Health Care Providers Can Use Design Thinking to Improve Patient Experiences

Sharon H. Kim, Christopher G. Myers, and Lisa Allen | Harvard Business Review | August 31, 2017

A hospital administrator recently talked to us about an issue that is all too common for patients: missed medical appointments. The story was about a woman named Mary (a pseudonym), a patient with a painful chronic condition who continually failed to keep her regular appointments. In an effort to better understand the problem at hand, the administrator tried to put herself in Mary’s shoes, and asked about her experience: Was there an issue with transportation? Did she need other appointment reminders aside from the paper letter mailed to her home and the standard phone call?

Slowly, Mary began to reveal the reasons why she never made it to her appointments. Her journey to the hospital was quite daunting. For starters, her painful physical condition required her to arrange door-to-door assistance and special transportation. Everyone involved had to be on the same page for her to make it to her appointment on time, and coordinating the logistics was onerous and stressful.

Mary faced an additional set of challenges once she got to the hospital. Mary sought care at a large academic medical center with multiple entrances and towers; at times she was expected to travel long distances due to the sheer size of the facility. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to find someone to push her in a wheelchair, or that she might get lost. Simply thinking about the various hurdles of this journey made Mary anxious to the point of talking herself out of going at all....