by Thomas Brandenburg
Getting beyond our device mentality and considering the whole continuum of care will lead to better experiences for clinicians and the patients they serve.
1. What are the biggest challenge(s) you face applying Service Design to Healthcare?
Because I work for a healthcare equipment manufacturer, the challenge is usually getting others to consider the whole ecosystem and not just the device and its functionality alone. Not to knock engineers, and we have some very talented ones, but typically their charge is to deliver a device that creates a great diagnostic image, and at a certain cost. The quality of the user experience is not always paramount. Even more so for patients—the quality of their experience and their comfort was not part of the equation. But, that’s changing and our Design team is a key part of delivering better user and patient experience.
2. What framework(s) and/or key performance indicators have you found useful to measure the impact of service design?
We are a highly regulated industry, so we have a lot of focus on usability requirements and meeting FDA guidelines. There are basic requirements to do no harm and minimize errors in the usage of our products, which sounds obvious, but we make some pretty complex technology, so it’s important. Efficacy and speed of completing tasks are always a consideration. Beyond that we’ve been exploring sensory design cues and the reaction of patients to different sensory stimuli during medical procedures. For example, if we change the lighting or add scent or music to a mammography exam, can it lessen the anxiety of the patient? It can. We have shown that we can design better auditory signals and alarms into our equipment if we understand how clinicians respond to certain tonal arrangements.
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?
We are big proponents of design thinking, so clearly empathy is an important attribute, particularly in the healthcare space. Healthcare is full of such emotional experiences, both positive and negative. So, you need to put yourself in their shoes, and not just the users, but the patients as well. What’s it like to be hooked up to our equipment or sometimes placed inside of it, like an MRI machine? It can be kind of scary, so you need to consider that.
4. Can you speak to how service design might be an agent of change in healthcare, anything from creating internal initiatives to reinventing policies?
Getting beyond our device mentality and considering the whole continuum of care will lead to better experiences for clinicians and the patients they serve. The devices and the technology are merely there to facilitate decisions about delivering better care and more positive outcomes. That’s hard to say for an industrial designer working for a large corporation making healthcare equipment, but I think it’s a reality we have to come to terms with sooner rather than later.
5. What would you like to see happen for the future of service design in healthcare?
There are some emerging technologies in artificial intelligence and machine learning that hold immense potential to change how clinicians do their jobs today. The potential for computers to examine countless diagnostic images and identify areas of interest will outstrip the ability of today’s radiologists. This will change the face of medicine and it will change their role in it. We have to consider this reality as we think of service design in healthcare’s future. We can’t be stuck in today’s paradigms. That prospect scares some in the medical domain, but to me it’s an exciting proposition.
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