Improving healthcare for the patient of the future: Principles of Service Design


Over these past few years, we have seen a major shift in the paradigm of the healthcare industry.

Only just a decade ago, patients with health issues would simply book an appointment to consult a medical professional, like paying a visit to a local GP. However, with the proliferation of technology and the abundance of information right at our fingertips, patients have now found so many alternative ways to access healthcare.

Studies have shown that 73% of Australians have researched a health issue online, including those aged 65 and above. On top of these ongoing technological advancements, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on people’s attitudes towards healthcare. In fact, recent statistics reveal that over 28% of Australians made use of a telehealth consultation in the past year.

That being said, the days of patients being passive recipients seem to be long gone. Instead, patient interactions with healthcare professionals have changed, making patients an integral part of the value creation process going forward. As a result, innovation needs to be applied to the delivery of healthcare services to meet the needs of patients today and into the future.

This is where Service Design comes in.

So, let’s talk about the principles of Service Design and how you can use them to optimise efficiencies and improve the patient experience.

What is Service Design?

Service Design involves the consultative process of planning and implementing change across the entire service delivery process to ultimately improve the service’s value, quality and ability to meet customer or patient needs.

Service design takes a holistic, user-centric approach that’s meant to create and deliver services that are useful, usable, desirable, efficient and effective. 

While Service Design is not a completely new concept, it has only recently gained momentum as an applied approach to address many of the challenges faced by healthcare organisations today.

Combining creativity and practicality, service design is a way to enhance and innovate existing services to design new versions that will increase stakeholder benefit. This not only optimises the quality of the service but also the interaction between the providers and the patients as well.

Why focus on developing your processes using Service Design?

In today’s constantly changing world, customer and patient expectations are rapidly changing along with it. So, in order to cater to the needs of your patients and prepare for the future, you need to take a Service Design approach to continually assess your processes by putting your customers’ needs at the forefront.

Not only will this boost patient satisfaction levels, but it will also help optimise both your operations and your team’s productivity levels and improve your patient flow. This way, you can organise your healthcare service to benefit everyone involved, creating continual opportunities for organisational growth.

How can you apply Service Design in your healthcare organisation?

For any service design initiative to be successful, five core principles form its foundation:

  1. User-centricity.
    By placing the patient at the centre of the service, Service Designers can determine how the patient experiences the service in a wider context.

    This requires a deeper understanding of patients beyond just statistical descriptors. Instead, Service Design uses more empathetic approaches like interviews, observations and field research to gather insights and understand a patient’s comprehensive viewpoint. After all, it’s important to map out and assess the patients’ needs, experiences and behaviours to improve overall service delivery.
  1. The process should involve co-creation.
    This means that all stakeholders should be involved in designing the solution and then producing and developing it too.

    The development, creation and testing of these services is called co-creation and is usually done collaboratively by multidisciplinary teams. These teams bring different viewpoints to the solution with various expertise, knowledge and skills.

    This creates a partnership between the professional groups and the patients so everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

  1. Be open to an iterative process.
    Service Design is not about avoiding making mistakes, but learning from them.

    This is achieved by prototyping and testing the design on end-users and stakeholders. Organisations can save significant resources by trialling the experience before the actual implementation and full rollout.

  1. Make use of visual communication.
    Clear communication between stakeholders is essential during the implementation phase.

That’s why Service Designers use visual aids like sketches, pictures or flow charts to communicate proposed improvements in a collaborative team environment.

  1. Always think of holistic services.

Providing a quality service always involves looking at the whole patient journey and considering each touchpoint.

Service blueprints, user journeys and scenarios should be used to investigate holistic patient experiences and touchpoints. This involves not only designing the functionality, safety and reliability of the service but also considering the whole patient journey as it is experienced by the users, including both tangible and intangible qualities.

Service design is both a creative and practical way to assess, improve and innovate your existing healthcare services, as well as help you design new ones.

Through the above design principles, tools and processes, service design enables you to deliver patient-centric services that lead to overall organisational success, based on an empathetic understanding of all user requirements, including staff, team members, management and patients.

If you want to learn more about Service Design in the healthcare and medical field, we explore its methodology in our next blog: Improving healthcare for the patient of the future: The Service Design Process.

Do you need help with developing your services to keep up with patient needs?

In the ever-changing healthcare industry, an efficient Service Design process is essential.

That’s where we can help you.

NEXA is an Australian company that delivers innovative solutions, such as Q-Flow, to empower both your patients and staff by taking advantage of digital technology. With NEXA, you can support and enable your team, deliver excellent service levels and thrive in today’s evolving landscape. 

We can help to evaluate your Service Design and guide you towards better service delivery to optimise your processes and improve the patient experience.

See our customer solutions or talk to us today to find out how you can make your patient interactions matter.  


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