It came as a surprise when Executive MHA-Saudi Arabia students took a tour of their hospital and observed how disconnected they were from their patients. It was a wakeup call for these students who work as physicians, clinicians, and administrators at King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Ryan Armbruster, instructor, led the second cohort of Saudi students on this observation as part of his health care innovation course in November. This was the first time the course was delivered in Riyadh to the Saudi program. Students used their daily work environment as content for the course.
Armbruster teaches human-centered design, an approach that places an emphasis on seeing the world through the lens of the patient and using that perspective to create solutions that best meet the needs of the patient. Students apply new methods and techniques as they study their health care environment and recommend solutions for their own workplace.
“An empathic approach to creating health care services is important and valued everywhere, regardless of system or culture,” says Armbruster.
As the Saudi health care system is entering a period of rapid transformation, many students immediately recognize the importance of change informed by and designed with a clear understanding of what works best for patients and providers.
“A human-centered design process starts with asking the right questions, followed by field research or “walking a mile in your customer’s shoes,” says Armbruster.
During the course students gather and analyze information, then distill insights and opportunities. Concept development and iterative prototyping follow as a way to learn more about unmet and unarticulated patient needs. By then, students have a well-designed empathic solution to incorporate into operational planning.
The students in this course are inspired to design the future Saudi health care system in a way that effectively meets the ever-growing and evolving needs of patients and providers.
“In one observation, I found that a patient was required to visit one site for nutritional formula, another for medical equipment, and a third for glucometers,” says a student. “I simulated that journey and found that not only was it hard and time consuming, but it represented a bad experience for any patient.”
“Now, I pick up my coffee at 7 a.m. and walk around the hospital and just “observe” for 15 minutes. I am discovering and learning a lot more about innovation and how it works.”
Ryan Armbruster, MHA ’98, is vice president of Innovation at Optum. He has taught Healthcare Delivery, Design & Innovation since 2006. Cohort 2 Executive MHA-Saudi Arabia students will graduate in May 2017.