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Have you heard the news? Nurses want to spend more time with their patients. Let’s see… it’s 2014 and we are still challenged with an issue that has been around since I was in nursing school (for reference, telephones all had cords back then).  Healthcare is bursting at the seams with news of nurses wanting more time with patients, patients wanting more time with nurses, and concluding that when the twain shall meet, good things happen like infection rates go down, fall rates go down, and patient satisfaction goes way, way up [ http://on.wsj.com/1nZTwcM ]. That’s not the only tale we continue to tell. There is also the one about the franken-nursnursee, the Quality-Risk-CaseManager-Chief Nursing Nurse with so many roles that she feels at a loss to authentically attend to any one of them unless led there by crisis.

Needs are identified across industries all the time, and they promote innovation and solutions – the mother of invention kind of thing. What would happen in the Communications industry if consumers expressed the need to interact with each other in real time?  Guess what? It happened. Innovations galore – like Skype™, instant messaging, etc. – swept in to fill the gap created by the need.  I haven’t read an article in a decade about people pining away for lack of online social connectivity.

Healthcare has done some great things and is now in a period of unprecedented evolution. So, now is a good time to fix long-standing process deficiencies (cultural deficiencies?) that keep patients and nurses from getting what they want.

I came across an intriguing article by Henry Doss about design thinking and its inspiring application to a problem identified by a healthcare clinic [ http://onforb.es/1jNuUHR ].

Venice Family Clinic in California was going to open a new clinic. Not only did the site require bricks and mortar construction, but they also took advantage of the opportunity to re-design how theDesigny did everything from patient check-in, to patient experience. And, of course, any process changes had to be efficient and lower costs. When this idea was proposed to the hospital team – control costs while achieving high quality outcomes – it sounded like a contradiction in terms.

The clinic administrators reached out to a design thinking company to jump start the creative process. Once in motion, the hospital team itself discovered their own inherent ability to think and create in a way that they hadn’t before. They asked these simple questions to begin with: “Should there be a check-in desk taking up most of the lobby? Should thirty waiting patients be funneled through six reception windows to receive care in the twenty-two available exam rooms? Must the patients be left idle while they wait for care? Is there a better way to use the clinic space and the patients’ time?” The clinic team was then shown how pit crews at auto races manage time and maximize efficiency. This led to the idea that someone with an iPad or similar would walk up and greet each patient as they arrived. Mobilize staff to go to the patient to avoid wait times. Thank you, pit crew. Other innovations were born as the team at Venice Family Clinic was handed a moment of creative confidence that isn’t usually a part of the milieu.

Challenges like nurses being buried in too many managerial roles and needing to spend more time with patients continue to play out in every healthcare system, and maybe it’s time to rethink how we think about it. Fastcompany [ http://bit.ly/1cTIMMk ]  says “Defining the problem via design thinking requires the suspension of judgment in defining the problem statement. The right words are important. It’s not ‘design a chair’, it’s…’create a way to suspend a person’. Frame the problem in a way that invites creative solutions.”

I am fortunate to be able to see out-of-the-box thinking at ActionCue every day. A culture of empathy for what is going to improve the way the customer does her job is always at the top of the list. Any business – clinic and hospital included – can do this. Here’s a really fun video by Daylight Design, Inc. about how a team of design thinkers took on the very serious issue of childhood obesity. As you watch, be mindful of the process of thinking creatively about your specific issues and about who your priority is. Maybe there is a way to turn the story about long-standing problems into the moment that everything changed.

 

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