members to the disease and struggling to treat patients without the tools to assess and monitor them - let alone prove treatment outcomes. 

Further Faster partnered with Pira to marry their deep lived and clinicical experience with our robust methodology applying scientific thinking to achieve product-market fit. As a result of our work to define the SUD patient journey, the team was awarded with a $49,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The Pira app is currently in technical development.


"Being a founder is grueling and lonely. Unlike a typical 9-5, you don't have a boss evaluating your day-to-day work and without that feedback loop it's easy to feel lost. Further Faster has helped keep me positive, connect with the Chicago startup community, and gain confidence in my founding vision through customer validation. They have also built a human focused culture at their company that I plan to emulate."

Zach Ratliff, CEO Proof In Recovery


The Substance Use Disorder treatment industry is filled with many quality providers doing their best to provide the highest level of treatment but face tremendous resource constraints and bad actors looking to profit off of people in desperate need of care. Consistently and effectively tracking treatment outcomes and proving the quality of care is currently difficult and unreliable. At the same time, patients struggle to navigate a fragmented system of treatment resources with no consistent clinical support that follows them throughout multiple levels of care. 

Together, we designed a tool grounded in the needs of patients and clinicians to increase treatment efficacy, provide consistent support, and reliably track outcomes.


Patient and Clinician Interviews

Strategic primary research with target-users is critical to launching successful products. Adopting new products requires behavioral changes from those users, and humans don’t change their behavior absent significant motivation and pain points. We conducted six, in-depth ethnographic interviews with patients who had been through substance use disorder recovery programs, including both inpatient and outpatient, in the last two years. Additionally, we conducted interviews with three clinicians and two clinic owners to deepen our understanding of treatment needs from multiple vantage points. 

The findings from our primary research were synthesized along with secondary research to develop a patient journey map and initial prototypes for testing.

Market and Competitive Analysis

An in-depth market and competitive analysis was conducted to uncover both barriers and opportunities in the space. Additionally, our analysis broke down the intricacies of the transition from fee-for-service to value-based care and its implications for Pira’s business model and go-to-market strategy. 

Journey Mapping

We combined our research findings with Pira’s clinical expertise to document the patient journey and create a visualization that clearly conveyed the challenges and opportunities facing providers. The patient journey map that we developed won first place and a $50,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for their “Mapping Patient Journeys in Drug Addiction Treatment” challenge. 

Prototyping and Testing

Initial research set the foundation for the development of lo-fi prototypes to test key features and value propositions for pira. Prototypes were tested and iterated with patients in recovery, leading to a more robust and validated product roadmap.

At Further Faster, we prioritize testing ideas quickly and effectively, which is why we leverage lo-fi prototypes early in the process. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars developing refined screens for every feature you want to test, we keep our first prototypes bare-bones so we can learn more and learn quickly. 

Synthesis and Recommendations

Primary research, secondary research, and prototype testing uncovered many insights and opportunities that set the foundation for pira’s product roadmap. 

A few of the key insights included:

  • Personalized Treatment Plans: Patient trust is highest with clinicians that listen deeply and take the patient’s opinion into account, aligning with clinicians’ desires to leverage more personalized, “non-cookie-cutter” treatment plans.
  • Patient Autonomy: By design, many treatment programs take away patient independence, leaving many people in recovery hungry for autonomy, leading us to the conclusion that digital tools should be designed to strengthen personal commitment to recovery through customization and choice.
  • Digital Openness: Patients expressed an openness to using digital tools from the lens of accountability, expressing that a common trigger was the feeling that nobody would notice if they relapsed, and that features which alerted their support system to potential warning signs were welcome accountability mechanisms.  

Expansion into eating disorders: From a clinical perspective, eating disorder and substance use disorder treatment leverage many of the same modalities and face many of the same challenges. Eating disorder treatment facilities were identified as a viable path to market due to lower barriers to entry and higher reimbursements in the space.


Research-Backed Product Roadmap

Our iterative process culminated in a detailed and actionable product roadmap, including technical requirements broken down into segmented build phases: Alpha I, Alpha II, Beta I, Beta II, MVP, and V1. Because of our research, the Pira team was able to aggressively prioritize their feature sets, and avoid building unnecessary and costly features that would not have contributed to the initial value proposition that they’re launching for customers first. Simplifying the product into validated and critical use cases results in an efficient use of capital and ensures that each version of the product is built with patient feedback and needs at its core.

To ensure successful handoff, we collaborated with the incoming development team directly and continue to stay involved as advisors through the MVP development process. 

MVP Product Design

Prototypes were refined via primary and secondary research insights into clear and actionable prototypes to serve as building blocks for development. We chose to design a core user-flow around logging an urge and guiding a patient to the recovery tool that is best suited for them in that moment, designated by their clinician. We leveraged social psychology in our designs to increase commitment levels, motivate users by showing progress, and develop trust by integrating love-ones in the care process.

Clinician dashboard and patient companion app

Strategic Advisory

We’re committed to the long-term success of our founders, and to this end we continued our partnership with the Pira team. Through embedded advisory and product leadership, Devin regularly meets with the founder and CEO, Zach to continue to shape strategy around fundraising, service design, and scaling the product and team.

* If you or a loved one is struggling with Substance Use Disorder, please call SAMHSA's National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

See All Work

Read more about the  Further Faster process, step-by-step.