Doctors and Nurses Cannot Design For Patients

Yesterday I was catching up on the morning news, articles, and discussion when I happened to come across a post from Tom Peters. (@Tom_Peters)

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As Tom often does so eloquently, he pointed out the reality that it is difficult for someone that is not part of the target segment to “design” useful items for those groups of people. In this case, Tom specifically was highlighting women and those 51 years of age.

I had to ask Tom his thoughts on the same challenge, but this time specific to healthcare. Tom obliged me with a response. (adding to my wall of inspiration)

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Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.17.44 PMAs I participate in conversations with healthcare leaders across the globe there is not a day that passes in which I hear leaders highlight the topic of patient experience, patient engagement, or consumerism. (I will touch consumerism later this week)

When I begin to ask healthcare leaders direct questions about designing process improvement, service line expansion, technology investments, cancer, or population management and how they involve patients in the development process the conversation stops.

Most of the leaders and physicians look at me like this:


For so many years, the approach to “design” in healthcare has been an inside out approach.

Let’s form a committee of physicians, nurses, technical and ancillary staff, and the leadership team to come up with the next “big thing” for our patients.

We know what is best for our patients. We know how to care for them, we know the latest studies, we are trained on the newest techniques, we have the most advanced technology, we have the most highly trained staff.

Let’s combine all of those ingredients and make something that will really meet the needs of our patients.

Unfortunately, physicians and nurses cannot design for patients

The problem is that the ones creating a ‘solution’ are not part of the patient population. They are not representative.

To meet the needs, you need to take an outside in approach.

You need to include the people you are designing for in the process. You need to include patients, the community, their families. You need to spend time talking, asking questions, observing.

You need to empathize and learn what it is to walk in their shoes.

As you continue the design  journey, you need to check, verify, share, and include patients as you progress every step of the way.

Many healthcare leaders seem puzzled by my stories. They often ask me:

How did you include patients in the design of all of your projects?

My answer is always the same:

Everything I do in healthcare has a solid line to patients. If I cannot include them in the process, then I do not take on the project.

Next time you take on a new project in healthcare remember to include patients. They are the reason you show up to work every day…..I hope.

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek



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