August 7, 2023By Eric Ayers

How to Use Design Thinking to Enhance Medical Simulation: Part 2

Design Thinking, human-centric problem-solving, offers various tools that create a deeper impact in healthcare simulation. The detailed steps and an introductory concept of Design Thinking can be found in the How to Use Design Thinking to Enhance Healthcare Simulation: Part 1. From Empathy to Test, the process is cyclical in nature and allows the healthcare simulation teams to revisit steps to ensure the problem’s root cause and the right person/group was solved for the first time. This second article, written by Eric Ayers, will dive deeper into how Design Thinking can enhance healthcare simulation.

Design Thinking is displayed as linear, however the true application of the process is cyclical in nature. Design Thinking possesses the potential to create a system-wide approach to process improvement, while simultaneously capitalizing on the healthcare simulation team’s attributes. The key steps are:

  • Empathy
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

How can Design Thinking apply to healthcare simulation? Is there an increase in Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI)? Is there a decrease in employee satisfaction and/or engagement? Is there a change in product utilization within the hospital? Did a pandemic just hit and the operational focus needs to shift? What is the need and what is the root cause?

Sponsored Content:

The potential to solve the root problem, increase efficiency, increase effectiveness, and increase employee engagement, while patient satisfaction and safety improve, makes Design Thinking an attractive option for the healthcare simulation team. Inclusiveness through solution creation is the organic byproduct of the Design Thinking activity. Knowledge expansion through experiential learning is the key role for the healthcare simulation team and aligns with the Design Thinking process.

Example of Design Thinking in Action

An airborne pandemic has been declared and the healthcare simulation team has been called to assist in the development and implementation of new protocols, specifically a change in intubation. Once briefed, the healthcare simulation team begins the development process.

Empathy: Empathy maps reveal two personas, the critical patient and the healthcare staff. Increased safety for the staff while continuing to provide the needed emergency care to the patient is the requirement to meet the standard of care. This offers the chance to split into two groups and each group focuses on one persona. Or, the team can remain as one and approach the situation holistically.

Sponsored Content:

Define: The Define stage reveals the problem to solve as being, “How can the emergency staff continue to provide needed emergency care to the patient and increase the safety of the staff? If needed, this can continue through the Five Whys to ensure the root cause is identified appropriately.

Ideate: From here, the focus is laser sharp and the Ideation phase offers more impact. When the root cause is clearly identified, the brainstorming can have a clear focus on what must be addressed. This allows the healthcare team the opportunity to solve the right problem for the right people. This saves time for the team and can have a greater impact on the end result due to intentionality. To continue the example, there needs to be a barrier to help decrease the potential airborne contaminates during an emergency intubation to protect the healthcare team members.

Prototype: Solutions have been gathered within the Ideate step, which leads the healthcare simulation team onto Prototype . The Ideations revealed the need for a barrier between the patient and the staff. Unlike the barrier utilized in the OR which usually covers the entire body from the neck down, the barrier needs to cover the head and must be clear. This would allow visualization and access to intubate while protecting the staff from oral secretions/pathogens.

Upon further investigation, the healthcare simulation team identifies the need to protect not only the intubator, but other staff assisting in the process. So, the artist of the group draws a box that covers the patient’s face, but leaves strategic openings for the staff to provide care. The medical simulation team then outlines the steps needed to complete this procedure.

Test: With a drawing and instructions drafted, a plexiglass box is created by a local community glass company and the healthcare simulation team moves into the Test phase. To ensure the new process will meet the needs of all individuals, groups, and departments that provide emergency intubations regularly, such as the Emergency Department and ICU, are called to the Simulation Center.

For the next few days, or as long as it takes, the healthcare simulation team, the Emergency Department and ICU representatives, members from Respiratory Therapy, Medical Directors from various departments, and any others identified join the Simulation Center and put the proposed solution into practice. Real-time communication and interpersonal collaboration allow for real-time suggestions, which result in real-time changes while practicing on the various manikins within the Simulation Center. Revisiting the Design Thinking steps as needed along the way, the answer to the question offered in the Define stage is answered and validated.

Within a few days, the teams that have developed this process created a unique set of outcomes; increased communication between departments, a new process that took hours instead of months to create and validate, an organizational cultural shift towards continuous innovation, and the increase in patient and staff safety, and high-quality patient care. These outcomes are obtained through the human connection and experiential learning that healthcare simulation offers through the Design Thinking modality.

View the LEARN CE/CME Platform Webinar Using Medical Simulation to Intentionally Probe Healthcare Systems: What’s It All About? to learn more!

The Opportunity to Use Design Thinking in Medical Simulation

Design Thinking offers a laser focus for the healthcare simulation team as they work with the other departments and groups within the healthcare realm to solve the right problem the first time. Design Thinking offers the ability to fail fast and fail forward, which allows for quick edits within the process, followed by quicker times in between testing the updated material. Interprofessional team collaboration focused on the root cause allowed for a speedy solution and implementation.

When the healthcare simulation team runs the Design Thinking sessions, or at least plays an active role in them, the outcomes become more efficient, more effective, more impactful, and more fun. The practice-like-we-play mentality is further utilized and the amazing tools found within the Simulation Center, and the healthcare simulation professionals, are put to intentional use. The result was the identification of a new way to provide direct patient care and maintain staff safety through Design Thinking.

So, have fun with implementation of Design Thinking into a process to improve activities and initiatives. Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Read More on Using Healthcare Simulation for Process Improvement

Sponsored Content: