Q&A with our service designers in Ireland

The Centre for Design Innovation (CDI) will be speaking at our conference this June. It researches how organisations develop innovative products and services. More importantly it takes that research and transfers it into practical tools that are easy to understand and apply. Here Linzi introduces herself and tells us a bit about what to expect from the project, the methods and process.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself…

My undergrad was in industrial design. I then specialised in product development and manufacture for my Masters. I recently completed a PhD in Product and Service, where they are both combined together for additional value. Currently, I am examining public services for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The aim is to redesign the customer journey to improve diagnosis rate, provide timely treatment and minimise distress for the user and their families.


2. Why do you think design (&/or service design / design thinking) is the best way to create and implement public services for people with Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease which changes over time and affects every person differently. Service design and service design thinking takes a dynamic approach to the user, allowing the service to grow and change with the person. It allows for variability to personalise the service offering that is tailored to the individuals needs.

3. Do you have a favourite case study in this area or related area?

An old but beautiful example of service design for people with Alzhiemer’s is in Benrath Senior Centre, in Düsseldorf, Germany, which uses fake bus stops to calm residents. The centre had an issue with people with Alzheimer’s becoming disorientated, wandering off and placing themselves in potential harm. Staff noticed that, although the patients had difficulty with their short term memory, their long term was often active.

Patients were found in areas such as train stations and bus stops, convinced that they needed to travel to work or visit a friend. They became agitated if staff tried to dissuade them. Rather than working against this belief, the clinic approached it from a different perspective. They created a fake bus stop. Patients gravitated to the stop, allowing staff to sit and calmly discuss the situation, eventually persuading the person to come back to the centre. It shows that design doesn’t have to be complicated or complex. It just needs to place the user at its core and look at the issue from a new perspective.

4. In your experience what are the challenges with taking a service design approach within public health organisations ?

Health care systems are increasingly under pressure to ‘do more for less’. This can mean that cost reduction can be prioritised over the user. With services, due to variability and indirect benefits, the value generated can be difficult to quantify. It is important to be aware of the direct and indirect benefits of services design in order to strike the correct balance between the economic cost savings of a public service, while improving the experience of the service user.

5. What do you hope to achieve with your work on this project and how will you measure whether or not the project has been a success?

The primary aim is to adapt current care pathways to improve the potential for timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, maximise the period of independent living for older people and improve their overall experience of Alzheimer diagnosis. Qualitative analysis will be used to evaluate the customer journey for the user and their caregivers. Quantitative analysis will be used to determine the efficiency of the proposed service changes, for example increased rates of diagnosis and throughput of patients.

6. What is your favourite service?

I don’t have a favourite service but I believe service design thinking can be applied in any context. For example, I recently had a trip to the hairdressers. This is usually something I dread and want to be over in as little time as possible. However on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised.

It wasn’t until I got home and thought about it that I realised all the little human actions and interactions that had taken place. While I waited for my turn, I was presented with a cup of tea and a biscuit. When ready, the hairdresser asked for me by name and introduced herself. She pulled out a chair and sat down facing me to discuss what I would like to get done. The cut was fast and efficient. When leaving, she said goodbye, again by name. The simple changes in the behaviour of the service provider, the small things that related me to her, that transformed the service experience.

It shows that service design does not have to be complicated or expensive to implement. It just needs to place the customer at the centre of the service, if only for the duration of a hair cut.

Linzi Ryan will be talking about ‘Redesigning day care services for people with dementia in Ireland’ at our conference this Summer. Our conference takes place on June 9th at the print works in Dublin Castle. You can see a more detailed agenda or book your free place here.

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