Design Thinking

IDEO’s Tim Brown on Design Thinking in Healthcare

Edible antennae, Wi-Fi-enabled bathroom scales and insect decals in Dutch urinals may not seem like part of the revolution in healthcare, but at GE’s recent healthymagination summit in New York, Tim Brown, president and CEO of design and innovation consulting firm IDEO, artfully weaved them into the mix. The event brought together thought leaders on the subject of how information technology in particular is making hospitals and doctors more efficient and patients safer — and Tim’s talk centered on what he calls “designing for behavior change.” It’s all about taking lessons learned from the world of design and applying it to the healthcare space so that small lifestyle changes, often fueled by new technologies, can have enormously positive results when it comes to improving health. In the clip below, Tim dives into two of the four principles that he says are key to individuals taking control of their own health: self-measurement and the need to balance impulsive behaviors.

Another principle that ties design thinking to healthcare is the need to approach problems from a “system level” so that we can all see the way in which the odds of making changes are often stacked against us. For example, Tim cited a study that showed people are three times more likely to be obese if they lived near other obese people. Understanding that it’s not just fast food and bad habits that are at play — but even your neighbors and community — is essential if someone is going to realistically tackle their weight problem.

The focus on design — and humanizing technologies and patient experiences — is one that GE has been pursuing in areas such as innovative product designs that are intended to both improve care and make an emotional connection with patients. It can also be seen in our pilot program to reduce stress in children undergoing imaging scans through the use of “adventure” themes, such as pirate and mermaid stories, in scanning rooms. The transformation of the equipment and the experience, which immerses a child in a story before and during the procedure, is already substantially reducing the need for sedation during the scans.

And as for the urinal decal, Tim — to many laughs from the crowd — cited it as a certainly offbeat but nevertheless crystal clear example of how design can dramatically change behavior. Many European men’s rooms over the years had posted signs urging patrons to help keep them clean in an effort “to reduce the effects of male inaccuracy,” he diplomatically explained. But the results from rushing travelers, particularly in railway stations and airports, were consistently poor. Then an airport in Holland tried putting decals of a small, single, common housefly in urinals, and it “had an incredible effect… and has reduced the mess in restrooms by as much as 80 percent,” he explained, “because by giving the guys something to look at, they aim better.”

New Media Medicine

New Media Medicine at MIT Media Lab Their manifesto:

Principle #1: Patients are the most underutilized resource in health care.

Principle #2: The revolution must take place in our everyday lives, not in the doctor’s office or the lab.

Principle #3: Information transparency, not just information, is the solution.

Restaging the patient/doctor drama, a project at New Media Medicine…

New Media Medicine from nextlab on Vimeo.

D2Digital Case Study

As part of the Shine 2011 project d2 Digital won a grant of £75,000 to trial a new Alcohol Relapse Prevention Programme in conjunction with the Bolton Community Alcohol Team.

The Alcohol Relapse Prevention Programme provides an immediate support system to people completing alcohol detoxification in the Bolton area. D2 implemented a pilot programme incorporating behaviour change theory and persuasive technologies. Mobile technology is the primary means of engagement being tested in this study, however a bespoke web based system has also been developed for professionals involved in the pilot, for ease of use, data gathering, reporting and monitoring.

The programme is tailored to the personal needs of each participant as identified during meetings with care workers whilst still undergoing detoxification treatment. It exploits the effectiveness and immediacy of SMS messaging to help encourage users to engage with the aftercare programmes. The process is designed to meet the client’s needs allowing them to receive additional long term support that is crucial in prevention of relapse.

This one’s not a mobile example, but we’re big fans of the simplicity of the design ideas:

Design Bugs Out

The Helen Hamlyn Centre designed six practical solutions to improve hygiene and improve patient safety in hospitals as part of the Design Bugs Out initiative.

The six prototypes were launched at the Design Council alongside other equipment and furniture aimed at helping the fight against MRSA and other Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs).

The Helen Hamlyn Centre prototypes were:

  • An ‘intelligent’ mattress that changes colour when it becomes compromised by body fluids.
  • Cannula Time Tracker, a self-timing cannula (tube for delivering fluids to the patient) with an indicator telling staff when the intravenous line needs to be changed.
  • curtain clip for cubicle curtains which, through a unique design and magnetic mechanism, provide an easily sanitised ‘grab-zone’ and also keep the curtains securely closed.
  • A wipeable, polythene-covered blood-pressure cuff with magnetic closures, instead of hard-to-clean Velcro fastenings.
  • A redesign of the Pulse Oximeter, the oxygen finger clip, with the number of working parts reduced for easy cleaning.
  • A simple, clip-on Wipe Dispenser (illustrated above) that gives patients easy access to cleaning wipes so they can play their own part in keeping things clean.

The Design Council was commissioned to lead the Design Bugs Out project by the Department of Health as part of its HCAI Technology Innovation Programme. The programme aims to speed up the development and adoption of new and novel technologies to help combat HCAIs, especially MRSA and C.difficile.

David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council, said: ‘MRSA and C.difficile dominate headlines and raise concerns for us all. Design Bugs Out has demonstrated that a little bit of good design can go a long way to providing simple, practical solutions based on the real needs of patients and hospital staff. While the designers and manufacturers deserve the big plaudits, the NHS also deserves a pat on the back for recognising design as a midwife for innovation.’



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