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Design: Engage the patients!

Posted Jan 07 2009 4:42pm

A pair of British innovation consultancies are putting design to work improving health care—both involve asking (potential) patients for their input.

The Engine Group asked individuals in a number of vulnerable populations what kind of health care services they would use and then co-designed those services:

The findings showed that all the groups shared simple needs, mainly concerned with emotional, social and low level mental health issues. The findings also indicated a lack of trust towards the NHS in general, although the stakeholders were able to identify an individual with whom they had a productive relationship. The resulting service suggestion ‘Open Door’ emerged from this work. It was built around a place of safety - somewhere warm, safe and non-judgemental - where a variety of services are designed to address peoples needs. Different touchpoints were developed to increase access, so that the user groups could begin to better manage their health.

Live|Work comments on a recent report by the National Health System outlining the need for a new approach: High quality care for all.  Its gist: health care gets personal.  Live|Work says:

The move from quantity of services to quality of services involves switching attention from the productive capability of the NHS machine (how many cancer patients can we treat with these resources?) to the ability of NHS services to meet the needs of patients and the public (how can we support the health needs of each and every person in Britain in a timely manner?).

What is needed is a new way of thinking about services that starts with the individual not the organisation. We call this Service Thinking.

Service Thinking presents a major challenge. It requires a new type of engagement with patients and the public. And it means NHS staff handing over some of the control to patients.

Our experience at live/work, working with NHS trusts and the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, is that engaging patients in the design of services is particularly challenging because of the past focus on increasing the quantity of services.

Engage thy patients!  Their input propels design.

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