A student design thinking project with SickKids hospital

A design project at McMaster University that allowed undergraduate students, such as myself, to solve real user problems related to healthcare.

An introduction

Throughout my university career, I was in love with the idea of design. I loved designing consumer-related strategies, sketching imaginary buildings, as well as learning about curatorial studies, but I couldn’t make sense of it all. It wasn’t until I read Don Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things” in my third year that I discovered user experience — the common ingredient to all of those things. Design thinking has always been widely applicable, so why is it that not a lot of people know or prioritize learning about it?

I looked everywhere for user experience related courses at school, but I gave up and settled for a local tech bootcamp during the summer. It wasn’t until the beginning of my final year that I discovered a course running throughout the entire year called “Innovation by Design”. I applied for this course as soon as I saw the poster pictured above. A week after, I was given approval and ready to go.


The Project and Sponsor

By the first week of class, students were divided into groups of 4–5 and given a project to work on. My group was selected for SickKids Hospital:

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is a health care community dedicated to improving the health of children. Our mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health.

The Design Problem: assess and support the patient experience at Sick Kids to ensure that all patient visitors and caregivers make effective use of protective clothing and equipment in their interaction with patients. As a team, we will need to draw on research, and field work interviews, and observations to develop early stage prototype solution to this challenge.

A brainstorming session we did together as a team

Questions we must consider:

How Might We…
Enhance patient safety and well-being through the effective use of protective clothing and equipment?
Draw on current best practice in the field?
Incorporate feedback from all key stakeholders?
Ensure that a proposed prototype solution aligns with SickKids priorities and resources?
Reflect SickKids patient profile in the selected prototype solution(s)?

The Team

Although most of my group members were from the pre-med program, each of them had varied experiences ranging from research, hospital work, policy and business modeling. I had a high chance of taking on ideation and prototyping roles because I understood how to create experience maps along with user flows, and I was the only one proficient in tools like Photoshop or Sketch.

The SickKids Team: Carolyn Ly (myself), Alexandrea Johnston, Caleb Kim, David Lee, Krish Bilimoria

SickKids Staff Facilitators: Dr. Lennox Huang, Dr. Michelle Science

Our Instructors: Sean Park (McMaster instructor and MaRS), Katie Fitzgerald (McMaster instructor), Karel Vredenburg (IBM Design Thinking), Michael Hartmann (Degroote School of Business), Dr. Delsworth Harnish (Specialist in Pathology and Molecular Medicine)

Guest Instructors and Facilitators: Peter Scott (OCADU), Amanda Calzolaio (Health Leadership Academy), John Rankin (DeGroote School of Business), John Dalla Costa (Centre for Ethical Orientation)


The User Interviews

After having workshops on performing user interviews, each student had to complete a course on research ethics under the Canadian government. The Canadian Tri-Council for research ethics oversees ethical conduct for research involving humans.

The Tri-Council Policy Statement covers the core principles of:
Respect for Persons — intrinsic value of persons, autonomy, informed consent
Concern for Welfare — privacy and confidentiality, risks and benefits
Justice — fair and equitable treatment

Upon completion, we received a certificate to proceed with user interviews and research.

To be continued…

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