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Support and facilitation is critical when using health challenges in education

How do we work patient-centered in future hospitals for children to improve the overall patient experience? In a course working with real life health challenges, DTU collaborated with the new children’s hospital at Rigshospitalet to crowdsource ideas from students. The collaboration gave BørneRiget new ideas to pursue while the students gained unique understanding of designing for a future health care organization. The process was a great success and illustrated how support, interaction and bridging between educators and practitioners are vital ingredients when working with health challenges in education.

Late summer 2017 associate professor Jason Li-Ying from DTU Management Engineering was approached by CHI’s innovation consultant at DTU postdoc Frank Ulrich. He wanted Jason to let the master students in his course ‘Strategy, design and market’ work with real life health challenges from the Capital Region of Denmark. Even though it was only a month before course start Jason Li-Ying convinced himself to do it.

“I saw it as an opportunity to try something new. I’ve been teaching the course for 5 years focusing on product design and business strategy with the same setting. Therefore, I was curious to explore a new application context for students in this course,” he says.

Jason Li-Ying jumped into unknown territory and was matched up with the manager for the new children’s hospital, BørneRiget that Rigshospitalet is developing. BørneRiget will set new standards for the treatment of children, adolescents, pregnant women and their families and is focused on integrating play into the entire treatment process and making the complete patient experience better in the future.

Crowdsourcing of ideas

The collaboration between BørneRiget and Jason Li-Ying resulted in a plan to have the students visit current pediatric and maternity wards in the Capital Region of Denmark to gather empirical data for their projects.

The students were introduced to the current qualities and challenges in the field, as well as the visions and design principles for BørneRiget. Each group of students got a clinical contact that gave them a tour of the hospital to provide insight into the patient journey going on today. For a whole day, the students did their field studies and used their observations and interviews of the current situation to start designing concepts for the future BørneRiget. The design should be value oriented, meaning the students needed to be very aware of the value it was creating for the child, the parents and the organization as such.

By the end of the semester, they presented their ideas for DTU faculty, managers from Rigshospitalet,  BørneRiget and the departments at other hospitals that had hosted the students, as well as consultants from CHI. Their ideas received positive feedback.

“The concepts had a very broad scope and some of the ideas were so good that Rigshospitalet wants to look further into them. This was basically a crowdsourcing of ideas that Rigshospitalet got for a minimum of cost,” says Jason Li-Ying.

Superheroes and interactive games

The students came up with very different concepts:

  • Interactive games to ensure physical training
  • A toy cleaning service
  • Cartoon capes: When kids are emitted to the hospital, they all wear the boring white gowns that psychological make them feel like patients. Giving the kids cartoon capes, make them feel more like a superhero or a princess and feel less like a patient.
  • Interactive play in isolation: Children in isolation can feel very lonely, but through an interactive game children in isolation can nudge another kid in a different room and play a game to feel less isolated.

Gained understanding of organizational context

Compared to using Torvehallerne as a case like the previous years, the students working with health challenges from Rigshospitalet achieved the same in terms of the intellectual exercise, but there is added value in working with real life challenges in close collaboration with the healthcare sector, Jason Li-Ying thinks:

“The students working on BørneRiget were not only designing for the children and parents. They also had to respect the organization and strategy for BørneRiget. They needed to ensure their design was fit for the future organization and the design principles set by BørneRiget. This is very useful as they will work as design consultants in the future where they will design for end users and at the same time have to understand the multiple sides and the complexity of demand.”

Bridging the collaboration is pivotal

Jason Li-Ying has been very satisfied with the collaboration on using health challenges from Rigshospitalet in his teaching, and he acknowledges that it requires extra resources having students interacting with the operational levels of the hospital.

“In order to make such a collaboration successful, the bridging person is very important. Matchmaking between educators and practitioners is not an easy task. I would do it again, but support for the bridging is essential in order to make it work successfully,” Jason Li-Ying stresses.

In this case CHI’s innovation consultants Frank Ulrich from DTU and Nina Brocks from the Capital Region of Denmark were both involved in setting up the collaboration. Nina Brocks agrees that the bridging between the worlds of education and healthcare is vital.

“Working with health innovation in this way is unique, and there is a need to ensure the understanding of what is actually possible in a collaboration; from what it requires to work with the health care system to what is realistic to expect from the students. The students will for instance not deliver implementable solutions to a challenge, but the process will give new perspectives on the challenges. As facilitators our most important job is actually to find the match between a health care challenge and a course and educator ensuring the right fit in terms of process, product and outcome,” Nina Brocks stresses.

CHIs network for health professionals and educators (NSU) supports this agenda by establishing a forum where health professionals and educators can meet to exchange experiences and best practices, become inspired and establish new collaborations.

Based on this Nina Brocks expects the process will gradually become more independent:

“As health professionals and educators get more experience collaborating, and better understand each other’s worlds, they will become more self-facilitating in setting up the collaborations,” she says.

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