Designing for Whole Systems & Services in Healthcare

Peter Jones Design for Care, Design research, Service Design

We’re at CHI 2011 Vancouver, Tuesday May 10 for this Special Interest Group. Please join us if you’re at CHI!


This CHI 2011 SIG provides a workshop for collective problem finding and community identification. The goal is to initiate a working group to coordinate systemic design research issues across practitioner communities. This SIG addresses the insufficiency of user-centered design and informatics research to design for system and service-level innovations in healthcare. The SIG seeks to coordinate communications and participation across design practice, research disciplines, and areas of health practice for service system innovation.

About:  The SIG addresses the problem of coordinating and advancing systems design and design research for service-level and systemic innovations in healthcare.

Healthcare is a domain characterized by multiple stakeholders (from consumers and patients to clinical staff, from administrators to insurers), multiple services (from primary care to academic institutional networks), and multiple sectors of services (from clinical practice to insurance and government). There are no definitive “users” in these complex systems of practice, few common workflows, and with highly dispersed informatics, no integration. The ability to design at the service and systems level is seriously mitigated by these inherent and ongoing issues.

The methodologies and analytical regimes associated with user-centered, experience, and service design practices are valuable in many contexts, but limit design options when employed for complex systems.  With a wide variety of stakeholders and differing clinical and economic problem owners, healthcare has no common voice and fewer “whole system” solutions. In practice, design and implementation decisions are fraught with competing interests, often imposing near-term decisionmaking on IT and practice changes. Design/research professionals are often isolated in narrow bands of problem scope, with the inability to design to root cause issues or to scale their successes across institutions or across practices.  Policy advocates and key advisors in the field are widely separated by problem scope (disease management, education, insurance reform)  and problem-solving modality (policy, practice innovation, patient-centered medicine, information systems).

The organizers call for a network of coordination of communications and participation across design practice and research disciplines, and areas of health practice. Informatics and service designers are natural integrators across fields of knowledge and practice, and are hampered in effective solutions when working in dedicated, narrow sectors of the field.  While it may not be necessary to form a new organization or group, the organizers see the opportunity for a working network that can begin to work across discourse communities, coordinate research and service prototypes, and integrate practice concepts, emerging findings and key stakeholders toward these concerns.

Full abstract online:  Healthcare Design SIG CHI11