5 x 5 - Service Design for Healthcare, Molly Fuller

Interview with Molly Fuller, Director of Design, Service Designer at Harken Health

by Thomas Brandenburg

I’d like to see service designers not just in large institutions but in smaller clinics and organizations as well. I think service design can help create a radically different system than what we’re used to today.  

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

The biggest challenges I think and most other Service Designers in healthcare face are misunderstanding, measurement and implementation. Service Design is not a common profession, especially in the United States, and the majority of people within healthcare don’t understand the discipline and how it’s different from the process improvement team. I think Service Design appears to be more of a fun break from reality for providers when they participate in prototyping workshops and experiments, however Service Designers don’t always get the initial credibility they deserve. I think you really have to show and prove that you can deliver exceptional work before care providers necessarily take you seriously. The measurement aspect of Service Design is also a challenge when talking to providers who are used to clinical trials and very controlled research. It’s important to be able to explain why, but sometimes it can be hard to capture all the metrics needed in rapid prototypes to be able to convince a provider of one idea over the other. The third challenge is implementation. Healthcare is a creature of habit and tries to protect the status quo, it can be a pretty big uphill battle that requires creativity and perseverance to get a great idea implemented into an existing system and culture.

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

Most recently, I was a part of a team using Net Promoter Score as well as using the survey to identify the driving factors for that score. I use triangulations as a framework with a mixture of qualitative and quantitative metrics that are tailored to the specific experience I’m trying to impact.

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?

I’m a fan of the more experiences and skills you have the better. I think specifically to healthcare having a deeper knowledge of ethnographic and anthropologic techniques are helpful for getting a profounder understanding of people within the context of a system than only using interviewing and observations. I think having an understanding of digital designs and capabilities is helpful to understand how digital and analog systems interplay. As well as helps design digital tools that are in context of their surroundings and enhance and fade seamlessly into the analog service.  In addition, I think having skills or experience in business models is helpful. As the landscape of health insurance and healthcare is changing, new ways to be profitable while delivering exceptional care and not sending a patient into debt need to be designed.

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

I definitely think service design is an agent of change in healthcare. I think it’s inspiring to see so many healthcare and health insurance companies starting to hire service designers internally. I have already seen how service design is making companies become more human with their customers through different modes of communication. Health insurance by its nature deals with population and the law of large numbers, whereas healthcare is typically a more one to one level of care, I think service design is able to bridge the gap of dealing with a population while not losing sight of the individual that can rethink business models, contracts, and shape policies.

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

I’d like to continue to see the growth of service design embedded within healthcare and health insurance. I’d like to see service designers not just in large institutions but in smaller clinics and organizations as well. I think service design can help create a radically different system than what we’re used to today.  

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