At Klick Health, our goal is to create experiences that make navigating the healthcare system less painful for patients, their families, and healthcare professionals.
Ecosystem maps give Experience Design (XD) and strategy practitioners a shared tool to document current and future state ecosystems, helping companies fit together the various pieces that shape their digital puzzle.
We’ve used ecosystem maps for many years to design award-winning healthcare experiences for our clients, and now we’re ready to share our custom tool with the world!
Hold up. What is an ecosystem map?
Let’s start with the definition of an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a network of interconnected elements that work in concert to enable end users and business stakeholders to achieve their goals.
An ecosystem map is a graphical representation of that network represented by icons, lines and labels that describe the relationships between those elements and the activities users perform.
Ecosystem maps can be used to visualize the current state of an ecosystem or to communicate a future state of an ecosystem we want to create.
Why are ecosystems essential for healthcare designers to understand?
In short, ecosystems are important because they create exponentially more value than individual products. Companies such as Apple have paved the way in creating consumer awareness of the power of ecosystems. Take the iPod for example. While it was a revolutionary device on it’s own (1000 songs in your pocket!), the ability to share, discover, and enjoy your music across all your devices was realized by introduction of the iTunes ecosystem.
Similarly in healthcare, a connected ecosystem can provide far more value than an individual product. While the Series 4 Apple Watch has the ability to monitor vital signs such as heartbeat and now ECG data, that sensor becomes far more valuable when brought into a more fuller picture of a patient’s overall health. When combined with multiple data points such as sleep, exercise, and diet, a more holistic picture of a patient’s health emerges.
When should I create an ecosystem map?
As a general rule, two ecosystem maps should be created.
The first map you create should document the current state of the ecosystem. The second map should describe the future state of the ecosystem you want to build.
How do you create an Ecosystem Map?
The elements or what we call “entities” that you add to the map can be based on research or assumptions that you later validate via research. Whether you’re creating a current or future state, every map consists of 4 distinct types of entities:
- People: consists of all the actors who perform activities and share information and data with systems through the devices and services they use. In our healthcare ecosystem, these can be patients, doctors, nurses, etc.
- Objects: physical things such as devices with which people interact and share data. We grouped physical locations with objects for simplicity.
- Systems: consists of all kinds of platforms and programs that automate processes or passes data in the background and might not always be visible to the people interacting with them.
- Clusters: are groupings of people, objects and systems. At this point you can start to get a sense of the relationships formed by the entities and can begin mapping via lines the connections that exist.
In the downloadable file we’ve included a library of icons that are arranged in the order just described. The file contains:
- A printable PDF of the 3 categories of icons, which can be used for brainstorming sessions to tape up to a wall.
- PNG libraries which you can use for any digital mapping exercise or presentation decks.
Once you have the tool downloaded, you’re ready to start mapping your ecosystem. As a quick demo of the tool, we’re going to sketch a sample EMR (Electronic Medical Record) ecosystem.
Let’s break it down into steps:
Step 1: Identifying people
As with any user centric activity, the first job is to identify the people who will participate in your ecosystem. In the above image, we’ve placed our EMR system on the left and all the people on the right. At this stage there is no real order to how everything’s organized. All we want to do is identify all the entities in our environment.
Step 2: Plotting objects
Though it might look messy, this is where we start adding in all the objects and locations with which people interact and share data. While doing this, you might begin to notice patterns forming in who does what kind of action, and how you could better organize your map. Don’t worry about making it look perfect, just keep sketching!
Step 3: Clustering the entities
This is when your map begins to take shape. Clusters are the groupings of entities based on their shared relationships in the environment. For instance, a patient might use their phone to visit a website looking for a savings card. The phone and website are the objects the patient interacts with and shares their personal information to receive a co-pay card.
Step 4: Organizing the environment
The last step is to start mapping out all the relationships. Once all your entities are in order, start creating lines to represent connections and relationships. These lines can represent the actions people perform or even the data they are sharing. In this example, we show how EMR systems are connected to every facet of the healthcare experience via dotted lines to represent the movement of data. Labels on the dotted lines describe the nature of the relationship or the action taking place. We’ve also created mini ecosystems with the clustering of people and objects around the map.
Ready to go? Don’t just read about it — get in there!
Stay tuned for additional tools, content, and updates to the Healthcare XD Toolkit in the coming months!
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or want more information about joining the Healthcare Experience Revolution!
Have fun designing a better world for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals everywhere!