Design Thinking for Doctors and Nurses

“Design thinking is useful for when we need a paradigm shift, for instance when something is fundamentally broken about a service,” said Thomas Fisher, one of the authors of the report and the director of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota. “It allows for the creative, multidisciplinary thinking around solving the issue.”

At Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, where Dr. Bon Ku serves as director of the Jefferson Health Design Lab, medical students, nurses, doctors and other hospital personnel are given the freedom to design, manufacture and prototype their ideas, which they can then present back to the hospital. One of the innovations the lab has fostered is a new pediatric pain scoring system called CareCube.

Normally, patients are asked to rate their pain on a score of 1 to 10. But health care workers at the university recognized that a toylike object could be at once both more inviting and more effective for children. Each of the six sides of the cube has a facial expression, such as a frown or a grimace, that corresponds to established pain scores. When asked about their pain levels, children in the hospital can simply take the cube and point to a face, which helps the nurse decide if their pain is being managed well.

This year, Dr. Ku, an emergency medicine doctor, and his colleagues introduced a course that pairs medical students with architecture students. The group is using design thinking to develop a digital mapping tool that uses GPS-like software to understand how patients, doctors and nurses move about and interact in the emergency room, with the aim of improving communication and decreasing wait times.

A design thinking approach was used by a group of researchers at McGill University in Montreal, who found that the closer a sink was to a patient with Clostridium difficile, a hard to treat and highly contagious hospital infection, the more likely hospital workers were to wash their hands after seeing the patient. The lead author of that study, Dr. Yves Longtin, says that to improve hand-washing rates, most clinical care at their hospital has been moved to a newer part of the building, where sinks are installed within plain sight.

Health care workers may also invite patients to the health innovation table. At the University of Michigan, Dr. Joyce Lee, a designer turned physician, is a co-leader of an interdisciplinary collaborative called Health Design By Us. The group supported a

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