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Why good design can accelerate positive change in the health and care system

  • By Damian Cranney, Big Motive

    Design as a creative act has evolved into a vital ingredient in the transformation of products and services and this is especially true for digital revolution currently happening in healthcare.

    We have all become accustomed to grim headlines about the failures of our health services and the challenges that lie ahead in solving the long-standing systemic problems and resource pressures that have brought those services – and the people who deliver them – to breaking point.

    On so many fronts, it feels like we are at a critical juncture. Never before has there been a greater need for change and at the same time, advances in technology that afford a great opportunity for breakthrough in medical and health innovation.

    Technology has been held up as the key to improving healthcare and there is no doubt it can be the greatest driver of change. New technological advances are giving healthcare providers the ability to select therapies and technology that improve outcomes and reduce adverse events. But technology will only create better outcomes if it is deployed and used in the right way.

    This week Big Motive is taking place in the inaugural Medical Innovation and Technology Summit (MITS) in Belfast, which brings together over 40 speakers from industry, academia and health along with 300 delegates to discuss the integration of medical technology into the healthcare landscape and how to accelerate it in future.

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    The summit will focus on two strands; digital ecosystems to integrate diagnostics and therapeutics; and community people-centred design to accelerate innovation and adoption of health technology.

    We will be there to amplify the crucially important role that design can play in accelerating change. At Big Motive, we’ve been embedded in countless innovation programmes – always bringing expertise in the design process, promoting customer experience and ensuring that innovation is as collaborative as possible.

    Throughout the pandemic, we noticed that people working on the frontline in health and care and in other public services often have the most valuable insights about service or technology delivery or about the limitations or failures in delivering them.

    Often, the problem is that while the perspective of front-line workers is often invaluable, they aren’t often involved in innovation teams, so that perspective is not captured. That’s why when we talk about approaches like co-design, we mean facilitating innovation in a way that involves everyone with a stake in the outcome. Who better to offer a view on what will work or how a service could work better than the people who see every day how that service is used – the clinicians and their patients.

    Collaboration is key because designing with people is different to designing for them. The innovation and design process in all sectors normally takes place in internal teams or between consultancies and their clients and there is always a blind spot. Searching for a solution to a major problem in a sector like health can be an uncomfortable pursuit and because people generally like to get to a resolution quickly, new technologies, systems and structures are often put in place before the completion of meaningful research and consultation with those who will be using them.

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    Our view is that by understanding a problem from multiple dimensions and spending longer in enquiry, innovation teams can understand the problem in a more profound and complete way so that when they get to a solution, it’s more likely that it’s going to work, be more sustainable and be more usable.

    Design is a fundamental ingredient to the world’s most successful products and services and today, the design process is as much science as art, with a focus on solving problems creatively.

    Design is also about understanding that there’s a holistic way to think about customer experience. It’s not just about what products and services look like, but how they feel and knowing that the experience we get from using a product is informed by a wide range of inputs (how it works, performance, aesthetics, communication, service and environment).

    It’s essential to invest time into understanding customers, their goals and needs, through a range of research practices and methods. When we talk about customers this can mean consumers, citizens or patients – people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

    The way to great products is to think holistically and to think of the product experience as an entire system. Where healthcare is concerned, this is a huge task, but it will be an essential part of the process to make sure the transformation of services actually works.

    Source: Written from press release

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