Health Design Thinking | Bon Ku

Summary of: Health Design Thinking: Creating Products and Services for Better Health
By: Bon Ku


Welcome to the captivating world of Health Design Thinking, a pioneering approach that seeks to enhance human well-being in the realm of medicine. With insights from designers and health care professionals alike, the summary of Bon Ku’s insightful book delves into the use of human-centered design principles to create innovative health care solutions, tailored to diverse individual needs. From observation and collaboration, to prototyping and empathy, you will explore various tools and methods, including design workshops, interviews, storyboarding, and data visualization, to better understand the patients’ perspectives and effectively address their health care requirements.

Human-Centered Design for Health

Ergonomic and human-centered design is a mid-20th century approach that considers human behavior and anatomy in design, accommodating diversity in bodies and abilities. Health design thinking is a proactive approach to creating solutions for human well-being, especially in medicine, and encourages immersion in the unique aspects of healthcare. Designers can use methods such as photo journals, role-playing, and data visualization to understand the needs and wants of those who use their products. The at Stanford University and design agency IDEO are among the institutions that have delved into human-centered health design thinking.

Design Thinking and Human-centered Approach to Healthcare

The traditional top-down approach to interventions often fails to address the skills, beliefs, and priorities of the community it seeks to serve. In contrast, Design Thinking emphasizes the importance of observing and understanding the environment and social determinants that affect healthcare needs. Through collaboration and empathy with patients and other stakeholders, designers can gain valuable insights and create effective solutions. The human-centered approach requires designers to view patients as co-creators and collaborators. Empathy is critical in design thinking, but it’s not enough, focusing exclusively on empathy can result in separating designers from users and patients. The process of observation, imagination, and prototyping are essential in the design thinking approach. However, practitioners can approach them in any order as it is a flexible flow, not a standard process. Ultimately, the designers’ ability to address these issues in the healthcare system lies in their willingness to listen to, learn from, and collaborate with the patients they serve.

Effective Design Workshops

Design workshops are essential for breakthrough thinking, and they inspire new perspectives in individuals who are trying to improve a process, service, or product. To achieve the best results, it is essential to identify the stakeholders who will benefit from the new design. Ideally, at least six stakeholders, including patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, designers, and anyone who will interact with the product or service, should attend the workshop. If certain stakeholders are unable to attend, designers should interview them beforehand. The workshop should last at least 90 minutes to allow for introductions, open communication, and informal discovery.

Designers should encourage brainstorming where ideas are spouted without worrying whether they lead to a solution. Participants should come up with ideas quietly before sharing them aloud to prevent one person or idea from dominating the session. Recording the ideas on sticky notes can show the relationships between them, and at the end of the session, participants can designate their favorite ideas with stickers. Workshop participants become active participants in talking about a problem, making them feel that their opinions and ideas are valued. This approach ensures that solutions are driven from the bottom up, rather than the top down, where too often a small group of experts dominates meetings.

Capturing the Voice of Your Customers

The crucial steps in obtaining rich and personal information on your customers are explained in this summary. The author emphasizes the importance of conducting interviews in a comfortable, familiar environment while listening more than talking. Open-ended questions are encouraged, and the conversation should be recorded discreetly. The use of jargon should be avoided, and non-patients should be used to test any questions before the interview. Photo journals are also a useful tool, enabling participants to include pictures of their daily lives with brief notes that explain their relevance. Designers should also create fictional characters or personas to represent diverse users and their specific needs.

Innovative Techniques for Health Care Providers

Health care providers can struggle to innovate due to their ingrained roles but can use the role card technique to break down hierarchies. By assigning different roles such as “The Dreamer” and “The Researcher,” participants are encouraged to take on new perspectives and generate creative ideas. The exercise starts by writing each role on an index card, including the User’s Advocate, Visualizer, Documenter, Facilitator, and Manager. By diversifying thinking, individuals can overcome habitual patterns and generate novel ideas, fostering innovation in health care settings.

Conveying Ideas with Storyboarding

The power of a storyboard lies in its ability to visually convey the essence of a situation, process, or problem. It is a method that makes efficient use of four or more comic-strip style boxes, where participants can fill in photos, drawings, and captions that communicate action, emotion, and different viewpoints. You don’t need to be an artist to participate as even simple drawings can convey even complex ideas. This technique is highly helpful in design concepts by focusing on the elements of action, transformation, and emotional impact. A similar method called journey mapping provides prompts that describe the user’s goal, period of usage, and actions they’ll undertake, among other things.

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