Using design thinking to create patient-centered processes

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Combining conventional consulting approaches with a design thinking methodology brings care processes to life from an emotional point of view, while ensuring they are economically viable."

Dr. Patrick Heiler

Principal Consultant

The current challenges in the healthcare market are prompting many hospitals to consider how to position themselves for the future. They want to be prepared for tomorrow's requirements, work efficiently and economically, and guarantee high-quality care. At the same time, the needs of both patients and staff play an increasingly important role.


Collaborating with an industry partner offers hospitals new ways of optimizing and redesigning their strategy, structures and processes. To achieve this, Philips Healthcare Transformation Services (HTS) combines conventional consulting with design thinking methodology. We apply a holistic approach that includes clinical and operational aspects, as well as patient experience and staff satisfaction. This allows us to provide a wide range of services for hospitals, from process analysis and workflow optimization to performance-based technology concepts and strategic consulting. We regularly call upon our colleagues at Philips Design to provide additional expertise.

Design thinking for a better patient experience

In hospital planning, functionality has traditionally taken priority. Of course, the classic key performance indicators for treatment quality and economic viability are essential. Yet how people feel in a hospital should not be ignored; ultimately, they are physically and psychologically vulnerable. In addition, there is competition between hospitals - on the one hand for patients and on the other for staff. A hospital facility that takes the needs of these stakeholders into consideration therefore has a significant competitive advantage.


For us, this involves thinking from the perspective of the people who work or are treated in a hospital. To this end, we interview, observe and accompany patients, staff and family to find out how different environments affect their wellbeing. We then combine these perspectives with key data and process analyses in an experience flow map, which visually summarize improvement opportunities.

Conventional hospital consulting as a starting point

Data analytics is often the first step in our consulting projects. Through analyzing quality reports, clinical and administrative information systems plus device data, we can identify which patients are treated in which clinical setting. This also provides valuable information on process times, utilization and the frequency of each procedure. As a second step, our consultants assess on site the actual processes behind the data, and gain thorough insights by speaking to relevant stakeholders.


In conventional hospital consulting the focus is on quality, profitability and efficiency. This is often achieved by standardizing medical equipment, process optimization or efficiently managing interfaces. We always add an important element to these key performance indicators, which are the perspectives of those most deeply involved in the care process.


Patient-centered design in proton therapy

The strength of design thinking is well illustrated by a project we carried out for IBA (Ion Beam Applications SA), the technology leader in proton therapy. Working together with the global Philips Design team, IBA redesigned the spaces used for this type of radiation therapy. Various perspectives were gathered—from patients, relatives, radiologists, nurses, psychologists and social workers—to gain a better understanding of what proton radiation in a high-tech room means for those involved. Based on this, a concept was developed to improve the patient experience as well as to enhance processes for staff.


This approach can be applied to many areas of care: MRI and CT exam rooms, operating rooms, cath labs and even outpatient waiting areas. Light, video and sound are used to create a relaxing environment in these spaces, which can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of patients and support processes carried out by staff. Clinical requirements, factors affecting productivity and the needs of both patients and personnel are taken into account in the design. We call this approach Ambient Experience.


Solving challenges in care delivery with CoCreate

Two groups often form during consulting projects; one is engaged and supports a concept, while the other tends to resist. It is therefore important for all stakeholders to have the same level of knowledge and to develop a common understanding of the current situation. Only then is it possible to define a future state concept that everyone can agree upon and that – in a joint, iterative process – can be further developed and refined.


We pursue this objective through our CoCreate workshops, which bring all relevant stakeholders together to solve complex client problems and identify opportunities. To take into account as many different perspectives as possible, we involve clinical, business and digital Philips experts from around the world. With such participants and an inclusive approach, a great deal can be achieved in only two days.


Working together to achieve success

To ensure long-term partnerships and sustainable customer relationships, it is important to deliver on promises. In HTS consulting projects we define the key performance indicators together with the client, and are then evaluated on them. For example, in radiology, this may be higher throughput with at least the same outcome quality. Clinical parameters, such as unplanned returns to the intensive care unit, are also of interest. Economic key performance indicators such as average Length of Stay (LOS) or reimbursements can be applied too.


The prerequisite for this is that recommended changes are followed up on. In long-term strategic partnerships, we therefore have our own consultants on-site, and participate in opportunities and risks through outcome-based payment mechanisms. We combine this new way of collaborating with expertise from our long-established technology business, digital solutions and new areas such as population health management. This enables us to offer hospitals a very attractive, future-proof package.

Philips CoCreate

Solving challenges together Philips CoCreate

At Philips, we are convinced that the only way to safeguard and further develop today's care standard is through a partnership approach. In Philips CoCreate workshops, we bring all relevant stakeholders together to solve complex problems and identify opportunities.

For us, design thinking means taking the perceptions of the people who work or are treated in a hospital into account.

A hospital facility that takes the needs of both patients and staff into consideration has a significant competitive

Dr. Patrick Heiler

Principal Consultant

About the author

Patrick Heiler

Dr. Patrick Heiler

Principal Consultant, DACH region

Patrick and his team develop and deliver strategic consulting offerings to hospitals and healthcare providers to help optimize clinical outcomes while reducing costs and improving efficiency across their clinical and business processes.  As researcher, Patrick has published in several scientific journals in the field of innovative imaging techniques and analysis methods.

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