Fresh Perspectives on the Hub

I started as a new innovator-in-residence at the Innovation Hub this February.  Excited with the idea of innovation, I was ready to embrace empathy, brainstorming, and ideation, which are design thinking components for the next three months. Instead for the past two weeks, I found myself tackling how exactly innovation and design thinking mesh with my existing framework of medicine and healthcare.

To provide some context, I am in my last year of Preventive Medicine Residency (which has less to do about prevention but more about population health). Last year as part of the residency, I obtained my masters in public health, and two years prior to that, I was in a surgical residency in Boston.  I have never experienced design thinking, nor the idea of prototyping, at least formally. For me, my experiences in medicine have been driven by research, evidence-based medicine and standard policies.

As you probably already know from the Hub’s blog, design thinking is a methodology to create creative and practical solutions for problems. Embedded into this process are the notions of user empathy, collaboration, and rapid prototyping. Tim Brown, president of IDEO, an award-winning global design firm, summarizes design thinking the best as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people...[and]…the possibilities of technology.”

Does design thinking differ once this process enters the healthcare field? After all, healthcare is very complex and nuanced. There are many individuals involved including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, medical assistants as well as those involved in the operational components of the hospital such as environmental services, billing & reimbursements, and many more. There are also pre-existing initiatives and groups to improve hospital practices such as the Lean team, Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP), Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), and many more.  What role does the Innovation Hub play with all these groups?

In these short two weeks, I realize that design thinking can be used for something as complex as health care, and it is usually used for difficult problems. This methodology helps to create transparent, simple and tailored solutions. While there are many areas that could benefit from design thinking (as proclaimed by patients and hospital staff), it makes sense to tackle experiences that affect patients the most, and in Sibley Hospital’s case, the first and last impressions of the hospital.

Currently, members of the innovation hub or also known as the design team are looking to design the new 700 square foot Welcome Center at the new hospital building.  This project is broader than deciding which furniture and wallpaper should be there, but rather which experiences and connections should Sibley offer their patients and visitors through the medium of this Welcome Center. This is an opportunity to create a positive impression that will set the tone for the rest of patients’ and visitors’ stay. (For more information about this design project, check out this blog post here.)

In terms of the discharge process, last month, the medical and surgical nurses along with the design team discussed the ways to improve the discharge process. While there are many areas of discharge ranging from medicine reconciliation to communications with primary care physicians, the project members tackled the patients’ experience of feeling ready to go home. The result was a tool tailored to what Sibley’s patients wanted- a prompting leaflet that guided patients which questions to ask to ensure a safe and ready discharge. (For more information about the tool that was created and the process behind it, see this blog post here).

During these short two weeks, I see how design thinking can complement other initiatives in the hospital.  While all groups are working on initiatives, design thinking can remind us the notion of empathy and the incorporation of patient perspectives to all problems we aim to solve.

Shelly Choo will be working on the Welcome Center Design Project & How the Hub Communicates Project