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How Strategic Design Delivers Patient-centered Health Care and Metrics that Matter

Trends in healthcare management

By Giang Vu 
Principal, Strategic Design


This article was published by Becker’s Hospital Review on July 28, 2016.

Strategic design is becoming a key priority as healthcare providers realize compelling correlations between better design and increased patient satisfaction as well as other key metrics. No longer an afterthought or simply aesthetics, healthcare design is improving the patient experience – encompassing the delivery of clinical and operational services throughout that journey – and driving real transformational change.


Design thinking for healthcare can be defined as an approach to creating an innovative and optimized patient care environment. Essential to design thinking is the iterative methodology that includes alternating diverging and converging process steps to get to the desired end state. Design thinking includes all sorts of techniques to stimulate creativity and encourage out-of-the-box ideas while supporting collaborative decision making with a keen focus on what matters most.

Used effectively, strategic design plays an intrinsic role in helping healthcare providers deliver top-quality service in an environment suited to address the evolving needs of the patient and positions the provider positively for the future of patient-centered healthcare.”

Our Approach

Demonstrating Measurable Value and ROI

Strategic design is heavily embedded with data analytics using both qualitative and quantitative metrics and research to drive new solutions, processes and outcomes with clearly measurable value and return-on-investment. Used effectively, strategic design plays an intrinsic role in helping healthcare providers deliver top-quality service in an environment suited to address the evolving needs of the patient and positions the provider positively for the future of patient-centered healthcare. Soaring HCHAPs on patient satisfaction ratings, volume growth and other key metrics, which can be driven by better design, are too significant for c-suite leaders to ignore the importance of any longer.

Increasing Patient Satisfaction

Healthcare providers are starting to see the evidence of patient and staff satisfaction rates increasing, process metrics decreasing, and patient capacity and volumes improving after strategic design. For example, Broward Health Medical Center (BHMC) struggled with patient flow and a dated facility layout and aesthetics as well as other operational inefficiencies in its infusion center. BHMC wanted to transform the patient care experience and improve staff efficiency while modernizing its environment to better compete in the highly competitive market for oncology care.

BHMC collaborated with Philips Healthcare Transformation Services to create a visualized experience flow map that included process and workflow optimizations for a complete spatial re-design. Essentially, the experience flow map visually summarized the patient journey at BHMC, areas of concern, and the most impactful opportunities for improvement. It mapped out the data points and insights gained from deep data analysis as well as stakeholder interviews and workflow observations. Based on a unique and structured methodology, the experience flow map created an insights-based view of the patient journey and clinical processes before the spatial re-design.

As a result, BHMC recorded 100 percent patient satisfaction scores immediately after opening a newly designed service area. BHMC also saw improvements in other key metrics including an increase in the daily available capacity (from 38 patients to 50 patients) along with a decrease in the length of time for infusions. BHMC’s innovative redesign has created an enriched patient and staff experience, a higher quality of care and increased operational efficiency.

Illuminating New Ways of Thinking

Strategic design delves deep into understanding the core needs of what patients are going through from an empathic perspective. It illuminates new ways of thinking and embraces all stakeholders to identify how their needs can be better met through prudent choices, process improvement and operational efficiencies. Working in this holistic way, strategic design can spot insights that inform choices that lead to human-centric solutions. It engages stakeholders in different ways to find answers to patient-centered questions such as: 

  • Patient Experience - How can we improve the patient’s experience not only at the point of receiving care but along the entire continuum of a healthcare visit including first arrival, way-finding, treatment, consulting and post care?
  • Patient Flow - How can we use design in an Emergency Department (ED) to help manage the flow of low acuity emergency department patients coming in the door and to bring them through the process faster, keeping them separated from high acuity and behavioral health patients?
  • Patient Treatment - What would be an optimal ED vertical triage and assessment process (such as patients being kept upright for particular issues that warrant that position rather than lay down on a bed) to improve care and decrease length of stay?
  • Patient Efficiency - How can line of sight support observation (when should you centralize or de-centralize) and how can department design and interdepartmental adjacencies reduce footsteps for improved efficiency? 
  • Patient Satisfaction - How can we use different design strategies (such as de-cluttering the environment, circadian lighting, calming colors, noise reduction) to provide a more comfortable and soothing environment?

Understanding the Patient Journey

When people enter a hospital, emergency room, or healthcare facility it is mainly with a feeling of panic, anxiety or dread. Hospitals are notorious for making people wait, seeming chaotic, uncaring or difficult to navigate which makes the experience even more unpleasant. This can be particularly stressful for young patients in pediatric healthcare centers. Healthcare providers strive to improve the situation but sometimes the unpredictability combined with operational issues can exacerbate the problem. This creates a poor experience for patients, a difficult position for clinicians and a frustrating situation for providers. With strategic design, it doesn’t have to be the reality anymore.

For example, Florida Hospital for Children’s Emergency Department was looking for solutions to create a non-threatening, child-friendly environment that benefits patients, families and pediatric caregivers. Working with Philips Healthcare Transformation Services, Florida Hospital conducted extensive experience assessments to collect patient and staff insight. Together, we evaluated patient journeys through their care cycles in the emergency department and co-created with the clinical staff to develop experience touch points to enhance the overall patient visit with a holistic and unique experience. After the new department opened, Florida Hospital survey data showed improvements in overall patient experience and visits more than doubled. More importantly, Florida Hospital studies showed how strategic design choices – such as creating an integrated, positive distraction intervention in pediatric x-ray rooms – influenced patient distress behaviors, satisfaction, mood and x-ray scanning time for its young pediatric patients.

Impacting the Patient Experience Focused Future

At the end of the day, the patient experience is defined not only by procedures performed or remedies given, but the way a healthcare provider makes people feel. Strategic design in healthcare is making a significant impact on the patient experience, from small changes in workflow and throughput efficiency to helping re-design hospital departments to complete enterprise master planning and operational activation. As we inevitably move toward a more patient-centered approach in healthcare, industry leaders should include strategic design partners as an essential piece of addressing these new key metrics by which they will be measured and achieving their vision for the future.

Read the article as published by Becker’s Hospital Review at How Strategic Design Delivers Patient-centered Health Care and Metrics that Matter

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Results from case studies are not predictive of results in other cases. Results in other cases may vary.

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