Introducing design in healthcare: Uscreates host LDF workshop

The Uscreates London Design Festival event at the Impact Hub, Westminster was a sold-out success. The room was full of healthcare professionals from the public, private and third sectors eager to learn and participate in applying design methodologies to a broad range of challenges and change facing healthcare in the UK.

The day began with a Challenge Chart, to encourage the attendees to question what the key challenges of their organisation were. It was encouraging to see that the subjects of understanding and improving the experiences of patients and staff, and becoming a more user-focused organisation led the field.

One of Uscreates’ founders, Zoe Stanton then introduced the nine Uscreates design consultants facilitating the workshop and walked the attendees through the five core principles of design represented by our work.

Next, Steve Lee, a senior consultant at Uscreates got the participants to roll their sleeves up and get to work. Using three fundamental tools, each group would discover the versatility of design in its application to strategic, process, experience, and efficiency oriented problems.

Firstly, by exploring carefully curated personas, each group was able to develop empathy for their user and tease out factors that might help or hinder their health. Secondly, this was translated into likely scenarios the groups expected their persona to face, and how they might cope. By describing the touchpoints involved along a journey diagram, we can understand how experiences between people and health can last the 5 minutes of a phone call, a 30-minute appointment or a lifetime.

With an understanding of user needs, capabilities and the scenarios they must navigate, the third exercise was introduced. Design is traditionally in the domain of understanding, representing and designing with and for users. However, Uscreates believes that a solid understanding of the culture, character and capacities of the providing organisation is a vital part of any design process in order to deliver sustainable and appropriate new services and service improvements. To that end, each group adopted a globally-known brand and brainstormed its character, what set it a part from the rest and what capacities might help provide new and better experiences for the persona.

In just a couple of hours, each group had generated dozens of ideas, despite the fact that they had never met the profiles they were designing for, and they were applying a cursory understanding of the organisation providing for them. Each team picked an idea to share:

• Re-creating Ikea’s holistic lifestyle approach to offer an ecosystem of products curated by people’s life stages, rather than conditions. Providing beautifully simple and clear instructions to help their persona set up a plan for healthy living.

• Applying Nike’s wearables and tech for sports to produce a range of products that help people with reduced mobility, or who are recovering from injury or illness, to stay well and/ or get back to fitness.

• Applying Apple’s credentials to the needs of an ageing population led to the concept of a ‘Gadgets Garage’. This community initiative brings together isolated vulnerable older men to attend peer-led regular sessions that demonstrate how technology in their day-to-day routines can improve their resilience and connectedness.

• BMW’s quest for perfection and optimisation created a ‘quantified self’ service offering for a persona who needed help changing their unhealthy habits. A forecasting dashboard helped the persona understand the consequences and trade-offs when it came to healthy and unhealthy behaviour. Armed with this knowledge, they would be signposted to services that can help.

• A Nike recovery hub (both physical and virtual) would provide a choice of support for people throughout their recovery journey. This included linking up with others in their position across the world through a fitness app, high quality sport physio from coaches, state of the art technology, goal setting and tracking apps, and a ‘just do it’ attitude.

• Journey mapping got one group thinking, many of them for the first time, about the social and emotional impact of ill health on people and what can their organisations do to help or signpost. Apple’s characteristic of integration led to a dashboard that health professionals could use to monitor people’s recovery, and their access to other services.

These tools make the process accessible and easy, but they generalise. They offer a glimpse into the possibilities that emerge when design principles are applied to healthcare. Our process can vary in depth, but there is no substitute for directly researching the needs, values and experiences of our clients’ customers and front-line staff. We advocate collaboration on new ideas in context and bringing clients through the change process to truly adopt design principles and practice into the DNA of their organisation. To find out more, contact