The NHS event pairs up digital companies and NHS clinicians to jointly design software applications that solve clinical problems. The dual aim of the event is to support North West small to medium businesses engage with the NHS whilst also helping NHS staff learn about the design process and software development. So this event was right up our street.
Once at the event, we teamed up with Nick, a neurosurgeon with the NHS, along with representatives from technology and software development companies Answer Digital, and Ethical Healthcare Consulting.
Nick came along with an initial idea that had been chosen by the NHS not only because they felt it would improve care in Salford Royal Hospital, but also because it could be of use in the wider NHS. The problem that Nick’s app idea hopes to tackle is around doctor-patient communication.
There are multiple points in a patient’s journey where communication can break down. A shocked patient may forget what their general practitioner told them. A doctor may not recall the particulars of a previous conversation. Information might be relayed differently to the patient’s family, creating confusion. A doctor may have to repeat themselves multiple times on the phone to people in relation to a single patient. In 2013-2014, over 170,000 complaints of the NHS were attributable to breakdowns in communication. Nick wants help to create a digital solution to mitigate communication issues and ultimately improve the in-patient experience for clinicians, patients, and their relatives.
The day was open for the team to do whatever was needed to progress. We introduced the rest of the team to our design process and used the double diamond of design to guide our day.
Lay of the land
As the non-medical members of our group, we had some catching up to do when it came to how the NHS works. The first thing a new group needs to establish is a common base of knowledge. Nick walked us through a few ways that doctors currently deal with patients and where patients are handed off to different actors from nurses, to junior doctors, to key decision makers.
We first have to understand the problem and situations before we can design a solution to it. As a warmup to establish a shared base of knowledge, we did two mind mapping exercises:
- How does your doctor communicate with you now? (email, phone, letter)
- How could your doctor communicate with you in the future? (Virtual Reality? Facebook Messenger?)
Once we had laid out the core problems, we went further into defining the key needs and wants for the various players. To facilitate thinking about how various players work, we used the user story structure to outline key wants and needs.
But What is the Core Problem?
From mapping out the user needs, it became apparent that Nick’s idea was trying to address multiple communication problems with multiple solutions, so our next job was to focus on the core priority problem. As it stood, the app idea was suffering from feature creep, when a product tries to account for every instance or possibility.
After learning more about a patient’s journey, a doctor’s journey, and where their paths cross, the team distilled the problem to this: How might we facilitate communication among friends, family, and doctors to efficiently and consistently relay information.
Brainstorming – Crazy Eights
Once we had the motivations of the multiple players on paper, it was time to get let loose and generate as many ideas as possible. We used an exercise called “crazy eights.” Each person has a minute to sketch an idea out, and we repeat this process for a total of 8 times. It’s effective in harvesting ideas from the team and squeezes floating thoughts into a shareable form.
Before calling it a day, we gathered the ideas into themes. Each team member used stickers to vote for their favourite ideas.
Our next steps? Thinking about an initial target audience (and test group) and sketching out a pathway to a minimum viable product. In other words, it’s time to prototype.
Who knows where our prototypes will lead us to. An Alexa app? Good old SMS? A chatbot? Stay tuned to the next installation of #mobilisethenhs!