Communication Fuels Experience
You’ve raised millions to build the infrastructure: critical investments in architecture, landscape, technology, equipment … all necessary elements of a successful, robust healthcare system providing leading-edge clinical experiences. An investment in Healthcare Experience Design can amplify the value of these elements by providing a clear system of communications between caregivers and guests, empowering them to confidently navigate their healthcare experience.
In healthcare, the least tangible elements are the most critical to business success.
“Our patients trust the clinical experience completely.
What gets us the higher scores is the communication, the extra steps we take.”
Patient Experience Administrator
Design the nouns and the verbs
When caregivers think about design and designers, they typically think about outside consultants that conceptualize, design and implement the physical elements of a healthcare experience: architecture, product and software design, brand communications, training programs and wayfinding tools. We call these the nouns of healthcare experience: the physical things you can point to; the projects you can say, “okay, there it is, it’s finished.”
As consulting designers, we do this work because these nouns generate a lot of economic activity, and they’re really important. But what happens if pre-visit instructions are confusing, an entrance is temporarily closed, signs are out of date or someone couldn’t download the mobile app? The nouns aren’t always enough.
In our view it’s just as important, or maybe even more important, to design the verbs, the interactions that surround those nouns: enlisting, engaging and strengthening connections between those who deliver care and those who receive it.
“There are two elevators you can use for the cafeteria:
E for “eat” and F for “food.”
Unit Nursing Staff
Caregivers as Communication Designers
The quote above is a brilliant example of caregivers designing a simple solution to a specific problem. But we’re not sure the folks who told us this saw themselves as “designers.” On the contrary, we believe that caregivers are the most qualified to help design these interactions, because they’re the people who deliver experiences in these environments every day.
These need to be brought forward, considered and shared broadly because they help us understand both where problems and potential solutions lie. The heart of this is shared communication. And it must be effectively designed.
“We do our best to make a big place seem small.”
Health System Chief Operating Officer
How do we do this? By telling stories.
This is how we encourage caregivers to become designers: by asking them to think differently about themselves in their role, we engage the people delivering the experience in sharing their understanding of the system and suggesting solutions.
By connecting peers across disciplines in structured conversations to address the entirety of patient experience, we bring together diverse points of view. So staff from Patient Accounts could be sharing ideas with nurses in a post anesthesia care unit about patient discharge instructions. It’s always inspiring to hear the ideas that come from these conversations, and see the new appreciation for each other’s context and challenges in delivering healthcare experiences.
But as we often say, “you can’t read the label from inside the jar.” As much as we depend on caregivers to share solutions, it’s necessary for us to bring our outside perspective and experiences as both patients and designers to inform potential solutions.
“What do I call the parking garage? My nightmare.”
Patient & Family Advisory Committee Member
You know you’ve got problems. You just don’t know what they look like.
As human-centered design consultants, we use stories as the foundation for understanding patient experience. As we help visualize the daunting task your guests undertake — the range of interactions they must navigate — we consider the four Ms of communication: the Message being delivered, by which Member of the staff, in which Medium, and at which Moment in time.
As we build continuity across the entire range of communications, we simplify language as well: helping you say less so your guests understand more. What a great design challenge!
The rest of the process is iterative: together, we identify potential solutions, then design a structure to prototype, test and learn from both staff and patients as these solutions are vetted. For those that are implemented — those ideas that become “nouns” — it’s important to share the story of why these solutions came to be, how to use them and how they work in tandem with other communications to support the total experience.
Solutions must be unlocked from within your culture, rather than imposed from outside.
Only by learning alongside staff and patients can we assure that targeted, effective investments are made in a system of interconnected communications: training and scripting for verbal interactions, digital tools, printed materials and the built environment.
Experiences happen by design or by default. Healthcare Experience Design is as much about designing verbs as it is about designing nouns. Designing both depends entirely on engaged, empowered caregivers who freely share their stories in structured, multidisciplinary conversations as the basis for innovation.
We believe that the answers to many problems already exist within your culture. The role of Healthcare Experience Design is to weave the verbs and the nouns into a system of clear, relevant and human communications that enable staff to consistently deliver, and empower patients to confidently navigate, their healthcare experience.