Understanding Complex Problems in Healthcare : By Applying a Free-Flowing Design Practice

Abstract: Healthcare in Sweden is in need of a transformation. The increase of chronic conditions poses a great challenge to the organisational structure of healthcare, which still largely remains based on acute, rather than chronic care. Development in the healthcare realm is commonly conducted in fragmented processes and from the professions', rather than the patients', perspective.A new type of design methodology has in recent years entered the field of healthcare development and innovation. It has progressively been used to enable the reorganisation of the healthcare system itself rather than solely developing artefacts, IT-systems or services within it. This thesis focuses on problems that can be described as open, complex, dynamic, networked, or wicked. The following research questions are investigated:   I.     How can designers' competence contribute to healthcare innovation? II.     How can designers support the identification of complex problems in healthcare?Empirical data were collected during two healthcare innovation projects in which the author took an active role as both designer and researcher. The research work was based on qualitative data that were gathered using ethnographic methodology (i.e., interviews, participant observation and field notes). The data were analysed using open coding principles and activity theory.The results highlighted the valuable role of free-flowing design practice, supporting a thorough understanding of complex problems. The free-flowing design practice entails that the problem space and the solution space co-evolve. These spaces expand iteratively, continuously affecting each other while redefining problems in search of solutions that aim at radical innovation and not merely incremental ameliorations.

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