With the holiday season over, your thoughts have undoubtedly turned from gift giving and New
Year’s resolutions to “getting back to daily life.” As you do so, I’d encourage you to consider a
resolution to provide a gift to your staff, patients and their families that keeps on giving: clarity.
In over 30 years as a designer, I’ve seen clients focus more on the tool (the identity,
communication, policy, wayfinding system, mobile app, architecture, etc.) than they do on the
anticipated behaviors of the people that support or interact with those tools.
To be sure, these are critical elements designed to support any patient experience initiative. My
goal in writing this post is to help you see the value of designing for human interactions
(engagement, connection, expectation, interaction, enlistment, orientation, learning) as well as
the tools themselves.
In a 2015 HBR article1, the authors assert that “with very complex tools, the design of their
‘intervention’—their introduction and integration into the status quo—is even more critical to
success than the design of the tools themselves. The more complex and less tangible the
designed tool is, the less feasible it is for the designer to ignore its potential ripple effects.”
For most healthcare employees and consumers, there is no more complex, less tangible
experience than a bewildering, impenetrable and continually changing health care system. The
tools created to help engender clarity need to be thoughtfully designed, tested and integrated
to assure they don’t add to the stress, both for caregivers and patients.2
Here’s an example: a formerly independent hospital merges with a much larger faith-based
institution. The wheels are set in motion to design tools to support this merger: internal and
external brand communications, updated facilities, wayfinding signage, EMR systems, billing
systems, relationships with insurers, ambulatory clinic networks, HR policies and procedures,
the list goes on and on.
As a clinical or clerical provider, I need clarity:
- As an ambassador for this new faith-based brand, ostensibly very different from the old one,
how is my behavior expected to change?
- Will I be able to help design the process to successfully navigate the transition?
- As new tools are designed and integrated, how will I be prepared to use them?
- How can I, in my day to day role, bring clarity to our patients and their families?
As a patient or community member, I need clarity:
- How will this impact me? How will it benefit me?
- How will expectations of me, as a patient or community member, change?
- How will the organization help make the transition easier?
- Will there be physical changes? Will I be able to park and enter in the place I always have?
- Who will help me? Will the people I’ve come to know and trust still be there?
The gift of clarity establishes the roots needed to visualize, design and deliver a a human centered
healthcare experience: to understand the potential points of confusion, then meet
individuals at each step in their journey with simple, consistent and well-supported tools.
Whether these are designed to support small initiatives or large-scale transitions, anticipating
the “ripple effects” of human interactions is critical to achieving sustainable success.
Creating an effective caregiving culture happens by design, not by default. It’s up to us as
practitioners to break down silos, see gaps in communications, then test and iterate the tools
designed to bring clarity to the questions that our staff, patients and their families bring to this
world of healthcare experience.
Truly, there is no greater gift we can give. Happy New Year!
1. Design for Action, Harvard Business Review, September 2015 by Tim Brown and Roger L. Martin
2. Creating a Culture of Health: Design that Goes Beyond the Mobile Application by Dr. Joyce Lee MD, MPH “Doctor as Designer “ @joyclee
Mark VanderKlipp is an experience and systems designer, working in human-centered graphic design for over 30 years. He helps clients visualize the systems within which they function, empowering staff to deliver an experience that’s clear, relevant and human. He previously spent 24 years with a world-class wayfinding design firm, 13 as its president, where he was the lead strategist for diverse assignments in healthcare, higher education, civic, corporate, trails and tourism throughout North America. Mark is a 1987 graduate of the University of Michigan. In 2012 he earned his evidence-based design certification (EDAC) through the Center for Health Design, and in 2017 became certified in Systems Practice through +Acumen. He is also a founding partner of the customer experience consulting firm Connect_CX.