Innopinion 3: The role of service design in healthcare transformation

By Richard Perez

Service Design 101

Within the public service, and specifically in the healthcare field, simply being more productive and efficiant is no longer enough. In the delivery of healthcare services, there is an ever-increasing demand and need for an improved experience for all users who interact with the system. Enhancing user’s experience from both staff and patient perspectives has become a critical goal.


A user-centred approach, together with traditional tools like business process re-engineering and lean methodologies, are the new metrics to monitor. However, the sustainability of this new paradigm demands both a design-thinking process and systems-thinking tools that embody co-discovery and co-creation techniques. Only then are users of the system able to become the designers of the system.

A systematic service-design commitment enables such platforms. Within the domain of healthcare, there is a design revolution happening that will change the South African healthcare landscape forever.

The innopinion

The public sector, specifically the healthcare sector, is populated with many a wicked problem. The systems that embody these sectors exhibit complex, dynamic and ambiguous characteristics. Improving or changing them requires a tool that embraces these characteristics head-on, yet at the same time is able to deliver better efficiency, user value and innovation.

The process of design thinking embraces such complexity. Relying predominantly on abductive logic, it embodies three main activities: creative thinking, user-centricity and collaboration.

1. In the creative-thinking processes, new ideas are generated. These processes offer a place of exploration, a place of safety that fosters experimentation and discovery. Creative thinking is a reflective process that builds on lessons learnt from earlier work, from a success and failure perspective.

2. The principle of user-centricity puts the user at the core of the thinking process. It identifies the empathetic values of the humans in the systems, the critical stakeholders who, without the system, would cease to exist.

3. Finally, collaboration encourages diversity in the process, sweeping in different perspectives and world views to ensure solutions are balanced.

THREE INNOPINIONS ON HEALTHCARE INNOVATION: One is a pharmaceutical correspondent at the Financial Times in London, another is senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the third is Director at the City of Cape Town for World Design Capital 2014. These are their thoughts on healthcare innovation.

  1. → Andrew Jack: Africa’s inherent innovative potential
  2. → Anjali Sastry: Make frontline innovation visible and change the system from the inside out
  3. → Richard Perez: The role of service-design in healthcare transformation

Adapted from the 2014 Health Innovator’s Review, compiled by Inclusive Healthcare Innovation, a joint initiative between the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business, and the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences.

Inside | Richard Perez

richard_perezRichard is the Director at the City of Cape Town for World Design Capital 2014.


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