5 Design Thinking Case Studies
in Healthcare

Design thinking is seeing significant growth in healthcare, especially when it comes to improving the patient experience. Too often gaps in patient care arise due to blind spots, inconsistent communication, and silos in the workplace. However, with the right design mindset, these gaps can be identified and solved, streamlining workflows to optimise the patient experience. 

There’s some great design thinking happening in the health industry, with modern innovation improving processes for both healthcare providers and their patients. We’ve collated 5 case studies of organisations doing it right – read on for their stories. 


1. How one nurse is innovating better discharge planning and post-acute care referrals

As a nurse, Kathy Bowles often wondered what happened to her patients after they were discharged from hospital. Researching high risk patients, she discovered that less than half of acute care patients received post-acute care after they were discharged home, and that such patients were five times more likely to be readmitted to hospital than those who did receive post-acute care when needed. 

This led Kathy to co-found RightCare solutions, where her and her team designed an end-to-end software solution simplifying the post-acute care referral process. This innovative technology reduces the number of questions patients need to be asked to assess if post-acute care is needed, with smart technology that more accurately predicts patients who may need support after being discharged from hospital. With a strong belief that nurses should be at the forefront of innovation in the health industry, Kathy’s software has drastically improved discharge planning in hospitals and reduced hospital readmissions by a relative 26%. 

Read the full story here or listen to Kathy tell her story

2. How Doug Dietz of GE Medical revolutionised paediatric MRI experiences

An expert in developing medical imaging systems for GE Healthcare, Doug Dietz had over 20 years’ experience in the industry when he led the design of new multimillion dollar MRI systems. However, while the development of the machines themselves was a huge success, the user experience was a different story. While witnessing a child getting a scan, Doug learned that up to 80% of paediatric patients needed to be sedated for an MRI scan because they were so afraid they could not stay still for the scan. 

While Doug did not have the funding or support to redesign the machines, he instead focused on redesigning the experience. Taking a human-centred approach to the design, Doug developed new “adventure experiences” for children needing MRI scans, such as a spaceship going into hyperdrive as the machine makes noise, dramatically reducing any anxiety the child may experience. There are now nine different adventures for paediatric patients, resulting in less sedations, increased capability in the number of scans able to be performed each day, and a 90% increase in patient satisfaction scores.

Read the full story here or listen to Doug tell his story.


3. From sombre to inspiring – the story of Rotterdam Eye Hospital

Walk into most hospitals in the world and you’ll encounter a similar design – white and grey colour schemes, blank walls, and the distinct smell of disinfectant. The atmosphere in most hospitals can feel clinical at best and dreary at worst. But the story of Rotterdam Eye Hospital proves that the gloomy, clinical atmosphere of a hospital can be transformed into one that is instead bright, warm and welcoming. 

Teaming up with external designers, the hospital’s executive staff sought to understand their patient’s experience and change it for the better. Aiming to reduce patient’s fears upon entering the hospital, the team began experimenting with different design concepts to transform the atmosphere of the hospital. Taking a creative approach to the hospital’s redesign, the designers incorporated modern design elements with artwork, colour and inspiring design to create an environment that is at once sophisticated and welcoming. The hospital also overhauled their culture, ensuring that staff can provide a professional but caring service to their patients. With patient intake increasing by 47% and patient satisfaction increasing to 8.6/10, this hospital redesign has given the organisation a name as innovators. 

Read the full story here.


4. How Epworth solved a patient experience challenge by taking a closer look at the employee experience

Seeking to improve their work practices and enhance their employee experience, the People & Culture leadership team at Epworth HealthCare teamed up with Naked Ambition to develop a human centred design capability program. The program started with the fundamentals, aiming to deliver lasting capability by upskilling strategically selected employees across different teams and then helping them apply these skills to solve real workplace challenges and improve the patient experience. 

In an environment where staff were already stretched thin for time and headspace, the program challenged the leader’s assumptions and got them focusing on which problems they wanted to solve. The leaders and their teams were then immersed in the design thinking methodology and guided through how to solve their challenges, before providing teams with an opportunity to implement a proof of concept or minimum viable product. The application of these new skills has been a catalyst for driving a new culture of collaboration and innovation at Epworth, with the program also leading to three creative solutions and two prototypes.

Read the full story here.


5. Applying design thinking to schizophrenia care

With extensive experience working with individuals with schizophrenia, Danielle Schlosser strived to create better outcomes for young people living with the illness. Interested in how technology could be used as an on-demand intervention strategy, Danielle and her team developed a mobile app to improve quality of life for young people living with schizophrenia.

From the outset, Danielle and her team took a person-centred approach, creating an innovative interview protocol for understanding patient’s needs beyond the clinical. As a result of this process, the team developed PRIME, a cognitive neuroscience mobile app designed to enhance motivated behaviour and improve quality of life for patients with recent onset schizophrenia. Combining motivational coaching from trained therapists, individual goal setting, and a community for users to feel at home in, PRIME has been publicly available since 2016 and has received positive feedback from both users and health care providers, many of which are beginning to use the app as a supplementary treatment for their patients. 

Read the full story here or listen to Danielle and colleague Silvia share their story


While design thinking may not be the first methodology leaders use to solve problems in healthcare, it’s clear that when applied in the right context and with the right people it wields exciting results. By taking a design thinking approach, these 5 organisations drastically improved patient experience with measurable outcomes.

Interested in how your organisation can apply design thinking to improve user experience? Contact us today to discuss how we can help. 

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