Hospitals should engage their employees to uncover new innovations

At the World Innovation Summit for Healthcare in Doha, Qatar, design specialists discussed the importance of bringing the hospital staff into the design process.
By Laura Lovett
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When it comes to healthcare design it takes a village — or perhaps more accurately, a hospital community. 

“We believe behind every healthcare interaction there is a human story, and the designer’s mindset is to discover what that human story is and use that as an impetus for innovating solutions,” Aaron Sklar, cofounder of Prescribe Design, said at a panel on design in healthcare at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Doha, Qatar earlier this month. 

But getting to the root of those human stories means bringing the people on the ground into the fold. A recent report conducted by WISH on healthcare design discussed ways for more voices to be heard in the realm of design. 

Sklar, one of the report's coauthors, went on to expand on three ways teams could receive more input on new designs in healthcare. The first is professional design, where designers collect information from stakeholders about their experiences. The other two approaches, co-design and design thinking, make the end users active players in the design process. 

“Co-design takes it a step further and treats patients, clinicians and stakeholders as equal partners in the design process. Rather than a source of input, it is a collaborative experience with data that are brought in to the team,” Sklar said. “Design thinking is a more distributed approach to engaging people. This is a whole workforce thinking and being trained in the practices of empathy and prototyping, and using that in everyday work.”

While bringing patients into the innovation process has been a common topic at recent conferences, speakers also stressed the importance of incorporating hospital employees at any level, from attending physicians to support staff. 

Buy-in from the staff is important because changing up the system can be unsettling, Stacey Chang, executive director of the Design Institute for Health at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, said at WISH. 

“Organizations fear uncertainty, and that is very much true for healthcare as well,” Chang said during a session. 

Working with staff on design can also be key for helping to pinpoint where technology needs to be implemented, rather than implementing new designs just for the sake of it. 

“One of the views of technology that we have to remake is that tech will somehow replace the human relationship that happens in the room,” Chang said. “It can aid it, but I think we have to remain faithful to this idea that the interaction between the two humans is where most of the value transaction in healthcare happens. We should use technology to remove as much of the impediment as possible.”

That idea has been put into practice at Qatar’s newest hospital Sidra, a facility designed specifically for women and children that was officially opened in mid-November. The hospital launched the first in-house hospital innovation team in the region, which it calls the Center for Medical Innovation, Software and Technology (CMIST). 

The CMIST team heads up the Imagine project, which solicits new innovation ideas from its staff through pitch competitions. The first technology born out of the initiative was called 10 Moons, which was developed by midwife Paula Ibanez. It lets women keep track of milestones during their pregnancy. 

“Hospitals are busy places with staff laser-focused on providing safe and quality care for patients. Healthcare workers are intelligent and take their work seriously – they’re doers. Paying lip-service to them through thought experiments will not work. Quite frankly, they know their jobs best and engaging them early in the process is necessary for success,” Avez Rizvi, division chief at CMIST, wrote on a Linkedin article. “At Sidra Medicine, we started by creating a forum for staff to express innovative ideas. It began as an open-invitation innovation workgroup and ultimately evolved to a full online platform called Imagine.”

Rizvi went on to explain that once the ideas are accepted, going through the right implementation methods is essential. 

Sidra isn’t the only hospital looking to employees for ideas. On the other side of the world, Brigham and Women’s iHub, an innovation organization inside of the hospital, also hosts pitch competitions for their employees

“Organizations are reluctant to change. They adhere to legacy because it feels comfortable,” Change said. “I find that usually the way that gets overcome is a little bit of courage.”Nike Shox Avenue 802