5 x 5 - Service Design for Healthcare, Izac Ross

Interview with Izac Ross, Design Lead at Collective Health

by Thomas Brandenburg

The biggest challenge I face is not within the four walls of my organization—it’s navigating the fragmented world of US healthcare and developing services within it.

1. What are the biggest challenge(s) you face applying Service Design to Healthcare?

I am so lucky to work at an organization that values service design methods and processes—that’s not a given in the world of US healthcare, or frankly anywhere. Service design is not a common term or process, but it's made a lot of strides in the past 10 years with strong case studies and the adoption of the methods within management consultancies' design departments.  

The biggest challenge I face is not within the four walls of my organization—it’s navigating the fragmented world of US healthcare and developing services within it.

2. What framework(s) and/or key performance indicators have you found useful to measure the impact of service design?

What’s great about working at Collective Health is that the whole organization understands the impact design can have on outcomes. Our main focus is on the impact we have on our clients and members. At a top level we use Net Promoter Score, but that only gives us insight into whether people like our services. To supplement, we use a variety of perception metrics, transactional metrics, and design research to see the impact of our work or where we need to build new services.

3. Besides having a mindset and the skill set for service design, what other knowledge, experience, or skills do you see as valuable for a designer to have in his or her repertoire today in the healthcare space?

To be an effective service designer in the healthcare space, it's critical to have a full understanding of the system you're working in. Healthcare is a space where being objective means being double blind. Services are softer than that, but we need to be able to speak the languages of our peers to be the bridge between product, operations, care delivery, and risk. Being able to speak the language and understand where each of them are coming from is very critical, more so than in most industries. Outside of this, I think it’s important to have more than one skill. It’s very hard to just say you're a service designer because at the end of the day you still have to be able to demonstrate tangible value when designing for intangible outcomes. Having a hard traditional skill such as graphic, interaction, industrial, architectural or interior design really helps you take your intangible proposals down to the tangible.

4. Can you speak to how service design might be an agent of change in healthcare, anything from creating internal initiatives to reinventing policies?

There are already case studies that prove service design can be that agent of change. Unfortunately, few are public or accessible. I hope as a community we can make more of these case studies available; they are authoritative, provide social proof, frame specific problems, and explain process. We too often speak in generalized terms in service design—something I am also guilty of—but our business peers want to see the outcome and how to get there.  

5. What would you like to see happen for the future of service design in healthcare?

More of it. More people practicing it well is needed. However, I would love to see service design being applied at the level of state and national healthcare policy. It could be so powerful to link policy to the future vision of services that it could create.

To see Izac Ross at our upcoming SDN US National Conference register here

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