Rigshospitalet’s obstetric clinic had formulated a strategic goal of making its staff of midwives more aware of the hospital’s obstetric research projects. In working towards this goal, they had already formulated a proposal for an interactive information screen, but they needed help taking the project further.
I wanted to start by taking a step back to examine the unspoken assumptions within the pre-existing proposal. Would a single interactive screen really be the solution? If the midwives do in fact have a low awareness of the hospitals’ research projects, then why is that?
I conducted a wide range of interviews: I spoke to a managing midwife giving me a tour of the obstetric clinic; young as well as experienced midwives working at the clinic’s birthing department; a research active doctor; and finally a research active midwife holding a PhD, tasked with raising research awareness at the clinic.
In analyzing the data, I distilled the findings into a series of personas describing key stakeholders, a scenario describing a typical workday at the obstetric clinic, a stakeholder diagram, an assessment of existing channels and touchpoints used to communicate information about research projects, and a series of key themes.
The birthing department is a hectic, busy, tough, and unpredictable working environment. Breaks, meetings, and desk-work are always at risk of being cut-shot by patients in need. Midwives are deeply dedicated to their patients, so everything not directly related to patient care is a secondary priority. Nobody knows when there will be downtime, so when it does, midwives prioritize taking care of their bodily needs, and connecting with colleagues.
For practicing midwives, scientific research can seem like a distant thing. While the education became a bachelor programme some time ago, there is not yet a culture among working midwives of reading and discussing articles with colleagues. As their job is emotionally demanding, they prioritize not thinking about work in their free time.
The midwives are sometimes asked to help recruit patients and collect samples for research studies. However, information about these studies are not always clearly communicated — it gets the sea of emails, physical folders, and postings on pinboards — and this limits the midwives ability to help out with studies.
They do enjoy hearing about exciting new projects and findings — the birthing department hosts weekly presentations about research which the midwives tend to enjoy very much. However, they rarely get a chance to attend, as they are either with a patient or because their shift falls at a different time. Due to all of these factors, many midwives are not aware that the hospital even has an obstetric research unit!
Reframing the challenge
From the research, it became clear that an interactive screen located outside of the midwives’ main working environment, would not achieve the clinics’ goal. As the job is already highly demanding, learning about research would have to be a low-effort, enjoyable activity which could be done in small chunks of time during moments of downtime. Further, information about research projects should be easily accesbile in care-situations. Finally, truly raising research awareness also meant doing more to promote the existence of the research unit, and supporting the formation of a culture of talking about research.
Ideation and prototyping
During the ideation process, I lead a series of creative ideation sessions with my team (we would have loved to included hospital staffs, but freeing them up from their regular duties was not possible). To open up our minds, and get us thinking in terms of multi-touchpoint, multi-channel service solutions, we brainstormed used the AT-ONE Touchpoint card deck. I also used brainstorming and structured quick-iteration sketching activities as a way of quickly developing ideas.
In order to develop the resulting ideas these into a coherent concept for a service, I created a combined journey map and service blueprint describing the envisioned experience and service delivery at a high level.
In order to develop and communicate more low-level ideas, we also made a series of rough prototypes of some of the proposed new touchpoints.
The service concept
The service concept envisions a future where the research unit becomes known and appreciated by all newly hired midwives, thanks to a welcome package delivered during their first week. In this future, the weekly research presentations are captured on video, and made available for all midwives to enjoy on easy access tablets in the break rooms, whenever downtime happens to occur in the birthing department. To stimulate discussion and reflection over findings, themes, and dilemmas related to the research projects, physical discussion cards with thought-provoking questions are also distributed in the break rooms. Finally, to make it easier for midwives to recruit patients and collect samples for studies, a digital research project database, designed to provide easy overview and information look-up, will be made available for use both in and out of patient care situations. Both the video and project database will support ID-card login for ease, and to allow viewing-progress and read-statuses to be remembered — thus lessening the inconvenience of being summoned to a patient.
Evaluation with stakeholders
We pitched the service concept to the clinic’ management and a member of the research unit. They were highly enthusiastic about it. They said that they wished to develop the ideas further internally, and that the project made them rethink their approach to solving problems such as this — they realized that in the future, they would need to be more user-centered in their approach, and think more holistically about IT solutions.
A greater level of employee involvement in the ideation, prototyping, and evaluation could have strenghed the design work. However, resources could not be allocate for freeing up employees to participate in co-design activities. This highlights a challenge for service designers seeking to create truly human-centered innovation in the public sector: convincing decision makers that including employees is something worth investing in. However, seeing that my work contributed to a mindset-change, makes me positively optimistic that it can be done.