Monday, September 11, 2006

Testing Healthcare

To differentiate itself and better service patients, the Mayo Clinic has started having doctors and nurses act like designers (Salter, 2006). They shadow patients, interview them and develop prototypes to try to put new ideas before them. A dedicated corridor has real patients (who consent to the experiments) being treated by real doctors and real nurses, with experimental prototypes, interviews and questions. The area is called SPARC, or “see, plan, act, refine, communicate” (Salter, 2006).

The notion of changing patient service emerged because they realized that patient care hasn’t changed much since the 1800s—and maybe it’s time. SPARC features transparent walls and cameras that capture doctor-patient interactions, as well as removing some of the mystique and hallowed sanctity of the exam room, all in an effort to better serve patients (Salter, 2006). Personalized guides showing individual risks and risk factors tested very well by the third or fourth iteration, and successes like that help the doctors stay enthusiastic about the innovation process (Salter, 2006). Doctors or managers come up with questions about patient needs, then teams hit the ground running and try to search out how things look, feel and resonate with patients—for instance, the Patient Library was underused, and when they interviewed patients they found out patients didn’t know the computers for them (Salter, 2006). Minor changes in signs helped patients feel confident using the patient library. The teams reconvene in a lounge with a whiteboard after interviewing patients and examining physical spaces, and then they brainstorm.

Patient needs become the starting point for research, idea generation and prototypes like a single sheet of paper that SPARC urged experimental patients to imagine as a self-check-in station (Salter, 2006). Then, if results are encouraging, the doctors refine the prototype and continually elicit patient feedback. And top management is taking notice—SPARC was named one of the Mayo Clinic’s top priorities last year (Salter, 2006).

[Source: Salter, C. (2006) “A prescription for Innovation.” Fast Company, Issue 104, April. Page 83.]

[Summary by: Caroline]

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