The Family Department

Introduction
Providing better conditions for the patient speeds up the healing process. We wanted to propose an idea for a place that would be valuable to the patients, their family and the staff from the Hospital. The Family Department has the potential to spark family moments and make the family feel in control of their time, to minimise isolation from everyday life and foster flexible relationships between everyone involved.

Our concepts were presented as a walk through of a regular day at a proposed ‘Family Department’. We started with scheduling solutions that could make the family feel more in control of their time by having the ability to plan their day. The schedule would be accessed via the TV screen that every patient has in their room. The same interface would be used to enable parents to order meals for the family and to organise their own free time in the hospital – keeping up with regular activities like work, reading or even going to the gym – at the same time remaining close to their child.

Children could communicate with their friends at school via video conferencing, preventing them from feeling isolated from the outside world and creating an environment not centralised on his disease. To give more privacy and space for the family, the bedrooms and the bathrooms are not shared. Each bedroom would have one area for the patient and other area for medical equipment. With this system the patient and his parents have space for more intimate activities like a family dinner. During his/her stay at the hospital the patient can do long term activities which he/she can continue after leave the hospital such as learning to play guitar or a foreign language

The Context
We started this project with a trip to the paediatric department at Hillerod Hospital. Our user research tools included observation, shadowing and interviews – we also attended staff meetings. Since some of the patients were very young so instead of interviewing them, we asked them to draw their experience in the hospital for us. We also gave a toy camera to a patient to get some inside pictures from his life at the hospital.

We wanted to make the hospital environment and also the transition to the patient’s home more balanced and less stressful. After one week of on-site research we defined our main fields of interest: information flow; the family at the hospital; and logistics & procedures. As we went deeper into these three areas during the insight and synthesis sessions (and later on in the co-creation sessions with staff and families), we realised that information flow and logistics & procedures could be encapsulated by concentrating on the family at the hospital. We focused entirely on the aspects of family stay at the hospital and started to see the paediatric department as ‘The Family Department’.

Gathering User Insight
We talked to nurses, patients, patient’s parents, doctors and the hospital clown. Our research gave us a lot of information about how the department works and gave an impression of people’s experiences of staying and working at the hospital. We looked at the topic from both a family and staff perspective and were delighted to see how well organised the department was and how much attention was put into the care for the young patients.

We spent time looking at the waiting rooms, stuff circulation, the reception area, patient’s bedrooms, nurse’s meetings and the patient’s journey (arriving, staying and leaving). Our main insights were that: the patient heals faster when they are at home; parents and patients need more privacy; parents miss their everyday activities during their stay at the hospital; there is a lack of information about appointments during the day; it is hard for parents to organise their time; and that the ritual of eating together as a family makes the patient and their parents more comfortable.

Design Challenges
The paediatric department does a great job of treating and offering short-term activities for the young patients. Our biggest design challenge was to find out how could we make the department an even better place. When we started to analyse the information from our on-site research, we found that dealing with everyday life can be quite difficult for families that have to stay at the hospital, and that one of the key factors of better and faster recovery is the surrounding atmosphere.

There is not much for the parents to do other than supporting the child during his/her stay at the hospital. Quite often the parents are isolated from the outside world and do not feel in control of their time. For them it is an even more stressful experience than we could imagine. We also learned that when the parents stress level is low they can be more helpful to the nurses and therefore help their child to heal faster. As the concept of The Family Department arose, we realised that the patient is not only the child – but the family as a whole.

Exploring the User Experience
We undertook workshops with nurses and patient’s parents where we shared the information we had gathered and processed during the first research week. By showing graphics, we asked the staff and families to explain crucial points in the system – and what could be improved. We gained feedback about communication between nurses, doctors and patients at different stages of the day. Privacy and a cosy environment for the parents also were noted as important points to be improved.

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