LK 120Designing for core needs
As human beings, we each have core needs that must be understood and satisfied: like a sense of belonging, connection, understanding, autonomy and control. These core needs and our desire to have them met are heightened in times of difficulty, as is often within medical contexts. For patients and their loved ones, being diagnosed with a new disease, undergoing intensive medical treatment or facing death can be one of the most profoundly challenging and vulnerable circumstances in life. It is at once the greatest challenge and opportunity in health care. Tending to a person’s emotional and psychological needs is a fundamental component of “caring” for them. It is also the crux of providing optimal patient experience, offering the best perceived and real care to patients, and creating truly deep relationships between patients, their families and a health care organization. For administrators, determining common superficial needs of patients and families is a challenge, but uncovering these core needs requires a different approach. Not only is it very difficult to ever reach that emotional space, it takes time for staff to get to know their patients and families, especially on a very personal level, and time is particularly constrained in a clinical setting. It also requires clinical staff and caregivers to have specialized talent and training to effectively connect with people and determine their deeper needs while operating within a fast-paced and highly regulated clinical environment.
However, the opportunities created by understanding these core needs and directing efforts, investments, or other resources towards them, could be significant.
At Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, in the Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases, we have designed and tested an effective and efficient method for capturing the core needs of patients and family members who have undergone treatment. The methods build on principles of design thinking and needfinding, and use clinically adapted design probe tools that help participants reflect deeply and communicate their core needs and feelings. We have been able to facilitate serious, yet often fun and personally satisfying, discussions with patients and their family members. The sessions have identified numerous immediately addressable issues, areas for future development in providing patient and family support, and other insights for improving hospital experiences and care. Interestingly, the process itself was also intrinsically rewarding and therapeutic. According to a survey completed, the sessions made participants feel inspired and excited, a deeper sense of purpose in life, like they were working with people who genuinely cared for them, and offered the opportunity to begin to relieve deep emotions, fears and traumas unknown to the care team and even among family members. The method and tools can be adapted to other clinical and design contexts.