Perspectives On Design Thinking

Learning From the Pandemic to Design an Empathetic Hospital Experience

Table of Contents

After two years of disruption due to COVID, the world has seemingly moved on. Employees are back to their workplace, universities and college campuses are buzzing with students, amusement parks and theatres are brimming with the public… Many unfortunate families lost their loved ones whereas the less unfortunate ones took a lot of time to recover from the after-effects of the virus. Everyone drew some lessons from this pandemic. Be it awareness about food, healthier lifestyle choices, reliance on the usage of technology, and so on.


Through this blog, we would like to share our thoughts on how Design Thinking typically helps in designing future-focused resilient hospitals. Many hospitals faced the wrath of the pandemic, but there is scope to redesign multiple things to be prepared within the event of such occurrences in the near future.


COVID-19 pandemic tested the resilience of our healthcare ecosystem. Public, as well as Private healthcare Infrastructure and facilities from some of the most advanced nations, had to demonstrate buoyancy while battling the pandemic. The obvious question to ask would be – What learning can we take from the pandemic so as to design a more robust future-focused hospital system? The intention is not only to fight any such pandemic in the future but to also design the system in such a way that will lead to a better patient-centric approach.


We, at the School of Design Thinking, feel that Design Thinking would prove immensely helpful in this regard. Before we start to map out the specific elements of Design Thinking, let’s understand what the approach is about?


A human-centered future-focused approach

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving. In a world full of data, we inadvertently work on the symptoms of the problem rather than the actual problem itself. That’s where a more empathetic Human-centered approach compels us to focus on the person facing the problem along with doing the root-cause analysis of the problem itself. Unless we address the stakeholders (entities involved which are beyond users) involved in the problem, any solution isn’t sustainable one. That’s when the solution becomes future-focused since you onboard every visualized stakeholder into your innovative solution.


Many organizations today leverage Design Thinking as a medium to bring culture change across their organizations, to focus on bringing fresh innovative ideas on the table and thus stay relevant into disrupting market dynamics.


A system like a hospital which involves too many stakeholders and where everything is naturally focused around the patient (focusing more on emotional aspects as well), an approach like Design Thinking, should actually relate well.



Let’s see what blind-spots got unearthed during the pandemic and how probably Design Thinking elements/tools can come handy to avoid such instances.

What exactly is a blind-spot?

Blind-spot is usually associated in driving parlance. It’s that area which the driver can’t see despite having multiple mirrors.  The back-side of the car (behind the driver’s shoulder) usually is the blind-spot. In metaphor parlance, blind-spot is an area of ignorance/unawareness which the concerned person himself/herself is also unaware.  To conclude, blind-spot is something which “I don’t know that I don’t know.”

During the course of 2nd wave of the pandemic, Oxygen Management System proved to be one of the biggest blind-spots for several hospitals.  Several of the fault-lines got exposed. Some of them were:


  • Medical Gas Pipeline system’s unknown aspects were exposed during the load of COVID-19 patient inflow
  • There was lack of oxygen outlets at the patient beds. Predominantly, those were located in ICU’s/special rooms.
  • Not so efficient maintenance of manifold rooms. Such rooms have gas cylinders lined-up. 
  • One of the biggest problem areas included – lack of skilled manpower to manage oxygen, ventilators and machines etc. 
  • Tremendous wastage cum leakage of oxygen at several touch-points.

Can a proper stakeholder mapping help?

Stakeholder mapping is one of the critical tools in the Design Thinking process. Any diligent Design Thinking application isn’t complete unless the applicants identify as many as diverse stakeholders in the problem-zone/visualized solution. Direct stakeholders are obviously identified. The most crucial factor in stakeholder mapping is to focus on people who are indirectly affected by the problem/solution.  The more the applicants of Design thinking bring extreme users into the main-fold, the more holistic and encompassing the solution becomes.  There are several framework based approaches to execute stakeholder mapping in Design Thinking.


Identifying touch-points: Journey mapping tool

Another interesting Design Thinking tool is Journey Mapping. This tool helps the service provider to identify the emotional highs and lows of a customer as they traverse through the journey of availing any service. While the key here is to identify experiential ups-downs, it nevertheless is handy to arrive at touch-points in the first place – bringing in empathy in the Design Thinking process. A touch-point is an interactive point where the customer is in touch with the system and that’s where they draw good/bad experience.


A few rough scenarios to ponder…

For a minute, let’s imagine a few scenarios.  A good stakeholder mapping can definitely help to arrive at different set of people who are involved in any service related to patient. By identifying these stakeholders, one can arrive at those set of people who have and don’t have the capabilities to operate medical equipment. Such set of people can be trained (even though they are indirect stakeholders in terms of patient-care) to come in handy in case of an emergency.  If we were to draw the journey map of a critical patient who is in dire need of oxygen, we shall be able to identify different touch-points which the patient might undergo. Do we have enough people at each touch-point to take care of patients? In some of the extreme cases (such as the unprecedented inflow of patients during the 2nd wave), will patients go unattended? Similarly, what are the touch-points where cylinders exchange hands/enter-exit one system and move to other? Can these areas be inspected to avoid leakages/wastages, etc.


These are some of the scenarios where a tactical application of Design Thinking is definitely possible. 


Crisis and infrastructure

Whenever there is a medical crisis in any part of the world, the entire load falls on infrastructure. And since we are speaking of infrastructure, there are several stakeholders and touch-points in consideration as these stakeholders interact with the system.  


There is no sector which has not been impacted by the advent of technology. Technology is playing a giant role in how medical industry will take shape in the upcoming days and it will have a big impact in several aspects on the existing infrastructure.  Internet of Things, Low-code platforms for energy savings, Energy Monitoring systems are already playing a crucial role in shaping the medical industry. New stakeholders/users will emerge and everyone has to be onboard while designing robust systems.


Healthcare acquired infections – Focus on extreme users/stakeholders

Typically, healthcare acquired infections are those infections which patients get while receiving treatment for something else. However, with the pandemic, there is a threat that even extreme stakeholders who are associated with the patient such as their relatives/accompanying folks (who will visit the patient), their drivers, etc. become vulnerable to such infections.  Even though the pandemic is not a big threat now, the perception of such acquired infections might continue to linger.


To summarize the perimeter of such acquired infections has widened from patient to folks associated with him/her.  So, stakeholder mapping becomes critical in identifying such extreme stakeholders.


Finally, it’s all about experience

Customer experience is the key everywhere with medical industry also not an exception. Finally it boils down to patient experience. A great patient experience is achieved only when incumbent systems are made patient-centric and every stakeholder aligned towards it. Design thinking being a human-centric approach, naturally caters to develop such patient-centric systems.  


Empathy being the jugular vein of Design Thinking, helps to garner patient-centric insights, but tactical Design tools such as Persona, Journey Mapping, Stakeholder Mapping, etc. come together to give that experience not only to the patient but to folks involved around.


To conclude, Design Thinking helps organizations to focus on functional as well as emotional needs of their end users. In our opinion, medical industry is a natural area of Design Thinking application that obviously focuses on patient’s wellbeing and which goes beyond functional needs. If incumbent systems are designed with a more-patient centric approach leveraging Design Thinking, there is a great scope for innovation to be possible to transform the sector.










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