How design services can drive a sustainable competitive advantage for hospitals and health systems: 5 Qs with Philips design consulting chief

Sean Hughes, head of design consulting for Philips, leads a global team that is tasked with delivering design expertise and solutions to support a broad range of products, software, digital services as well as architectural concepts that are shaping the future of healthcare. Mr. Hughes directly engages with healthcare delivery organizations to leverage design thinking to transform care provision in meaningful ways.

Becker's recently spoke with Mr. Hughes about strategic design and the future of health systems.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is patient-centered design thinking?

SH: Patient-centered design thinking is simply a user-centered design process whereby we put the patient, the caregiver and care provider at the center of the design process and try to understand their needs and requirements so we can support innovations in the delivery of care. At Philips, we have developed a unique approach that we call Cocreate, it is the our version of design thinking. Through our Cocreate approach, we focus on all the stakeholders within a multidisciplinary view, to address the challenges of the quadruple aim and drive efficiencies across patient journeys. In fact. we look to four important pillars when considering how we might transform care delivery, we look to the people, we look at the data, we engage with the experts and we consider the impact of future changes to technology. In a sense, our design process is people focused, data driven, expert led and future focused.

Q: How does strategic design support healthcare management teams and their priorities?

SH: All too often, healthcare is harder than it should be for patients, providers and all of us when health systems are not optimally performing.  Care teams and patients often feel the impact — impact  when care environments are not ideally designed for their intended purposes; when workflows do not flow smoothly, causing missteps and unnecessary burden; and when processes are disjointed and products are dysfunctional because they are not designed with people in mind. We believe we can do better.

Health systems are becoming less constrained by investment decisions that focus solely on the equipment. Investing in a strategic design approach brings outside expertise to health systems to not only solve today's challenges but also anticipate tomorrow's opportunities and patient trends. Whether they are building a new ambulatory care center or designing a smart hospital, or looking to improve an existing specialty unit, there is a critical level of understanding that is needed to help plan for a future and to accommodate next-generation technology and solutions that will shape patient care experiences. In one of our recent projects to redesign a cath lab, we were able to impact patient volume, patient satisfaction and reduce wait times in a measurable manner. One year after opening, a jointly authored, post-occupancy study found the following: 97 percent increase in overall patient satisfaction, 7 percent increase in patient volume and 55 percent reduction in wait time from arrival to procedure preparation. By designing today with tomorrow in mind, we help our customers to plan more efficiently so that they can achieve greater value from their vision and better results for their strategic investments.

Q: How does technology enable a better patient experience?

SH: Building patient satisfaction and loyalty is key and drives patient revenue. We as patients all want the confidence to know that our time is well planned and our experience will be comfortable and efficient and we can avoid the need for unnecessary visits back to the hospital. When we deployed our Ambient Experience solution together with the Philips Ingenia MR, we were able to see a significant reduction in the number of interrupted scans, this helps the patient the staff as well as the hospital to deliver better care.  After a redesign at the Children's Pediatric Radiology department in Wales (UK), we saw that both parents as well as staff reported that the new solution delivered better experiences, validating that a multi-stakeholder approach to designing experiences makes a difference for health systems looking to transform care. Seventy-two percent of members of the pediatric radiology department said the new imaging procedure experience is 'a lot better,' and 89 percent of parents said their child's experience is 'better' or 'a lot better.'

Q: What type of data sets do you need to gain valuable insights?

SH: When we engage with our customers, we take a broad view of the challenge.  We want to know about the problem in a multifaceted way, so we look to gather information and insight about how the clinical program is being delivered, how the operation is currently working, what are the ambitions of the customer and what are the current patient experience challenges. Once we have captured these elements, we start our iterative creative process looking for solutions that address the needs of all stakeholders.

  • We design with evidence to create solutions that are deeply rooted in data, behavioral science and clinical expertise.
  • We make the intangible tangible by giving customers the vision to change because our sketches, unique visualizations, and iterative cocreation sessions help them turn an idea into a reality.
  • We foster all aspects of care with an integrated approach towards clinical, operational, technological and experiential excellence.
  • We value collaboration by cocreation with healthcare experts and multidisciplinary teams that make healthcare happen.
  • We make it future-ready; Philips knows where healthcare is heading because we are developing tomorrow's technology solutions that help shape and enable it.

Q: What will tomorrow's health systems look like?

SH: My personal perspective is that tomorrows' health system will look both familiar and radically different at the same time. We can already see the trends where more and more routine care is handled via telehealth programs and people will be increasingly connecting to care systems and care professionals from the comfort of their home or the convenience of a smart phone. Hospitals will continue to evolve with a focus on the more challenging patients and procedures only, the role of the locally placed urgent care clinic may take some pressure off the ED and primary care physicians. Increasingly AI will be used to enable the support of clinical and operational decision-making at the individual, department and enterprise level. The possibilities are endless and I'm excited to see what we can do.

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