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Posted on March 25th, 2010 by
Last Fall, Karyn, Jessica and I attended the Gel Health Conference in New York. It was an amazing experience. We learned about positive and negative experiences of both working and being a patient in health care and we met people who are passionate about improving the experience for everyone involved. Some lasting memories include Olie Westheimer talking about how dance is used as an outlet for Parkinson Disease patients and showing a video of severely disabled people grinning from ear to ear while dancing to All That Jazz. I’ll forever know that when I’m in a hospital and hear a “Code Lavender” called, that somewhere a patient, family member, or employee is about to receive an “all-hands-on-deck support session” because they have broken down under the emotional stress of being touched by illness. I’m especially grateful for a new friendship with Jim Withers, founder of Operation Safety Net. Jim has been working with street people in Pittsburgh since 1992, offering “in-reach” programs that help marginalized people engage with the medical system. I think about these presenters and their stories almost daily and marvel at their commitment and integrity. What was missing for me as a user experience professional was the application of these learnings to our practice. After all, this conference was meant to be professional development. I left the event inspired but couldn’t put my finger on how it was going to change my day-to-day work. Last week, while scanning the Healthcare Innovation by Design group in Linked-In, I happened upon the video from the recent IXDA Interaction 10 conference speaker Greg Vassallo. Greg shares his family’s experience of living in a hospital for almost one year, while his infant son was being treated for leukemia. He describes the journey eloquently and introduces us to the doctors, nurses and volunteers, who strived to make their experience tolerable. Most significantly to me, he discusses the similarities between medical service delivery in a critical illness situation and delivering design services. Both require the coordination and collaboration of big disparate teams. Both require the exploration of multiple solutions to complex problems. Both require consensus and trust building. Both models incorporate iterative solution design. Both processes clearly offer value, but can be perceived as expensive. He goes on to present ten lessons learned which are admittedly basic to any consultant, but when presented in this context are worth re-considering and applying to our practice.