Beyond the Numbers: Harnessing the power of qualitative data with design thinking
Data-driven decisions shape the landscape of healthcare management and administration. Often these data are in the form of hard numbers, like ROI’s and LOS’s. Qualitative data also serve as strong evidence, but they are underutilized in the decision-making process because they are difficult to summarize and communicate. Design thinking offers tools that help package and present qualitative data effectively. COACH for Kids® is a community benefit program offered by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The program provides free healthcare and social services via mobile medical units to underserved communities in Los Angeles. Our team partnered with COACH leadership and staff for an initiative called Project Connect. The purpose of the initiative is to better understand the perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors of individuals who are dependent on COACH as their primary source of healthcare. Our target location is the south Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, an area deeply affected by gang activity and violence. Our goal is to inform future efforts to help connect COACH users to established primary care resources within their own communities. Guided by the principles and practices of human-centered design, our team conducted over 250 hours of ethnographic research from September 2016 to November 2016. This included observations and interviews in the field with: COACH children and families; COACH leadership and staff; healthcare providers and administrators; and community partners and leaders. Based on the information we gathered, we produced a portfolio of deliverables that included a 5-minute video ethnography and 8 personas. The video and personas brought to light themes that would have otherwise been lost in more traditional analyses, from the fear of deportation to the importance of information privacy. These tools enabled us to extract 11 core insight and opportunity statements, from which we developed our final recommendations. Design thinking methods are perfectly suited to capture the rich stories of patients and providers. They translate the information into compelling data that can then be used to influence stakeholders and advance initiatives.