The healthcare service design rollercoaster
By Jennifer Maroney / February 6, 2017
Back in 2011 when I first transitioned into User Experience from being a developer and producer, it was my dream to service design a hospital. I wanted to design the ideal physical space, digital tools, and staff interactions in order to ensure the most optimal patient experience and healing. So I was thrilled when my company supported me in starting a pro bono project to redesign a holistic health center in Manhattan. But I didn’t expect it to be the most challenging project of my life, and there were many times it nearly had to be abandoned.
It all started with trying to find a client. We spoke to a number of clients including hospitals and addiction centers, but we ran into issues with HIPPA and finding the right fit for our vision. The hospital would not allow us to enter the space without being fully HIPPA trained and compliant, an expensive process. Also, we wanted to have full purview over all aspects of the design and not be constrained by our client’s need to build standard block-and-tackle deliverables such as a website or app.
Starting with the Right Team
Once we finally found a great client, an integrated health center in Manhattan, my next step was to assemble the right team for the task. I tapped into a very senior UX leader who had been trained in Service Design by the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, two excellent strategists who focus in innovation methodologies, a graduate of Virginia Tech who had a product design background, and a talented UX architect who is also a visual artist. We started by conducting initial secondary research into their target audience and the landscape. We then conducted ethnography, becoming secret shopper patients of the practice. It took a ton of work on the part of the wonderful staff to make this happen without any of the healthcare providers suspecting who we really were! One of my usually very professionally dressed team members changed out of his button down shirt and trousers into shorts and t-shirt for his patient appointment to go fully incognito.
The ethnography uncovered patient expectations and gaps that we mapped in an exercise along with the competitor’s capabilities and the patient journey. We presented this to the client and then ran a blueprint session with them. After the blueprint session, our client was understandably having trouble making sense of the vast amount of solutions we uncovered.
This led us to explore value planning, and while we did not employ the full method Tom Gilb has developed, we used a lighter version that mapped the solutions to value for the business, user, and by feasibility. This helped our clients focus on the key solutions to move forward with. We’ve now rebranded the healthcare center with a new name and identity and are developing a number of solutions for them. They’ve already implemented a few of our suggestions, such as first piloting and then implementing Stitch, a messaging tool that is HIPPA compliant. They have also piloted and now put into practice a patient coordinator role to ensure that new patient onboarding is smooth.
Bringing it all Back Home
We’re now focused on wrapping up the project and case study, and are still encountering challenges. We’re now realizing that for one solution we proposed to the client, we need to prototype physical mock-ups with foam core in the space to ensure it’s a solution that meets patients’ needs. We were jumping too quickly into spending time designing and developing a solution in hopes of finally finishing what has been a 1 and a half year process so far. But we’ve learned quite a lot, including how to have the right skill sets on a service design team, to allow quite a lot of time, and to navigate a highly regulated space with a new capability. Stay tuned for the final case study coming very soon.
Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.