Healthcare Service Design: Co-creating better healthcare experiences

Peter JonesDesign for Care, Design for Practice, Service Design

As Design for Care launched in early June, O’Reilly Media kindly coordinated the second webcast on healthcare service design as an integrated practice of empathic design, to a live audience of about 500.  The post-webcast video is now online and at your regular YouTube stations:

The webinar maps design practices and methods found effective in the most critical contexts in healthcare (consumer, clinical, institutional), illustrated by current cases and design research. Brief design research studies are presented to prompt rethinking of the meanings of care, of information sensemaking at point of care, and the design competencies sufficient to healthcare’s complexity.

As designers start to make inroads in the practices of clinical healthcare, they are finding institutions have little context to employ their contributions. In my book research I found very few clinics employing design professionals,  unless you count the website staff. Yes, academic researchers and some academic design professionals are involved in funded multidisciplinary research, and then they tend to leave the institution and publish research. Designers and design researchers are not involved in the practical programs of integrating information, communication, and community resources with patient care practice, where significant differences in care and patient experience could be made.

Even as innovation centres start to spread in the US and Canada, they are generally staffed by the traditional health disciplines seeking a better return on process improvement. Except for Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, and a smattering of forward-thinking institutions, “advanced practice designers” are not engaged in the trenches in healthcare yet. Yes, its easy to understand that with the history and risks of healthcare, hospitals are averse to the risks new skillsets might introduce, and the healthcare culture does not invite the radical creativity expected of design school graduates. But even as newer, advanced facilities are being built, decentralized community care has become the trend, and population changes require new approaches to care, healthcare practices continue to manage their operations with the same staff as in the 1960’s.

We might start to consider the most effective roles and responsibilities for advanced design professionals in healthcare. Even architecture firms, traditionally heavily engaged in the front end planning of new facilities, are unequipped to integrate clinical service design into planning and post-occupancy research. Designing for care complements clinical care practice, improving services and creating innovative and systemic responses to complex human system problems.  The book offers many starting points for clinical practice to integrate design research – such as the discussion of research methods associated with individual care needs based on levels of the hierarchy of needs. A simple, effective checklist of research questions for understanding people and patients (health-seekers) and the best methods for investigating these questions in an integrated, yet rigorous epistemology.