Unsplash: Drew Beamer

The healthcare sector is an area that needs to consider all stakeholders when trying to reform a service. I have written about this subject in more detail in this previous blog. I focus more on the complexity of healthcare and why when you are thinking about new services it is critical to consider different stakeholders, facilitating change, design multiple team skills, and carrying out research on the organisation and its surrounding community.

Another key component to service design is creating the space for change on a strategic level and the habits of the patient.

When you are trying to change anyone.

You have to take time to understand where they are coming from. When redesigning services and systems we need to consider where is a person coming from and what is that person thinking about before trying to change their world.

One of the biggest challenges organisations across all different industries face is changing behaviours of users and different stakeholders that impact the overall systems!

This can impact us from a technology, process and people point of view. Care patients have numerous needs over their healthcare journey, which can create new opportunities in their life. It is less important to redesign a device or application but consider the wider people, processes, policies and systems that create challenges for change to happen.

No aspect of healthcare is in more need of service design than chronic disease management. In 2021, the World Health Organisation reported that chronic diseases accounted for 41 million deaths per year, and medical services alone are not enough to reduce this number. This makes human-centred service design a necessity across the global healthcare sector.

A lifestyle change is a crucial component of chronic disease management. However, not all people successfully change their lifestyles after getting a diagnosis. In fact, it may take months for some to accept their diagnosis. A delayed lifestyle change can have drastic effects, including organ failure, drug resistance, and limb amputation.

So, where do service designers come in?

Service design provides a process-based framework that could go a long way in integrating clinical care with patient needs that go beyond the medical space. This ensures that sustainable behaviour is seamlessly integrated into the demanding and active lives of patients and medical professionals alike.

Holistic and human-centred care calls for an understanding that people accept their diagnosis at different care points, meaning their readiness to receive information will differ. Instead of following the formulaic pathway currently employed in healthcare, patient care must be provided based on a person’s readiness. This may be unchartered territory for many healthcare facilities, and service designers are the ideal navigators in such major changes.

As service designers, we are uniquely positioned to provide the tools, techniques, and frameworks to guide healthcare teams as they navigate the new care strategies required in holistic and human-centred care.

Medical practitioners, dieticians, and lifestyle counsellors typically spend a limited time with each patient, which is understandable considering their workload. As such, they can’t always provide advice that people can easily translate into their lives. In addition, they can’t interact with people outside a clinical setting.

Holistic care requires multi-specialist cooperation and excellent service design within the hospital. This could include asking a patient to keep a food diary before their next visit, for example. That way, their medical team and dietician will provide information based on the person’s lifestyle rather than giving generic dietary guidelines.

After diagnosis with a chronic disease, consults are typically based on medical needs, with very little focus on the patient’s mental or emotional state. This includes a person’s acceptance of their diagnosis. Most of the help people need falls beyond the scope of clinical care.

A service designer could help align various providers to coordinate and provide holistic, human-centred care to ensure that the patient’s needs are met. This will lead to a healthcare service that leaves patients more empowered to take control of their health.

The road to patient empowerment

When designing for personalised services, we must always take social norms and influences into consideration. Service design will help healthcare professionals teach their patients how best to create new habits. This can be achieved by taking note of positive feelings and providing understandable guidance and information.

Recommending drastic changes can be overwhelming for people, making them feel like failures when they don’t meet the goals set. To help people accept their diagnosis and subsequently improve their lifestyles, it’s crucial to understand their perception of their health status. Addressing their concerns in this regard will help shift the patient to a more positive mindset where required. This will enable each person to take their first step toward self-care and a lifestyle change.

A Touchpoint (Vol. 12, no. 3) article notes that “some behaviour patterns are suitable for the initial drivers, awareness and motivation phases of the process, while others are relevant for the adapting and learning-to-use phases.” As such, we must meet patients where they are in their health journey.

Patients may inevitably face challenges as they seek to improve their health. These challenges will vary with each patient, calling for a framework that connects multiple resources patients can consult at different points of care. These resources will be better positioned to identify any blind spots a patient may have while also helping them revise their course.

Going beyond medical care

It’s vital to acknowledge that the road to holistic care will be complex and that complete transformation will not happen overnight. The first step is grouping patients into different mindset profiles. People in each profile will require different levels of care. Therefore, care must be provided based on the tenets of each profile.

As service designers, we could provide strategies to meet the needs of patients at different profiles. These are guidelines that explain the kind and level of care required for each patient. For example, those at a “primary” mindset level might require a more hands-on care approach. This could be done with the assistance of lifestyle or care coaches that are better equipped to deal with patients at a personal level.

Care coaches could liaise with medical practitioners to provide a more well-grounded care protocol. These coaches could help individuals form healthy habits after being diagnosed with a chronic disease. As people progress to different diagnosis acceptance levels, the role of a lifestyle coach shifts from habit formation to developing and mastering a routine that works best for individual recipients of care. These are services doctors and nurses can’t provide in 15 minutes.

People respond better to the necessary health intervention when they’re recognised as complex individuals. This is a clear indication of the overlap between clinical and personal care, and the need to integrate the two. This much-needed integration will create sustainable and lasting health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases.

How do we ensure that the healthcare system is designed for individuals with complex needs?

Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing

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Daniel Tuitt

Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing