Service design for the hospital hospitality of the Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht

What was the problem?

The Universitair Medisch Centrum (University Medical Center) of Utrecht wants to improve its services and hospitality for its patients. Except the medical treatment itself, also the environment and the experiences of visitors of the hospital itself have an influence on the effectivity of the healing process. That’s one of the reasons why the hospital is searching for improvements in hospitality towards its patients. The UMC Utrecht commissioned design office “Scope” to research where and how improvements can be realized.

What did they do?

Quantitative models of the hospital are used as the basis of this project. The UMC works both with patient profiles and uses the Motivation Mentality model for its healthcare services. Besides this, also statistical data about the patient’s motivation of the visit are available. These three resources are being combined in one complete model. The knowledge about the patients in this project has expanded and broadened using the results of the qualitative study done by the designers.

First of all, the designers observed the patients and other visitors at the entrance of the hospital. What activities and functionalities are important? What are visitors doing at the entrance? How many are they? The designers hereby also mapped and documented with photographs the walking routes from the entrance to the place of destination in the hospital.

Furthermore, interested in the experiences of the complete hospital journey, the project did not only interview some patients at the entrance, yet the designers also followed some patients intensely during their stay. For this latter, ‘context mapping’ was chosen as a suited method. The idea behind context mapping research is that everyone is an expert of his or her own experience. Subjects are being invited to document and share their experiences from the moment of preparation at home, the travel to the hospital, finding their way once there and getting back home again. For this, they are for example supplied with notebooks and storyboards.

All these results are used to inform and inspire design teams. In this project, the designers were mainly interested in the perception of stress by patients visiting the hospital. In addition, also physiologic research was performed to measure the stress levels of patients (with a heart rate monitor and accelerometer) and the influence of the surroundings upon that. It was a deliberate choice to spice up the qualitative research with some more quantitative data. These data were connected to the walking routes map, that was generated earlier in the research. One of the surprises from this research was that patient’s stress levels are rising, even if they seem to be sitting calmly in the waiting rooms.

Based on this research, four personas were developed which will each tell the stories of the patients: the docile patient, the independent patient, the pragmatic patient and the critical thinking patient. Each of these types of patients should be handled and received in a different way by the hospital. All four however are keen on keeping a sense of control, a clear structure and being dealt with as a full person. Finally, these personas were used as the basis for a personal customer journey.

What was the result?

The result of this project was a visualisation of customer journeys throughout the whole UMC. The insights in the diversity of patients are thereby translated to guidelines for the renewal of services for patients and hospital visitors.

Meanwhile the UMC Utrecht is working on including some suggestions into practical changes of the hospitality policy, like formulated during the project. For example, a new concept was developed to receive patients and visitors at the entrance: with an expressive translation of possible options on a storyboard, and the designing of tangible products as a service support. The developed ideas all originate in the findings from the qualitative patient research. Some of the people are afraid to go up to the reception. A hostess can be a good solution for those people. Also, by creating a larger diversity in information channels, a closer connection to the needs of different groups of patients is made.

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