How to Improve Patient Care: 5 Human-centred Tips


  • Do you know what your patients want?
  • Do you know what your patients need?
  • Are your patients completely satisfied with your service?
If you have adopted a human-centred approach to everything you do, you would answer with a strong, “YES!” to each of these questions. Human-centred design is the key to positive patient feedback and obtaining the results that you desire for your services because it is all about putting your patient at the heart of everything that you do (and without them, you would not exist).

The way that you operate as a healthcare service can have a significant impact on:

  • The satisfaction of your team
  • The success of your service
  • How important your patients feel
  • How supported your patients are
  • Your patients’ quality and length of life
  • How well you solve your patients’ problems.
Before we get into our recommendations for you, we want to empathise with your situation. Through our human-centred design approach we understand that you may:

  • Have time and/or money constraints
  • Be expected to do more with less
  • Be too busy to innovate and improve
  • Not know what it is like to be in a patient’s situation
  • Not be aware of what is working and/or not working
  • Not know what support is available to support your patients to the best of your ability
  • Work in silos and lack communication between teams and strategic partners.
We get it. Every industry and service we have worked with has these problems. We believe and have experienced that through putting your patients at the heart of your service, you will create a positive workplace and patient experience.

Here are our recommendations.

1. Map out your patient journey

What experience does your patient have with your service? Have you ever stepped into their shoes and thought about what it would be like to be them?

Give it a go. Pretend to be a patient and go through the journey of engaging with your service. Consider what you are thinking, feeling and doing. Make notes. How did you feel? Did everything make sense? Did you feel supported? What feedback do you have?

An example is below.


Now use this to make improvements to their experience. For example:

  • Clearly indicate with arrows on the floor where the reception counter is and have markings as to where people can queue. This will help them not feel confused and they will feel supported from the beginning that your service is making their lives easier.
  • Include a wait-time sign on the reception counter so that patients have an approximate waiting duration and outline what they can do if they need immediate assistance. This way you give patients permission to ask for help and not “burden” the receptionist, relieving them of frustration and anxiety.
2. Ask your patients for feedback

Questions like, “Were you happy with the level of healthcare you received at our practice?” and “How can we improve?” do not reveal the true patient experience. They are not framed in a way that can elicit tangible specifics from a patient that enable you to take action on.

Patient feedback can reveal a range of valuable insights, big and small, which you can use to improve future experiences they have. For example, some insights may enable you to resolve a problem faced by many patients in less than 10 minutes, such as the arrows and wait-time sign in recommendation 1.

Through our insights we discovered that patients were satisfied when:

  • The practitioner asked open-ended questions. E.g. A practitioner saying, “Tell me more about that.”
  • The practitioner empathised with them. E.g. A practitioner saying, “I understand that must be difficult for you.”
  • The practitioner made eye contact with them.
  • The practitioner explained things in simple language and not from their professional/expert terminology.
  • The practitioner had open body language.
  • The practitioner was kind, yet assertive and confident.
  • The practitioner was calm and present.
  • The interaction with the practitioner took place in a private space.
  • No topic with the practitioner was taboo.
  • The practitioner included the patient’s carers/loved ones in the discussion.
Patients were unsatisfied by:

  • Practitioners making jokes about emotional/sensitive topics due to their own discomfort around the patient’s situation.
  • Practitioners not providing the detail requested by the patient. E.g. A practitioner saying, “I don’t have the scan to show you but I can tell you that...”
  • Practitioners not preparing for/requesting the documents for the consult.
  • Not being taken seriously.
  • A lack of empathy and connection from the practitioner and/or receptionist.
  • Long wait times (especially with no apology).
Here are some questions to ask your patients, which will extract more specific feedback like the responses above:

  • At any point during your experience did you feel uncomfortable? If ‘yes’, what specifically made you feel this way?
  • At any point during your experience did you feel frustrated? If ‘yes’, what specifically made you feel this way?
  • At any point during your experience did you feel uncared for? If ‘yes’, what specifically made you feel this way?
  • Did you feel that the practitioner did everything within their control to help you to the best of their ability? If ‘no’, what specifically could the practitioner have done differently?
  • Do you feel that you are clear on the next steps for your health journey? If ‘no’, what specific questions or clarity is missing for you?
3. Create a patient persona

We recommend creating a persona of your patient so that you can empathise with them and see them for the individual human they are.

Personas are a great way to bring everything you know about your patient together in one place. They answer the question, “Who are we serving?”.

Hubspot created a user-friendly persona generator that you can use to create your persona (HubSpot, Inc., 2021). The tool takes you through each step of the persona and you can skip sections that are not relevant to your patient and add sections that you feel will help you understand them better. Our video on personas may also help you with this activity (Belvista Studios, 2020).

4. Make decisions with your patient front of mind

When you are making decisions as a service, put your patient front of mind. Ask yourself, “How is this action going to positively and negatively impact our patients?” Refer to your patient persona to help you step into their shoes and see things from their perspective.

5. Partner with a human-centred design team

At Belvista Studios we specialise in human-centred design. We partner with services and teams all over the world to help them reach their potential. Our team is particularly passionate about the healthcare industry as we are very aware of its importance and the impact that it has. If you would like to prioritise your patients and create the best possible experience for them and your employees, see how we can help you apply human-centred design to your healthcare service here or contact our passionate founder Kim via kim@belvistastudios.com or by connecting with Kim on LinkedIn.



“It is about them and for them. The closer the end-users’ needs are analyzed and answered, the more successful the adoption or purchase of a solution. You iterate until you get it right from a customer perspective. This is the power of HCD.”—Olivier Delarue, UNHCR.

If you want to improve your patient experience and your service, take note of the recommendations in this blog and do what is within your control to achieve the results.

We know that human-centred design works. We are also constantly reflecting on how services around the world could be improved through adopting the process, including the many opportunities within the healthcare industry. Through understanding your customer, you are able to create an experience that adds value to them and in turn helps your service thrive.

Taking your service through our human-centred design process provides you with better results as it allows us to delve into your context and the needs of your patients. Through this blog we hope we have helped you to understand how you could apply the approach to your specific healthcare service. By applying the recommendations, they will help you to consider how you could improve your practice and enable you to focus on the needs of your patient. After all, your purpose is to serve them, right?

Again, if you would like to prioritise your patients and/or employees and create the best possible experience for them through the tips shared in this blog, see how we can help you apply human-centred design to your healthcare service here or contact our passionate founder Kim via kim@belvistastudios.com or by connecting with Kim on LinkedIn.

References

Belvista Studios. (2020). How to Create a Persona | How to Become an Instructional Designer [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/s415p7xthPI.

HubSpot, Inc. (2021). Make My Persona Tool. Retrieved from https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona.





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