The Expert:

Dr Lynne Maher

Dr Lynne Maher is the director of innovation at Ko Awatea. She is a recognised international leader in healthcare improvement and innovation, with an extensive career ranging from critical care nursing to operational and board posts at local and national level. Dr Maher has published guidance on innovation, patient experience, improvement and change management, and has worked with a wide range of healthcare organisations and charities to provide advice in these fields.

Their View:

 Co-design is part of a process that enables those who deliver services and those who receive services to create improvements together. Each person or group is considered to have equally important views. For example, in healthcare staff have extensive knowledge to offer on the clinical or technical aspects of care and consumers have extensive knowledge about how it feels to experience the process as it is delivered to them. Many consumers also have significant expertise in their own health conditions, especially those with long-term conditions. Both parties are able to contribute ideas from their perspectives, which leads to better understanding of the current process and increased ability to create the most effective improvements for the future.

This article shares six tips for healthcare teams to maximise the benefits of co-design and ensure it runs smoothly.

1. See co-design as part of a wider process. The first part of the process is to identify a challenge or opportunity for improvement. The second part is to engage consumers, family and staff, and the third part is to capture their experiences of the care journey. The fourth part is to create new understanding of the care journey and the emotions associated with it by learning from the experiences captured. The fifth part of the process is for consumers, families and staff to work together to plan and implement ideas for improvement based on their deeper understanding of the care journey. The final part is to review what difference improvements have made.

2. Take the time to explain to people why you need their involvement. People whose main role is not working in healthcare often need help to understand why you are looking at a care pathway or service and how they might contribute from their unique perspective.

3. Consider where to hold meetings. Community halls, churches and local venues are often less intimidating than the clinical environment for consumers and family members. Remember to plan meetings and discussions in advance so that everyone, especially consumers and families, can organise other things in their lives to be able to contribute.

4. Ask four or five people to work with you rather than just one person. Consumers and their family members often feel isolated and vulnerable if they are a ‘lone voice’. Remember that consumers may need to withdraw at any time because of their health condition or other personal circumstances, which is another reason to attract more than one to help you.

5. Always let people know the outcome of the work. Even if they have only been involved for a short period of time, a thank you card with an update on the improvement is always welcomed.

6. Cherish the emotions. While you will collect a range of data to understand the baseline and measure the improvement, do not lose the rich emotional data which comes through the stories and quotes gathered from consumers, family and staff. It is these that often depict the emotional journey of the care pathway and really connect with us all – they are priceless.

Learn more about engaging consumers and co-design at the upcoming Ko Awatea workshops Deep Dive: Engaging Consumers/Whaanau and People Powered: Co-Design for Health and Care Services.

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