Medicine for the modern healthcare practice – a dose of Service Design

4th March 2020

What is Service Design?

Service Design. It may not be a term that immediately comes to the mind of business leaders in the healthcare sector. Yet Service Design is a critical diagnostic tool for any healthcare business looking to provide an excellent patient experience. Indeed, this is critically important in the modern era with recent data suggesting that 81% of patients are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience. To combat this, it’s time for practitioners in the healthcare sector to start looking inwardly to determine what ‘medicine’ they may need to take to improve the patient experience that they’re offering.

Service Design is one such treatment for remedying poor patient experiences. Service Design provides clarity on key business processes; a necessity in the healthcare sector, which is underscored by numerous patient touchpoints (including phone/face-to-face/email communications, booking systems, consultations, treatments and follow-up appointments) and multiple customer personas, which combine to produce a myriad of patient journeys. Therefore, having a clear visualisation of each of the processes in the form of an end-to-end Service Design can provide healthcare businesses with the necessary framework to ensure excellent patient and employee experiences.

Surprisingly, however, very few healthcare businesses ever actively evaluate their end-to-end Service Design to produce a document that explicitly communicates the processes of the business to both internal and external stakeholders. Instead, many processes develop in a piecemeal fashion, as new ideas germinate (possibly internally or from changes in leadership personnel), the business responds to the latest technological developments/innovations, or unfortunately as is often the case, the business makes a kneejerk reaction to a clear failure in process (often following a lengthy, expensive, and exhausting investigation designed to identify the root cause).

Why is Service Design valuable to a Healthcare Business?

Service Design provides healthcare businesses with a collaboratively produced and explicit step-by-step visualisation of key business processes that can be used internally for the clinical team to execute upon. Furthermore, Service Design also tackles frequently unaddressed questions pertinent to healthcare businesses, including the following:

  • How can we optimise our processes to ensure that we provide an efficient and effective service that delivers excellent patient and employee experiences?
  • What are the major pain points and challenges for both patients and staff and how can these be addressed?
  • At what points are we capturing reporting elements that can be used to assess our agreed KPIs?
  • How effective is our CRM system for driving engagement, acquisition and retention, thereby improving the lifetime value of patients?

How does Rokker use Service Design to help healthcare businesses?

Employing a step-by-step design thinking methodology, we can holistically and contextually evaluate your healthcare business using our PRISM research strategy that breaks down complex strategic questions into smaller, digestible streams. From a practical perspective, this translates to an engagement which uses a combination of market research, patient interviews/questionnaires, mystery shopper activities, on-site observations, collaborative group workshops, and 1-to-1 staff interviews. The resulting output of these activities is a Service Design Map that addresses the above questions with actionable insights and provides an explicit flow diagram covering multiple internal & external (customer-facing) processes, including:

  • Onboarding patients
  • Booking management
  • Patient payments
  • Appointment/treatment processes
  • Reviews & feedback
  • Procurement and supply chain management
  • Hiring and onboarding new staff

Once we’re collectively agreed on the new Service Design Map, the next step is to collaboratively assess the proposed process improvements in order to evaluate the difficulty of implementing these as well as the potential ROI. This can be used to produce a prioritised roadmap of actionable next steps to follow. Once the Service Design Map is in place, it should be considered as a ‘living document’ that can be continuously evaluated and tested to identify how it can be improved in response to new ideas and technological advances. Like treating a patient with a cluster of comorbidities, the Service Design process often uncovers and highlights further areas within the business that need addressing. These can include changes to internal and external communications, organisational structure (including roles & responsibilities) and product management. Thus, Service Design may be considered a one-stop diagnostic tool for evaluating the shape of a healthcare business, leading to a detailed prescription list of proposed process improvements to remedy the patient experience.

If you’re a business leader in the healthcare sector, get in touch to find out more about how we can optimise the Service Design of your company.


Jack Garnham

Business Designer