There is a critical role for service designers in healthcare to help transform the sector from treating illnesses to preventing them, implementing tailored approaches to individual healthcare needs.
The new healthcare experience will be different, hospital administrators, scientists and health researchers say.
“We are on the cusp of some of the greatest opportunities for transformation in diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention,” president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, Sandra L. Fenwick, told Forbes’ online magazine.
Healthcare has always been defined as developing and administering treatments. It’s an approach that has been with us for all of humanity. Case in point, clinicians mostly concern themselves with diagnosing the cause of symptoms using scans and tests and running the results through probability statistics. This is all designed to narrow the odds and eliminate other possibilities and arrive at a conclusion. So other than, say, treating pain—which doesn’t necessarily fit the approach—healthcare has always been treatment-oriented, and not very individualized.
But advancement in healthcare sciences offer possibilities of diagnosing patients ahead of looming illnesses, based on identifying harmful genes, Kan S. Lee, PhD, said, a retired researcher from the National Institutes of Health. Through genetic testing and DNA, it is possible to map an individual’s health system, and soon, to have the capability to expose their vulnerabilities long before illness sets in, he said.
That increases the likelihood that today’s incurable diseases will be rendered harmless, mostly using immunotherapies that target offending genes before they fully develop. Along with this excitement, healthcare will need to shift from treatment to preventive care.
Part of implementing preventive care will involve a team-based approach, with specialized physicians, or specialists, helping to devise individual patient plans, Lee said. These will be prescriptive plans that patients will have responsibility to follow, and could include vitamins, medicines exercise regimens, and frequent healthcare screenings.
The patient care experience, one based on orchestrating people skills, process, and technology, will require the skills of service designers. They will need to ensure the system is responsive and flexible to accommodate an untold variety of individual needs.
The result, Lee predicts, is a very, very different healthcare experience.