Designing a Product in Health Care

During the second month of my internship at the Design & Co-Innovation Center (DCC) in Heidelberg, Germany, I had the great opportunity to participate in a four-day d.Camp at the SAP headquarters in Walldorf. The training rooms were equipped with flexible furniture and creative material like in the AppHaus. This environment serves as a foundation of innovative thinking. Since I work in such a creative space every day it was interesting to be able to contrast that with a “traditional” SAP office building.

At the d.Camp we were introduced to Design Thinking and the methodologies applied during the process before we went through the different steps ourselves.

The design challenge we were presented with was in health care.

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Problem Understanding Comes Before Solution Finding


We started brainstorming on the given challenge. Even if it was easy to come up with problems in the health care sector, it was difficult to cluster them and to pick one aspect of relevance. We decided to design an application to give orientation in the complex hospital environment. The question “How might we help patients to get guidance to the right expert as soon as possible?” helped us to focus on our project. To find out what could be improved, we asked patients at the university hospital in Heidelberg about their needs with regards to orientation and their stay in general. All but two patients talked to us very openly about their impressions and experiences, which surprised me. This input enabled us to create a persona, which represented our user type for the application we wanted to design: Katharina, 38 years old, suffering from chest pain. She needs efficient treatment in order to continue her work as a farmer and to return home to her children as soon as possible. Based on our research data we formulated the following demands, which our prototype needed to meet: Guide me. Give me a nice environment. Don’t play with me. Understand me. Don’t make me wait.

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Out of this problem space we defined a possible solution space. The app should be able to deliver an optional pre diagnosis, arrange an appointment with an expert in the field, and navigate the patient both to and within the hospital. Since many patients complained about the long waiting times, we wanted our solution to provide a real benefit in that area. Our app should let the patient know about the expected waiting time and advise when to leave home in order to arrive on time. During the shortened waiting time at the hospital, the patient can complete a questionnaire that will be forwarded to the doctor and allow him to gain an overview of the patient before the face-to-face appointment.

We visualized our solution on a storyboard which we represented to people in order to get valuable feedback. It was a new experience to present this type of “unfinished” work to others, but we had a great time talking about our project. The people we presented to were very open. They appreciated our prototype a lot saying we were working on a well-known problem. However, they indicated some possible dangers of our app – like the pre diagnosis that may cause some errors – that had not come to our attention before. This positive criticism signaled to us that we needed to take corrective action. Thus, the testing phase was followed by another iteration in which we reframed our ideas. Throughout the process we were supported by three coaches. This was a great experience as each of them contributed to our project in a different manner, which allowed us to get different input. We presented our final storyboard to all the d.Camp participants and coaches, which was an enjoyable experience as we conducted a role play.

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Opening New Perspectives on Existing Challenges


Through the workshop I was able to enhance my understanding of the Design Thinking process that I encounter daily at the DCC. It has created new ways to tackle old problems. I have learned that it takes a combination of empathy, creativity, and rationality to meet user needs. In this way, we were able to design a solution fitting our persona, Katharina’s needs and to help her achieve her goal. However, the learning goes even beyond this field. It is important to be open-minded and to consider potential divergence as an opportunity when solving problems. Discussions ensure common understanding, and it is essential to adopt others’ perspectives in order to find a good solution. Do not consider your draft as the solution. Feedback on the work you have created is valuable, and it should be incorporated. Interestingly enough, I have experienced that failure is not bad, but simply part of understanding and improving. You just have to continue iterating to create even better results.

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