3 August 2007

What patients want

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I have written before about the SPARC Program at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, which uses a design methodology that is rooted in the techniques of ethnography, prototyping, design thinking, and business integration, but just found several backgrounders that are worth sharing.

First there is a Minnesota Medicine article that reports in detail on how physicians and designers from Mayo Clinic are using a creative process borrowed from industry to improve the patient experience.

Step off the elevator onto the 17th floor of the Mayo Building in Rochester and you might think you’re in a design firm in the heart of the Minneapolis warehouse district. Light fixtures that look like flying saucers hang from a ceiling supported by steel beams, hovering over open workspaces. Colorful, overstuffed chairs form a circle in the center of the room next to a wall of note-filled whiteboards. Glass walls offer passersby a glimpse into the work that goes on inside—here at the SPARC Innovation Laboratory in the heart of Mayo Clinic’s internal medicine department. Across the hall is a row of exam rooms that serve as Petri dishes for ideas that are dreamed up behind the lab’s glass walls.

Alan Duncan, M.D., medical director of the lab, enthusiastically points out some of the concepts physicians and designers are testing. Duncan walks quickly, stopping to show off a biometric reader on the door frame of an exam room and explain that physicians can place their index finger on the reader to log on to the EMR system.

He says they came up with the idea after watching how physicians would enter an exam room, greet the patient, then log on … and wait. “We knew that if you started the log-in process earlier, you could improve patient satisfaction,” he explains. “So why not reverse the order so you log on using biometrics, and by the time you’re done greeting the patient, the computer is ready to go? It’s one way design works—by reframing an issue.”

And that’s the whole point of the SPARC Innovation Program, Duncan explains: To find ways to use design to improve the patient experience. “Everything we do is from the patient’s perspective,” he says.

The laboratory was created through internal funds, philanthropic support, and a grant from the VHA Health Foundation, which also posted an article on SPARC on its own website, focussing more on the service design aspect.

Meanwhile Alan K. Duncan, M.D., medical director of the lab, has created a 41 slide “monograph” (3.1 mb) this year on his experiences setting up the SPARC Innovation Program:

“This monograph […] describes a practical approach to incorporating design thinking into creating and transforming health services. We believe that the progressive health organization – the ambidextrous organization – will find new capabilities here to balance with traditional business tools and techniques.”

Finally, there is also this interview with Alan K. Duncan, published as part of the 2005 IIT Design Strategy Conference, where he talks about how The Mayo Clinic’s SPARC Innovation Program improves healthcare by blending the practices of design and medicine.

(via Design for India)

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