Innovation in pediatric healthcare + the right questions to ask 

August 17, 2019

A brief insight into how integrating experience design in hospital spaces can improve the healing experience for children.

When a child enters the hospital for the first time—whether for an individual procedure or long-term treatment plan—the experience can be overwhelming for both the patient and their family. Their once unlimited world of possibilities seems to get a little smaller, and the new environment can be strange and (often) scary.

Experience design has long been at the forefront of innovation, but when it comes to healthcare, it now intersects perfectly at the crossroads of improving a patient’s healing experience and creating a brief distraction from what may seem like an uncertain future.

Recently, the University of Connecticut Children’s Hospital in partnership with Dimensional Innovations, created the “Wilderverse” experience — an interactive game for patients in the center of the treatment area. The customization of the game avatars, from color to texture, gives kids a sense of control, and allows them to virtually escape the not-so-fun reality of an infusion treatment.

As we integrate technology and design into our hospitals to improve a child’s experience, it’s essential to consider and discuss the following three questions with both creative and clinical teams:

1. Do we have a strong understanding of the specific needs of our patient population?

As the most effective fusion of healthcare and design is always tailored directly to the patient’s needs, and it’s vital we analyze every facet of that specific child’s experience. Beyond the tactical elements of medical procedures, dissecting socio-economic backgrounds of the patient population, their first language, clinical history, daily routines and common outcomes can all play a role in the design approach. Depending on findings, certain educational pieces may be embedded into the experience or specific tactics implemented to overcome a particular problem — like the Cleveland Clinic’s hands-free motion sensor display wall experience that creates an appointment-waiting distraction while limiting touch and spread of bacteria in a space where even the smallest virus can affect a patient.

2. Are the solutions we’re proposing tied to a clinical practice?

Creative solutions, when married with clinical practice, can open the doors to alternative or supplemental healing methods that often reduce social, cognitive, and developmental impacts. Getting the right people into the room—doctors, nurses and designers—means that the experience you’re creating will be rooted in both medical and experience best practices. Often, nurse practitioners and doctors are able to identify some of the largest hurdles in the healing process that children have to overcome. Their day to day involvement with the patients becomes invaluable as designers, engineers and technicians are then able to expand on this knowledge base to marry creative with clinical.

 

3. What are the long-term outcomes we hope to develop?

It’s reported that in treating children for severe burns, often both the parents and children exhibit strong levels of PTSD upon entering the clinic with the child’s treatment as a reminder of the fear and trauma of the initial incident. As designers, we have the capacity to enhance the hospital experience to help alleviate or lessen symptoms, like PTSD, for those that enter through the hospital doors. Whether that be through space design or an interactive experience, thinking beyond the treatment when planning can provide a lifelong positive impact on patients.

Want to chat with the experts?

Our team is passionate about providing better healthcare through smart design, because as your clients, patients are deserving of an atmosphere that paves a better path to recovery. If you’d like to learn more about our experience in hospital design, please contact our healthcare practice director, Jessica Morrow (jmorrow@dimin.com).