In the midst of efficiency requirements and increased complexity, finding resources and room for innovation is a challenge in the hospital sector. On top of this, the healthcare system has traditionally been primarily occupied with medical and healthcare concerns. This ensures a high degree of professionalism but simultaneously creates a challenge when it comes to development and innovation that centres on the needs and experiences of the patient.
"The value of using design is easy to spot. By placing the patient in the centre, we ensure that the hospital is a guest in the life of the patient - and not the other way around."
Design thinking is the answer
CEO of Danish Design Centre, Christian Bason, made a rallying cry in his article "Danish design can save the healthcare sector". He pointed out that the sector suffers from issues concerning empathy as a professional praxis - but that design thinking, and particularly service design, can offer tools for systematically working with empathy as a starting point for innovation.
The sector is aware of the problem, along with the need for an increased holistic human-centered focus. Rigshospitalet has taken the first few steps towards creating a space for development and innovation driven by empathy towards patients as well as personnel.
Idériget (Nation of Ideas)
Rigshospitalet has established an innovation program which invites all its employees to contribute with innovative ideas. In its departure point, the program is a rare example of the management practising a form of design thinking by insisting on finding ways to create room for empathy in the development of new solutions and ways to let innovation be driven by those who are closest to the patients. Ideas and solutions are created in close collaboration with patients, which ensure a safe, comfortable and effective treatment.
The most groundbreaking project has been the development of a home treatment concept for chemotherapy. In praxis, the Clinic of Haematology has in 2014 and 2015 implemented a patient-centered concept for high-intensity home treatment of leukaemia patients without the presence of healthcare personnel. A digital pump manages the treatment four times during the course of a day. Every second or third day, the patient come to the hospital to talk to a doctor or a nurse and obtain a new supply of chemotherapy.
The home treatment concept builds on a combination of known digital technology, redesigned processes and service design as the main principle. Ideas and solutions were developed and tested in collaboration with patients.
The solution demonstrates how design methods can be used for more than just giving shape to products and developing services. In this case, design creates a new way to organise a service across different actors, new structures in the treatment process and an improved patient journey. The value of using design is obvious: By placing the patient in the centre, Rigshospitalet reaches its goal of being a guest in the life of its patients and not the other way around. This ensures a better life quality for the patient during the period of treatment.
"This is an important step towards making it possible for patients to maintain a sense of normality in their everyday lives, which in many ways are turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis. When we move the treatment away from the hospital bed, patients feel a greater sense of control. The is beneficial to the individual patient. At the same time we free up resources which we can instead use on patients in a more critical state, who have to stay at the hospital due to their situation," says Chief of Clinic Lars Kjeldsen, Clinic of Hematology, Rigshospitalet.
For the hospital, this means that the number of days spent in the hospital is reduced from 30 to 10, which means that each department has greater manoeuvrability in terms of resources; basically better quality for less money. So far 750 days have been saved. This design project has done so well that the solution has been scaled to the rest of the country, and within 2016 every haematological department in Denmark will have implemented the concept.
The co-designers Rie Maktabi, Isabel Aagaard, Melanie Povlitzki and Xénia Geller from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design initiated a collaboration with the teams at Rigshospitalet and Odense University Hospital in order to design an alternative to the standard backpack used since 2014.
After numerous interviews, workshops and prototype tests with patients, the needs of the patients became clear. The design team came up with the solution "Chemo-to-go, Please"; a bag that's smaller, more elegant and signals a larger degree of normalcy than the original backpack. On top of this, the new design is adjustable, water-repellent and made from an anti-bacterial textile.
Rigshispitalet's project "Chemo at home" received the EU award "European Public Sector Nest Practitioner Award" in 2015, and the online magazine Medicine of Today's initiative award "The Golden Scalpel" in 2016.