Design will conquer health care

When was the last time your hospital hired a designer that wasn’t dedicated to interiors?

No, seriously.  To catch you up, design is emerging as a solution to a wide variety of problems.

We all know about IDEO (at least you should) and what they’ve done for care delivery, but what about the increasing role health care will play in community health?  Insert Participle:

We believe there needs to be a new settlement between individuals, communities and government – new ways for people to get involved in determining their lives in a meaningful way, new approaches that mean some people do not get stuck at the bottom of the heap for generations and new bonds that mean people can flourish and bring their dreams alive.

We also think that what matters is not just ideas, but real change on the ground, in our communities.

On an everyday level this means public service reform – this is where the opportunities lie, to build something different.

At Participle, we do two things: Firstly, bring together the widespread community level ideas and creative activity, and mix it with world-leading experts in any given field; Secondly, drive forward thoughts and actions around developing a new social settlement which can deal with the big social issues of our time.

Fast Company explains:

[Hilary] Cottam is one of a new wave of design evangelists who are trying to change the world for the better. They believe that many of the institutions and systems set up in the 20th century are failing and that design can help us to build new ones better suited to the demands of this century. Some of these innovators are helping poor people to help themselves by fostering design in developing economies. Others see design as a tool to stave off ecological catastrophe. Then there are the box-breaking thinkers like Cottam, who disregard design’s traditional bounds and apply it to social and political problems. Her mission, she says, is “to crack the intractable social issues of our time.”

The application to the health care industry, again from Fast Company:

Earlier this decade, while working for the Design Council, Cottam turned to health care. Originally she planned to rethink hospital design but became more interested in community-based services for sufferers of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. “One in four people in Britain now has a chronic disease that’s treated at home,” she says. “So why are we investing in hospitals rather than community-based solutions?”

One problem the Design Council team identified is that diabetes sufferers often forget to raise important issues with doctors and caregivers. The solution was a pack of diabetes cards, each printed with a question to be used as a prompt. Superficially it looks like a health-care project but, as Cottam points out, design techniques were critical in identifying patients’ problems and producing an efficient graphic solution. “It’s amazing how new the simple design concept of understanding users is to many in the health-care field,” says Tim Brown, CEO of the design firm Ideo, which works in U.S. health care, among other industries. “Hilary’s work has shown that you can take rigorous design methodology and apply it successfully in social systems.”

This all goes back to getting out of health care.  Hire from outside the industry, too.  Never be afraid to hire those creative types, either.  Then let them attack the most challenging problems your organization encounters (i.e., financial constraints, throughput issues, etc.).  The solutions created may astound you.

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