PART 2: Service design for the patient of the future


Following on from Part 1 which explored the basic principles of service design, the practical and applied framework through which an organisation’s services are designed from scratch or existing services re-designed, is the service design process. The objective of this 4 step process is to effectively and holistically manage the quality and consistency of service delivery including customer interactions and experiences across the organization.

Essentially service design is an iterative process, meaning that in every step of the process, service designers test possible solutions to learn from the mistakes in the previous iteration to improve the solution. This is achieved by prototyping and creating something visual early in the process so that the team can have meaningful discussions and make improvements.

Here are some important aspects of how the process of service design can be used in the healthcare setting to successfully implement change:

  1. Exploration
  • Improvement projects should always be well planned and have clear goals which have been collaboratively defined.
  • Have a realistic view on what can be accomplished within the project’s limitations
  • Observe and interview the clinicians, nurses, and patients to gain an empathetic understanding of the needs and behaviors of the different users.
  • Analyse and understand how the service currently works. Use service blueprints and map critical areas to gain a greater understanding of the system and visualize the patient journey from end to end.
  • Stakeholder engagement is critical to the success of the project. Keep clean communication lines with all clinicians involved allowing them the opportunity to give feedback continuously.
  • Use visual aids like sketches, storyboards and wireframes to clearly communicate. Project worksheets can be used to analyse existing services, make improvements and generate new concepts.
  1. Creation
  • Facilitate a workshop and use storyboards to convey insights discovered during the exploration phase in relation to the patients’ experience and full patient journey.
  • Be prepared – brainstorm a number of possible ideas and solutions before the workshop. These ideas can be the base of discussions in an attempt to engage staff.
  • The workshop is key. It allows all participants to express their opinions. It can give the participants a feeling of ownership and engagement. Everyone is on equal terms.
  • All concepts should be tested on all participants including patients to make sure the proposed change is in line with the needs of all users.
  1. Reflection
  • The holistic approach will identify that patients may have limited insights of internal processes which may cause some frustration.
  • There may be a lack of understanding around why they have had to say the same thing over and over or undergo the same tests.
  • Being realistic in terms of the scope of the project will help you to focus on incremental improvements for the overall experience of the patients.
  • The user centric approach may highlight some insights that staff were not previously aware of, which can be unfavourable for the patient experience.
  • The reflection stage is at the heart of the iterative process. If the prototype requires further exploration or creation then the process is returned to the first and second stage again before building another prototype based on the new researched results.
  1. Implementation
  • After applying all the feedback to the prototype the final design is implemented.
  • The experience and functionality is evaluated from the user’s perspective. (usability testing)
  • Collected feedback can be used in the future when improvements are needed.

Research shows that patients’ experiences are closely related to clinical effectiveness and efficiencies, suggesting there should be a shift from the traditional “patient centered” approach to incorporate service design’s “user centered” approach, allowing patients to be involved not only in the decision making of their treatment but also in the development and improvements on how the care is delivered. Testing early in the project can save health care organisations enormous amounts of money invested in initiatives that may later turn out to not work as planned.

In conclusion, approaching healthcare delivery challenges with a service design mindset can result in significantly improved patient experience and outcomes of care.

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