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Human-Centered Design Tools You Can Implement Today

By Alexandra Reese

As we discussed in our previous article, How Human-Centered Design Can Answer Some of the Healthcare Industry’s Greatest Challenges, human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving that puts the user experience at the center of the problem-solving process and solution.  For our healthcare clients, as well as other industry leaders, there are two human-centered design tools that you can start using today: customer journey mapping and service blueprint design.

The image above shows a user journey for a sick patient who needs to come in and see her doctor and a simplified service blueprint for that journey. Here’s how to make your own:

  1. Start by identifying your customers

We selected a sick patient of a primary care clinic.

If you’re a clinic, your customers could be your patients. If you’re an insurance company, your customers could be the brokers or businesses who purchase your insurance. If you’re the Chief Innovation Officer at a large corporation, your customers could be other internal teams.

  1. Choose the experience that you want to explore

We chose the process that a patient would go through to make an appointment, travel to the office, and see the doctor.

You could focus on a narrow experience: how your innovation team solicits ideas from other departments in your company, for example. But, you’ll find more opportunities for problem solving and innovation if you start with the broader arc of the customer experience with your organization.

  1. Map the journey that your customer currently takes through that experience.

We began with the bookends of the experience: experiencing a health issue at the start and the arrival of the doctor to the exam room at the end. You’ll see that we used sticky notes to map the experience, which allowed us to begin with a brainstorm and then move things around as we worked through the steps. We included steps that may not involve an explicit interaction with the clinic, as these can be pain points–opportunities for innovation.

Get a group together–include members from across the organization and your customers and other partners, if appropriate. Break into groups of 2–6 and use sticky notes to write down the different steps. Then, organize the steps into a sequential map. Fill out with the level of detail that makes sense for you–this is more art than science.

  1. Fill out the service blueprint that supports the customer journey

Our service blueprint includes the “onstage” touch points and people that are visible to the customer and the “backstage” people and support systems that are invisible to the customer. This is a simplified blueprint. Typically, we would separate out the physical touchpoints (also called “evidence”) and add more detail there. We might also add detail on support systems.

We recommend starting your blueprint with the physical evidence for each customer step. Then add the onstage people and backstage people and processes.

  1. Look for pain points–opportunities for innovation.

We worked our way through pain points by talking sequentially through the customer experience. Our notes on the pain points sometimes include the “why,” which can be helpful when you start looking for solutions. One example of a potential insight from this step is that adding to book an appointment and enter the paperwork information online in advance of your scheduled appointment would reduce wait times throughout the journey and reduce staff efforts on scheduling and data entry.

With your team, ask questions about the customer journey and service blueprint. How could you improve the journey? Where does the customer hit pain points? How can you cost-effectively solve those problems? How could you improve your organization structure or processes to better serve your customers and your team members?

You probably can’t do everything, so select the step that you want to innovate first. We recommend choosing a step where improvements would both your customers and your team members.

For more context on human centered design and how it can accelerate your efforts see: Putting Humans at the Center of Health Care Innovation