Providers in the Health Care Trenches Use Design Thinking To Spur Innovation

It happens too often in too many American cities: Someone is admitted to a hospital emergency department with a gunshot wound. Doctors, nurses, technicians work frantically to save the patient’s life. But this swarm of health care providers too often functions like a swarm: with no clear leader.

Amitha Kalaichandran, MD, a Toronto-based physician and journalist, writes in today’s New York Times that at many hospitals the team leader now wears an orange vest, so no one has difficulty spotting who’s in charge.

Patients at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia are asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. However, that can sometimes be difficult for a child. So the hospital came up with CareCube, a six-sided square in which different faces are drawn to reflect different intensities of pain. “When asked about their pain levels, children in the hospital can simply take the cube and point to a face, which helps the nurse decide if their pain is being managed well.

These are examples of design thinking, ideas that spring from the people on the frontlines of health care and they’re becoming more prevalent, writes Kalaichandran. “Traditionally, hospitals were designed with input from administrators. With design thinking, the innovations come from those who actually work there, providing feedback to designers to improve the final product.”

The approach is borrowed from the business world, where it was used to create innovative products. The solution should be simple and easy to implement. “When I think of something as basic as a bright orange vest, it amazes me that such a simple and inexpensive idea from an experienced nurse could lead to improvements in how real trauma cases are handled,” Kalaichandran writes. “By fostering simple innovations through design thinking in hospitals, we can tackle many challenges in the hospital in new ways, saving both dollars and lives.”

Source: New York Times