March 23, 2022 Published by Raffy Montehermoso

How Do You Apply Design Thinking in Healthcare?

Design thinking helps healthcare providers create actions to improve their patient experience. Find out the importance of bringing design thinking in healthcare.

Healthcare firms, particularly in the public sector, can benefit from putting a lot of thought into their design thinking. While you may initially think that design is only for creative or commercial endeavors, design thinking in healthcare is also necessary for improvement.

Design thinking is a strategic approach towards improving services. And one sector that will benefit from design thinking is the various patient and staff activities inside a healthcare facility.

What is the application of design as a practice in healthcare? Are there any tangible improvements once healthcare facilities incorporate design thinking? We'll explore more of these.


Importance of Design in Healthcare

The design is not only about the visual materials that healthcare uses. Aside from informative graphics for the public, design encompasses the whole healthcare practice. Applying design includes the overall aspect of providing healthcare service.

Let's have an example of the design application from commercial entities. Design-centric companies have outperformed the S&P index by 228% in over ten years. These findings from the Design Management Institute relays vital factors that healthcare firms can also apply.

Among the design applications in healthcare services include designing the service flow, facility interaction, and even the medical instruments. These are all vital in creating a smooth patient experience. Healthcare providers invest in creating an interface that will serve the patients the best and, at the same time, make it easy for them to provide service.

These are just several of the design applications in healthcare. For a more holistic patient experience, healthcare providers turn to design thinking. It is through design thinking that healthcare firms come up with actionable interventions. Strategies for patients to get diagnosed and have treatment.

Healthcare firms rarely incorporate much thought into the design of their service or facilities. However, when you dig deeper, design thinking is the foundation of how healthcare companies connect with patients.


Valuing the Patient Experience

Patients expect healthcare firms to attend to their medical needs and empathize with them. A patient-centered healthcare service considers how they design their relationship with its patients.

One of the crucial elements in providing a better patient experience is design thinking. Take, for example, the challenge of transportation. Around 3.6 million people find transportation challenges when they go to a healthcare facility. They face difficulties such as patient mobility, wheelchair access, vehicle suitable to transport a patient, directions to the facility, and many others. With these problems, they decide to cancel their non-emergency medical appointments instead.

However, if you look at these problems, most of them are about the design of the service or facility. How do you address the patient's needs? Is there a way to reduce the friction in accessing healthcare? These are some of what you should consider for the patient experience.

As a healthcare institution, you have to value the overall patient's experience and not merely provide treatment. You would have to design the experience in a way that will be comfortable for the patients. Now that you know how valuable design and patient experience is, will it be possible to improve the patient experience when the health facility is more design-centric?


Can Design Thinking Improve Patient Experience?

There are various factors to improving the patient experience, and one of them is design thinking. It's a critical element for a valuable experience.

In a study from Adobe, looking at a broader view, design-led companies were able to identify these benefits from applying design thinking:

  • 50% more loyal customers
  • 41% increased market share


Over 75% of organizations from several sectors cited that they implemented design thinking in their processes. This study from the Parsons New School of Strategic Design and Management shows how organizations are now willing to embrace innovation in their culture.

With design thinking, healthcare providers can spot issues for the patient experience and act upon them. They can make their triaging methods, diagnostics, and other healthcare activities more seamless.

Design (visually or the whole experience) incorporates the most patient-friendly way to access treatment. It's about reducing the friction in an already stressful environment like healthcare establishments. Patients and healthcare providers will meet halfway through an action-oriented method of designing how they provide and access service.


How Is Design Thinking Used in Healthcare?

Design thinking applies to several elements in healthcare. A few of these may include implementing a more patient-centric approach to healthcare services.

Applying design thinking means healthcare designs the healthcare experience mainly for the patients instead of focusing on the provider's point-of-view. You curate the actions that lead to accessing the healthcare service.

By identifying the patient's needs and designing an intervention around them, healthcare firms provide a better service. What does this process entail?


Finding a Need and Implementing Interventions

The crucial factor in design thinking in healthcare is empathizing with the patient's needs. After identifying their need, comes the intervention methods that healthcare firms can implement.

Assessment of the patient's needs is a baseline towards design thinking in healthcare. Healthcare firms assess what the patients need from their service and whether their process aligns with their expectations. Through the need-finding procedure, healthcare providers can determine their course of action.

Some of these questions can include:

  • Who needs help the most?
  • In what way does the target audience react to improvement?
  • What problems do we need to solve?
  • Are there areas for improvement?
  • Can we refer to existing studies about the process?


The focus has to be on how to empathize with the patients. Gather every problem and solution associated with the patient's concern. The concern can be transporting patients from one facility to another, communicating with them, and many other factors. Once these issues are known, they will be easier to convey to the decision-makers. Involved officials can now test what possible interventions to create, prototyping the course of action and identifying what works or what doesn't.

Next comes the part of implementing interventions, which is crucial to addressing the patient's needs. Interventions define the actions to take based on the design thinking process. 

Examples of interventions can be any of the following based on the need-finding approach:  

  • Helping patients who don't know where to begin their consultation.
  • Checking for surveys of patients regarding service improvement.
  • Solving the problem of creating a more strategic flow of patient and medical staff traffic.
  • Identifying areas in the healthcare facility that need better signage.
  • Referring to previous medical reports and studies regarding the result of past interventions.


All these interventions need to be action-oriented for the healthcare facility to improve its patient experience, treatment process, and many other factors of its service. An action-oriented approach means coming up with a plan that healthcare facilities can implement from the ground up. That is, it needs to be visible or tangible.

Design thinking interventions can start by having creative agencies assist healthcare facilities in their design aspect - especially when it comes to information dissemination. Medical facts are one of the heavily misinterpreted aspects of healthcare service, in which design thinking allows for a more cohesive understanding.

For healthcare firms to succeed in design thinking, they will need the help of creative agencies such as Delesign. There are several design areas that they may need to improve, such as visual aids for the patients, an easy-to-understand video presentation, or animations. These materials relay crucial information to the patients. The complete suite of graphic design subscriptions from Delesign allows healthcare organizations to intervene with the patient's needs. They can direct patients across the facility or broadcast accurate medical information, making the healthcare provider more design-centric towards providing a valuable patient experience.