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Three students in blue scrubs walk down a hallway in a hospital

Hofstra University professors partnered with Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Emergency Department to help students learn human-centered design in an emergency department setting.

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With the rise of generative artificial intelligence, it’s more important than ever to emphasize students’ uniquely human workplace skills, including innovation and creativity.

Hofstra University professors Mark Richman and Lisa Iyeke created an elective course for emergency medicine students to learn the principles of human-centered design for health-care innovation.

What it is: Human-centered design, as opposed to a solutions-first process, uses empathy to target people’s needs in problem-solving. The design process requires an understanding of human needs and caters designs to be responsive.

Human-centered design in health care requires a student to learn about people, use their perspectives throughout design and use a systems approach to address different levels of care.

The course, Innovating Patient Care in the ED (Emergency Department), taught five skills in the design cycle:

  1. To emphasize with end users to frame the problem 
  2. To explore solutions, ideate or brainstorm 
  3. To experiment, prototype or utilize choice architecture
  4. To implement the solution
  5. To evaluate the outcomes

How it works: To make the course content easy to learn, instructors use in-class interactive learning and on-site practical experiences at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

Students work alongside emergency department patients, health-care providers and staff members to identify problems within the system. Throughout the course, students complete a health-care improvement project drawing on the principles of human-centered design and innovation.

During their practicum, students would collect data through interviewing stakeholders, visualizing findings in creative ways, leading brainstorm sessions, creating product or process protypes, and developing an implementation plan. After developing the plan, students implemented and evaluated the program as well.

For the final exam, students worked as a group to complete the initial four steps of human-centered design on a new problem and then interpreted data from other programs to suggest improvements.

The projects: The first cohort of students addressed a lack of otoscope and ophthalmoscope sets—the tools used by a medical professional to evaluate eyes, ears, mouth and nose during a visit—in emergency department rooms. Some sets were not wall-mounted or functioning, and some EDs lacked sets entirely, creating problems for providers and staff when providing care to patients.

In response, students created prototypes of mobile carts with a location tag attached so providers could easily find and move the devices. The student trial found providers wasted less time looking for the carts and felt less frustrated, which could save up to 480 hours in time searching for the device and allow an additional 162 patients to be seen.

The second cohort wanted to improve the ED waiting room process to collect additional information from the patient prior to being seen. The form gathered patient phone number, preferred pharmacy, primary care physician, if they needed a work note and follow-up appointment information, among other intel. This addressed provider frustration in collecting information at the end of the visit and gave patients a meaningful task to complete while they waited.

The impact: The course, in addition to prioritizing human needs and empathy in health-care innovation, also taught students to be creative and open-minded.

Initially, both groups of students had different ideas of what a solution should be to the two problems.

The first group wanted to more effectively fix wall-mounted devices, but students learned that it was more important to the provider to have a properly functioning device, even if they had to look for it. Similarly, the second group was able to merge different documents which allowed for screening of patients as well, lifting an additional burden from the provider.

Students also learned how to interview people, judge emotions, interpret nonverbal cues, compile stories, create surveys and use critical thinking skills.

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