The above scene is from the home of a person who has some pretty serious lung problems. This equipment is sitting next to the front door. This is what the inhabitants of the house see every day.
It’s what guests see when they come in – when they sit down to play cards on a Friday Evening.
It’s the last thing people see as they leave the house.
It also epitomizes what’s wrong with healthcare, what’s wrong with a system that is about fixing things gone bad; about drugs, compliance, tests, equipment, data, insurance, doctors and hospitals.
Oh sure it works, but there is general agreement that it could be better – way better.
So it got me to thinking: What would a better designed healthcare system look like?
Instead of trying to visualize every detail of what revamped healthcare might look like, let’s look at Dieter Rams‘ ’10 principles of good design’ (applied to healthcare) to inform our creative processes.
GOOD HEALTHCARE DESIGN…
- Is innovative – What is really innovative in the above picture? The technology is decades old. However, it’s not only innovative technology that’s needed, but innovative approaches to problems.
- Is useful – By and large, people go to doctors and interact with healthcare systems because they need to – not because they want to. Using innovative approaches (See above), there needs to be an element of usefulness that pulls people in to being healthier.
- Is aesthetic – The rooster in the above picture has more going for it than the rest of the products. Things that are aesthetically pleasing pull people in, making people touch, explore, even showcase! A doctor once remarked how he loved using a certain product because the packaging was cool.
- Conveys understandability – What’s understandable in the above picture? In a perfectly designed world, instruction booklets wouldn’t be needed. Intuitiveness would reign. The How’s and Why’s are conveyed via the design itself.
- Is unobtrusive – In healthcare this is huge. When it comes down to it, people don’t want reminders of health problems, or hospital payments, present at all in their lives, let alone being obvious. Being healthy and interacting with healthcare should have a certain transparency and utility – it’s flexible enough to do what needs to be done with minimal fuss and muss.
- Is honest – Many objects and systems in healthcare, even those in the above picture, are brutally honest. But honest healthcare needs to be seen in light of the other principles of good design. It needs to be true to itself in that people need to know that certain interactions result in certain results.
- Is long-lasting – Health care is about long-lasting results. It shouldn’t be about ‘trendy’. It should be about results that last.
- Is thorough down to the last detail – It’s obvious that in the healthcare realm, detail is paramount. There shouldn’t be arbitrariness.
- Is environmentally friendly – There’s a lot of room for improvement in healthcare, especially in the US. Paperwork, drug and waste disposal, visual pollution (See picture above,) sustainable and yet disposable products, all these are challenges that only now, are beginning to be addressed.
- Is as little design as possible – It comes down to providing what’s essential to do the job, nothing more, nothing less. This is related to being unobtrusive and detailed. On a systems level this is particularly difficult to address because of organizational tendencies to make sure arses are covered. The good news is that if all the above principles are used, the need to cover arses should all but disappear.
Is it possible to design healthcare according to the above principles? With current healthcare systems being stressed to the point of breaking, a redesign of the various facets of healthcare systems is not only possible but sorely needed. While people are trying to live their lives as abundantly and authentically as possible, their interactions with clinicians and health care systems are a fertile ground for innovation. Rams’ 10 principles for good design are as good a place to start as any.
What are your thoughts?