Department of Health Expo at Excel Centre, London

Last Thursday and Friday I nearly lost my voice talking about the service design possibilities for healthcare at the NHS Innovation Expo. The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement invited some of the old suspects, Engine, Live|Work and ThinkPublic, as well as new-to-my-radar Impact Innovation and it was also great to see Colin Burns and Martin Bontoft launching their new campaign “we are all designers”, touring the country with talks and workshops.


We were there to introduce service design to public, private and third sector workers from all kinds of organisations. The response was fantastic (consistently we heard a near-logically spoken response “this is great, there should be more of it!”), and encouragingly a number of visitors had already heard of service design to some extent. Could the discipline be finally maturing?!


Aviv Katz ran workshops for Engine on both days in a space that was shared, as was our exhibition plot, reinforcing the general feeling that all service designers are in this together, as a supportive community, regardless of their studio loyalties! Finishing the week many attended Service Design Drinks, this time up in East London.


In summary, I think service design can particularly benefit health providers and users in the following ways:

  • Providing the compelling qualitative research required to make a project happen and to ensure it is reliably informed through a variety of research methods.
  • Engaging end users, front line staff and managers in democratic, open environments and a collaborative design process which helps develop more relevant, useful and appropriate services centred around users.
  • Transferring knowledge, tools and processes to the institutions and organisations through demonstrative projects. This was sometimes met with initial skepticism, as this and particularly embedding cultural change are very difficult, but it can be done!

Watch this space for a round up of some of the excellent online health services emerging on the interweb. Lauren Tan has also written a report on the day here.