Gathering Evidence to Support Your Health Care Design: Taking Cues from Non-Health Care Industries

November 30, 2016


The best way to communicate is by giving specific examples of real people and real situations. Stories are relatable.”
— Christine Schuster, President & CEO, Emerson Hospital, as quoted in Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist

The health care design field is continuing to find ways to support important design decisions regarding patients’ satisfaction and patient safety. With HCAHPS scores driving the need for informed design decisions, it’s time to take look outside of health care to see how other industries are conducting evidence-based research.

Observation can serve as a powerful technique for conducting evidence-based design research. Retail and restaurant companies are finding ways to quantify and understand consumer needs through observation. Here are a few case studies from the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development’s innovative report, Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist, showcasing successful research processes for gathering evidence.

Proctor and Gamble: Discovering need.



When P&G sought to reinvent its floor cleaning products, the company’s leadership hired social scientists to collect quantitative data using observation techniques. The social scientists spent countless hours watching consumers clean their floors at home. As a result, P&G uncovered fundamental insights, including the fact that consumers spent more time cleaning their used mops than they did cleaning their floors. This led P&G to develop the Swiffer Sweeper, which is a billion-dollar product line today.

Like P&G, health care designers must learn to rely on more than quantitative data to understand patient needs. Thankfully several evidence-based studies exist in ASHE’s resource library and in The Center for Health Design’s Knowledge Repository.

Workshop Café: Creating design experiences.



The innovative San Francisco-based Workshop Café used observation as a way to create a new experience for mobile professionals who work at coffee shops. To gain insights, the Workshop Café team studied traditional coffee shops – realizing many did not meet the needs of mobile professionals. After collecting information, the Workshop Café designed a tailored environment suited for those who work at Internet cafes. Seating areas include multiple power outlets, adjustable furniture, and tables that allot plenty of space for laptops. The café also offers micro-work stations to accommodate different work styles, such as bench seating for individuals at work, communal tables for teams, and private cubbies for those needing to make phone calls. As a result, their consumers are happy to pay to use the café’s conducive workspace while enjoying a sandwich and cup of coffee.

Like the Workshop Café, a hospital can also meet the needs of patients through flexible environments that accommodate future work styles. Health care providers are continuing to invest in resources that help them measure and improve patient satisfaction, and health care designers can offer research that helps support their decision-making. For those interested in learning more, the 2017 PDC Summit includes a session track dedicated to “Improving the Patient Experience.” Click here to view the schedule.

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