Improving healthcare with design

How do we keep healthcare affordable? What can we do to increase quality and effectiveness? What role can design play in this? There are many challenges in healthcare today. Think of the aging of the average Dutch person, eating habits that are deteriorating and the increase of people with burnout symptoms. As a result, the demand for care and work stress among care providers continues to increase.

To tackle this, plans are made with the best intentions, expensive software packages are redesigned or purchased and new employees are recruited. However, if you don't have a good idea of ​​the needs of the patient and caregiver, there is a good chance that you are completely missing the point. This is where design comes in.

There are different design methodologies to use to solve problems. You may have heard of “design sprints, user-centered design, Lean UX and design thinking”. There are some nuances here and there, but it's all about the customer or user approach to the problem. This article explains design thinking and how it can be applied in healthcare.

What? Design thinking?

Design thinking is a method used to solve problems so as to improve the experience with a product, brand or service. The person/user is central to this. This means that nothing is invented because it is possible, but mainly because it adds value.

Take the problem of a company that has to deal with outages due to burnouts. How can you set up the company so that burnouts are reduced?

The first step we take is to delve into the phenomenon of burnout. Which factors increase the risk of this within the company? When we interview caregivers, how bad do they say their stress level is? What do we then see when we observe the employees in their work? In short, we put ourselves in the shoes of the company and its employees.

Then we will come up with solutions. Nothing is too crazy and everything is still possible in this phase. We are not limited by technology and business processes. Suppose we come up with an application that means that you cannot use your laptop for 1 hour a day and that you have to take 5,000 steps with your colleagues in that hour. For every day that you complete the steps, the boss pays a euro discount with a sports subscription.

Good idea? Bad idea? You will test this with a prototype. Not everything has to work yet, but the basic principles can be tested. What are the good qualities? What are the less good qualities?

So you can see that this saves valuable time and money, because we don't start developing right away. We first test whether it matches the needs of the employees and whether this can have a stress-relieving effect. We put ourselves in the position of the user and tailor the solutions accordingly.

This is an example. There are countless other situations in which design is very valuable in healthcare.

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Stefan Layer

Managing Director