Umm, hello, where is ICU?

In my clinical and my current career, I've worked in many different hospitals in the capacity as a clinician, in an administrative role or as a student. In all situations, I've had to become familiar with navigating the hospital and to me by far the easiest hospitals for wayfinding have to be either:

  • Royal North Shore Hospital
  • Gold Coast University Hospital

I will not name and shame those ones that are absolutely notoriously difficult to get around, I have my reservations on that. But this is another aspect of user experience or in this case, patient experience that I hadn't consciously been aware of until I started thinking about the many different things that patients experience in the hospital.

The patient journey within the hospital can be digested into a user journey map - there are so many different persons that walk into our doors, but for an easy overview we'll class them in terms of their ages and their status - they're either an outpatient, an emergency acute patient or a pre-planned patient. Therein itself creates a multitude of personas that who each have unique demands of their own. Anyway, I digress, there's a lot I can talk about in UX within healthcare, but I'll save that for another time. Back to the subject matter - wayfinding in hospitals is one thing that patients, families and even clinicians have to face on a daily basis. In the hospital I worked in as a clinician, knowing my way around took up to a month - it gets easier knowing the nooks and crannies when you have been there for a month but not when you're there for the first time.

I can attest the fact that walking into a hospital with confusing signs and wards that sound extremely similar is overwhelming for families visiting the hospital. It isn't the patients that will usually be the ones wayfinding but its the visitors who will be. Coupled with them having the stressors of loved ones being in hospital, the experience of walking into a hospital that looks sterile, institutionalised and difficult to get around is an issue that isn't ideal.

The designs of Royal North Shore Hospital and Gold Coast University Hospital are two examples that I'd like to highlight that focuses on the user experience.

Navigation around RNSH's new building is relatively easy. The user walks into the front entrance that is designed like a shopping mall, with food court areas, coffee carts and small retail shops lining the amphitheatre, creating a space that is removed from the traditional sterile hospital feel. But the highlight isn't about the shopping mall area but it is the success in the wayfinding experience.

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RNSH

The exterior of RNSH is colour-coded into yellow, orange and green. 

The exterior of RNSH is colour-coded into yellow, orange and green - which definitely earmarks the yellow area of the building, orange and so forth. Correspondingly, as visitors walk into the front entrance of RNSH they are met with...

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Lifts with Colour Coded Signs

The true innovation is distilled here in this image shown above - as visitors walk in they find the ward they need to go to and are directed to the level and the relevant colour coded lift to visit the right ward. So for going to ICU - take the yellow lift to level 4, genius.

This creates a seamless and integrated experience that accounts for the complexity of a large tertiary hospital yet user friendly enough that it promotes visitor autonomy and flexibility to navigate the hospital with ease. Colour is simple and translatable to all types of user personas that will interact with this environment and it is an effective solution to create ease of wayfinding. Moving forward with new builds happening around in health, distilling to what the user's needs are in terms of the simplest of experiences such as wayfinding will alleviate pain points in their interactions with health care.

Week 6 of UX

I won't pretend to claim that I know much about UX as I only started delving into this subject area last month. I am definitely a novice and the more I read, the more I realise that there is so much to learn in the area of UX. I feel somewhat overwhelmed at how influential UX is in terms of all facets of the design journey. 

As a person who works on the management side of health, improving patient care outcomes has always been at the forefront of my mind. The organisations I have worked for have placed immense focus on measurable KPIs and thus, this had been my initial frame of reference. In the first two weeks of my UX class, we were taught how to write How Might We statements.

How Might We statements are purposed to frame problem statements into design opportunities. It elicits empathy from the UX designer, to turn the problem into something that can assist with alleviating user pain points. My initial How Might We statements were absolutely hopeless, they were:

  • how might we improve patient flow within the emergency department?
  • how might we improve patient flow within the hospital to decrease wait time?

These statements, although they do have an edge of thinking about the patient i.e. decreasing wait time, were absolutely wrong. I didn't even realise that I was subconsciously putting the business' goals into my how might we statement, detracting any focus on the user... No wonder I just didn't get it. It wasn't until the next few weeks that I could finally break the preconception of focussing on business needs and actually incorporate the user's needs. My how might we's eventually improved...

  • how might we better understand patients needs on discharge so that we can help them feel more satisfied with their care?
  • how might we decrease the time patients spend in hospital to ensure that they are satisfied with their care?

The shift in the tone was evident, I was finally able to create questions to begin my user research... 

Healthcare and UX at Academy Xi

I started my UX course at Academy Xi last month and I feel as if I will be documenting the journey here because it will be interesting to see how much I have learnt.

The main impetus for applying for a $3500 AUD course was quite simple down to a few things:

  • A few life things had happened and thus, I had some time to myself 
  • Through this whole process, I've gained more perspective and now I am much more focussed in my career. I want to be innovative and forward thinking
  • Because learning a technical skill is invaluable

But the biggest factor was basically I started to realise how there were so many projects in health that have a digital element. Interfaces were becoming digital and inherently, I can see a major factor of risk. Health is notorious for having poorly designed and counter-intuitive interfaces that makes a crappy app store app look genius. I can't begin to fathom why clinicians keep putting up with horribly designed programmes that have poor usability and I think the poor design can often lead to mistakes. And the Swiss cheese model takes over here, where a multitude of tiny issues can ultimately lead to a catastrophic failure. Due to the fact that the user experience component is hardly ever thought of in health, I thought it would be perfect to understand the framework behind this thought process and combine it with health. 

My first class at Academy Xi was great and I felt like I was finally tapping into the creative side of my brain that I never really thought I had. My class has 11/14 graphic designers, so most people are creative. What I enjoy about UX is that it isn't simply about your ability to draw great things, but it is the embodiment of human factors, functionality, elegance and aesthetic to deliver an experience that caters to the user's requirements. We were thrown into doing a rapid prototyping/ideation exercise that stretched the limits of my creative thought process. What truly amazed me was how effective it was to use these constructs to deliver a viable and workable solution. It was a great way to be thrown into a foreign world of UX and I can definitely see that there is a relevance of UX in my job/career. I'm super excited to incorporate the things I learn into this course.

This is the beginning of a new journey. It's full of so much opportunity.