Peter Mac, Mother Theresa and $300
The Story of Matiu Bush: A Design Thinking Case Study
When Matiu Bush took on the role as Nurse Manager at Peter Mac 12 months ago he knew many things were out of his control: The aged building, the two-hour wait times for patients and the stark fact that one third would not survive their cancer.
There was one area, however, where he could make a big impact and it was how patients felt as they waited for treatment. Matiu and his team could “run interference with the anxiety patients were feeling, and make meaningful use of the act of waiting”.
Using an experience design approach and inspired by airport lounges, co-working spaces and the humble home lounge room, Matiu set out with a mission to improve patient waiting areas at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. His goal was to produce maximum benefits for the patient at minimal cost. That cost to date has been $300.
Who is Matiu Bush?
Within three minutes of meeting Matiu Bush you can tell he is a person who Gets Sh*t Done. With no formal design thinking training, he is a beautiful reminder that the human-centred design movement belongs to everyone.
“You just have to be bold enough to ask,” Matiu says when explaining how he has acquired the plants, pop-up café and Ikea furniture in the waiting room.
This is also a maxim he has lived most of his life by, including how he found himself working for his first employer: Mother Theresa.
It was 1990 and he was studying Fashion at East Sydney Tech and the Somali famine was at its peak. He wanted to do something to help so he wrote to Mother Theresa.
Whatever he wrote in that letter struck a cord. She wrote back (from Calcutta), telling him she needed help in Tijuana. So he packed up and went. And stayed for four years.
“I learned how to make the most from very little. How to leverage what (limited) collateral you do have and just make things happen,” Matiu says.
He explains the church invented the crowd-source. They draw on a powerful network to make things happen, often with very little.
So what has he done?
There were no detailed project plans, no formal strategy, no waiting for board approval. Just a succession of small but powerful changes, based on customer insights, to improve an experience we rarely ever question: The act of waiting.
When you have been diagnosed with cancer and you don’t know how long you have left—every minute counts.
“Using the five senses as the starting trigger for the patient experience, we sought to redesign the significance, intensity, interaction and duration of their time in the waiting room,” Matiu says.
Walking into Peter Mac’s main entrance, the first thing you see is a space that is now filled with walled gardens, hanging baskets and other colour. Until this project began, the centre had no plants as soil is harmful to patients undergoing chemotherapy. Matiu’s answer? Fake flowers that were donated from a company called Albi.
Crochet design, knitting and hand-drawn artwork now covers the wall and for touch there are games and puzzles on every table to focus energy.
“You can’t be looking for that missing piece and still be stressing about your treatment,” says Matiu.
The seating has been changed from straight rows which had faced the administrative staff to circular “pods”, where people sit in small groups and face each other.
Patients now have conversations, start relationships and even car pool.
There is a focus on music, with local buskers being bought in occasionally from the street and a piano for patients to play—alone using headphones or to an audience in the room.
The pop-up café run by volunteers caters to taste and even the purified water fountain was not there when Matiu arrived a year ago.
And our personal favourite, the virtual reality Samsung Oculus Rift headsets which serve as distraction therapy for people with needle phobias or who are undergoing painful wound dressings.
This completely customer-centred approach even extends to his hiring strategy.
Matiu manages 59 staff and his latest recruit Natalie came from retail at Ralph Lauren and studied Psychology and other recent staff have ben recruited from airlines.
But it hasn’t always been easy. Like any organisation there are people who prefer it the old way, just can’t be bothered or get bogged down in red tape—including the pop-up fitness corner with two treadmills where patients can exercise as they wait—which very nearly didn’t happen. But as Matiu says if you want to change the game you have to “eat resistance for breakfast”.
Matiu, along with the rest Peter Mac’s staff and patients, are due to move to their new Grattan street building in less than 100 days and ensuring this stunning $1bn building makes patients feel as at home will come with it’s own challenges.
But like Mother Theresa, we’ve got faith Matiu will pull it off.
Follow Matiu’s story and his design thinking journey on Twitter @MELBvisualiser
Full list of changes Matiu has bought about in the last 12 months.
Implementations of a concierge style volunteer model
Working stations with power points and tablet and smart phone rechargers
Customer Service Standards for front desk staff
Happy birthday stickers for patient files
Establishment of a micro pop up café
Chemo Day Unit fast track pathology service
Pop up live music
Pop up poetry reading and story telling
Therapy dog visits
Artist in residence
Dynamic seating arrangement maximizing patient engagement
Improved way finding
Green walls and lifelike plant arrangements
Treadmills to promote exercise
Zen Corner with massage chair
Improved cleanliness of facilities
Early detection of clinical deterioration through volunteer rounding
VIP model of service for pain and palliate care patients
Hourly communication of estimated waiting times
Puzzles and board games
Patient feedback communication board
Virtual Reality Technology for distraction therapy