Experimenting with Flying Cars

Recently, I spent a few hours with a neurologist and a neurology RN in a quiet room making 15 minute phone calls to patients.  These patients were scheduled to be seen at the clinic a few weeks later.  We were calling to see what we could find out from them beforehand to better plan their visit.

Our hypothesis: Getting the right information from the patient at the right time will help us get them to the right providers, for the right reasons, also at the right time.

Our vision: Create services and systems that will enable a seamless experience for both patient and provider from making an appointment through returning home to their life and home providers, with information transfers from both patients and care providers, being critical to this success.

If we are successful, our final solution will look nothing like what we did that morning which was the three of us in a room, the EMR, and a phone.  That was just the quickest, easiest way for us to start to get there. This is the value of embedding design in a system as complex as health care:  We can just go ahead and try something, experiment with a larger vision in mind, knowing the small wins and failures can get us somewhere big.

Our insights from these calls concluded that, YES, we could more efficiently and accurately plan patient itineraries if we checked in with them before their visit.  We also realized that if we asked them “What do you want out of your visit here?” we had a much more productive conversation than if we simply asked them to review their symptoms.  Perhaps the biggest win from this small experiment: Almost every patient reported that their call made them feel more confident coming in for their visit. 

Patient confidence can lead to more productive and direct conversation in their visit, and more of a feeling of ownership of their care plan.  That makes for a more complete, cost effective and overall successful system for all stake holders.

We have a long way to go until we get to our final service, system, or product, fully integrated into the clinic.  The great part is we already have physician leadership support to do the right thing, in the most appropriate timeline, for the most sustainable solution.

Our physician leader for this project, and for the larger institutional initiative under which it lives, asked our team the other day for “Flying Cars.”  He wants us to bring him big ideas and take the time to experiment until we get the right parts in place to make them hum.  It’s not a perfect process, but it works to bridge design and health care.  Health care is a tangled web, and it takes time, flexibility, and collaboration to get it right.  Design, when given the access and time to experiment, can do that.