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How Design Thinking Turned One Hospital into a Bright and Comforting Place

Shared by Arun | 0 1479 29 | about 3 years ago

Long dreary corridors, impersonal waiting rooms, the smell of disinfectant — hospitals tend to be anonymous and depressing places. Even if you’re just there as a visitor, you’re bound to wonder, “How can my friend recover in such an awful place? Will I get out of here without catching an infection?”

But the transformation of the Rotterdam Eye Hospital suggests that it doesn’t have to be this way. Over the past 10 years, the hospital’s managers have transformed their institution from the usual, grim, human-repair shop into a bright and comforting place. By incorporating design thinking and design principles into their planning process, the hospital’s executives, supported by external designers, have turned the hospital into a showplace that has won a number of safety, quality, and design awards — including a nomination for the prestigious Dutch Design Award. Even more important to the not-for-profit organization: patient intake rose 47%.

They started with patient-first thinking. The first step in any design-thinking process is to understand the end-user’s experience. In this case, a team of the Rotterdam Eye Hospital’s CEO, CFO, managers, staff, and doctors wanted to understand how their patients felt when they entered the hospital and what could be done to improve their experience. The hospital board directors realized that most of their patients felt afraid of going blind. Thus their primary goal should be to reduce patients’ fears.

To do that, the team next looked inside and outside the health care for ideas about how to improve the hospital’s service. For example, they learned about scheduling from the just-in-time practices of the upscale Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn and KLM, the Netherlands’ flagship airline. They also gained important insights about operational excellence from two eye hospital organizations founded by Rotterdam Eye Hospital: the World Association of Eye Hospitals and the European Association of Eye Hospitals.

At this point, teams of caregivers at the hospital began designing experiments based on the most promising concepts the Rotterdam Eye Hospital innovation hunters had brought back with them. Such experiments were crucial to the program’s success: proponents of the methodology insist that because it’s impossible to know in advance what impact an idea will actually have, making small-scale experiments is a crucial part of refining the concepts and winning the support of senior managers.

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