There is a Design Thinking opportunity to Emergency Room care. In my previous post, I discussed the time involved in waiting to receive care -queueing properties of ER care. What I didn’t discuss is the feeling and experience of the patient during care. That’s the topic for this post today. PS: You can also view all 40+ articles on Queueing Theory.
We know that ER Wait Time is a problem. But, that perspective is based on quantifiable factors, such as time and number of patients waiting. But, there are “soft” or qualitative factors that are quite important and need to be addressed when discussing human experience.
This is exactly what IDEO did in a recent Hospital redesign. In their words,
One of IDEO’s designers, Kristian Simsarian, took on the redesign of a hospital emergency room. Kristian checked in as a patient, videotaping every experience — and one of the first things we noticed, watching the tape, was the sheer amount of time he spent lying on his back, waiting on the rolling cot, staring at the acoustic ceiling tiles. The tiles became a symbol of the overall ambiance: a mix of boredom and anxiety from feeling lost, uninformed, and out of control.
We could have responded by saying, “Let’s make the ceiling tiles more colorful” or — as many hospitals do — “Let’s put televisions everywhere to distract people.” Instead, we started a series of deliberate discussions about the findings, and those led us to talk about improving the overall approach to ER logistics, so patients were treated less like objects to be positioned and allocated, and more like people in stress and pain.
The Psychology of Queueing
We know that the Principles of the Psychology of Queueing (Wait Time Psychology) are the following:
- Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time.
- Process-waits feel longer than in-process waits.
- Anxiety makes waits seem longer.
- Uncertain waits seem longer than known, finite waits.
- Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits.
- The more valuable the service, the longer the customer is willing to wait.
- Solo waits feel longer than group waits.
The story above violates almost all of the principles of wait time psychology. But, nevermind that: what speaks even more loudly is the experience the human has while waiting – they are staring at the ceiling.
In the Gemba – and only in the Gemba – do we get a sense of empathy that must spur us to action on behalf of the customer. Raw data doesn’t produce empathy; only human stories and experiences in the Gemba can produce a change of heart.