Designing with People

In our outpatients project, older people and health professionals shared their stories to help them identify where the service should change. They then worked together to devise improvements to the service, such as a clearer and more re-assuring appointment letter. But these activities did more than generate new ideas. They also generated a belief in the participants that they could make a positive difference.

In another project, young people designed novel ideas with us to assist their self-management of type 1 Diabetes that they then presented in a “Dragons’ Den” environment with external NHS and industry experts. Although nervous, the group felt the need to stand up and defend their ideas, and were enthused by the positive reception from the Dragons.

These examples highlight another important aspect of our approach: that better health services should be designed with those that use or work in them (not just for them). Best practice in health research recognises the importance of such Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) (DoH 2004) but we believe that such participation is about more than creating better services. Since its inception in the 1970s, the field of Participatory Design (Schuler & Namioka 1993) has  shown that including the users of systems or services in their design has broadly two benefits. Firstly, whatever is designed is likely to be more effective as a result as it is built on the in-depth knowledge of users. Secondly that users have a right to be involved in design because they are affected by what is produced and such involvement empowers them.

In healthcare, designing with those who access or provide services utilises their specialist knowledge and gives those people a strong voice in how those services should change. This last aspect is essential if changes are to be sustainable on the ground. In BSBD, we will help you involve service users, build trust
between public and professional participants, and ensure that participants have a central role in the design process.

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