Smart Surgery

How Design Thinking Can Solve Healthcare's Biggest Challenges

09 Jan 2019

While technology has helped to address many of the hurdles hospitals face. But to address the root cause of these issues, healthcare providers should look to design thinking to find innovative solutions. 

Designing the Right Solution

The Tech Revolution has brought no shortage of new and innovative ways to tackle some of the world’s biggest issues. But design thinking is less about the technology used to solve the problem, and rather focuses on unpacking and understanding the problem itself, as well as the multitude of interventions possible to address it.

Of particular importance to design thinking are the end users. It places particular emphasis on a human-centric understanding of both the problem and its subsequent solutions. While different approaches break it down differently, there are essentially five key steps towards applying design thinking:

  1. Empathize– Consider your end user
  2. Define– What is the end user’s problems, their needs, and what potential insights can you proffer
  3. Generate Ideas- Unpack and challenge the assumptions. Breaking these down can reveal hidden flaws
  4. Formulate- Create concrete interventions
  5. Test- Implement, evaluate, and course correct based on feedback

Let’s take an example from the OR.

  1. Empathize- The surgical team consists of multiple actors including the surgeon, nurses, OR managers, and the pre- and post-operative teams.
  2. Define- There is considerable surgical variability. Each surgeon performs differently and each procedure varies slightly. There is little oversight to help evaluate and course correct.
  3. Generate Ideas- Assumptions: surgical training is equal and sufficient; post-operative notes are sufficient enough to reveal variations and complications.
  4. Formulate- Surgical training is a continuous process. New methods must allow for better evaluation of skills and best practices.
  5. Test- Implement new training protocol and see if patient outcomes improve. Speak with surgeons to see if new methods are fit to their needs. Contour future iterations to better align user needs with end goals.

By placing the needs and challenges that surgeons face at the center of the discussion, and not simply the rate of complications or re-admissions, it’s possible to identify innovative solutions that more appropriately achieve the end goals.

Technology alone cannot solve the our most pressing issues-- in healthcare or other industries. Increased technological capabilities, in combination with thoughtful interventions that are centered around individuals, however, can coalesce to overcome the challenges we face. As the example illustrated, finding not just better tools, but also finding more effective ways to train and refine surgical skills can lead to better results. As healthcare providers seek to utilize technology, it’s vital that they implement design thinking to understand the issues they face in their totality if they hope to improve patient care, improve surgical performance, and reduce hospital costs.

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Sean Witry

Written by Sean Witry

Sean Witry works as Community Manager and Content Marketer at caresyntax. With a background in international affairs and a focus in public health, he's passionate about exploring technology's role in increasing access to quality care and improving patient outcomes. You can reach him on LinkedIn or via email at sean.witry@caresyntax.com.

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