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A Design Sprint: learning at pace

By Luke Johnson, 2 February 2018

We’ve recently been looking into how we can help manage the impact of urgent prescription requests on the NHS 111 service. By supplying NHS 111 clinicians such as nurses, pharmacists and GPs with additional information about patients’ existing electronic prescriptions, we hope they will be able to make quicker, more informed decisions about whether or not to prescribe urgent medication. In essence, patients who need urgent medication will receive a better service and spend less time on the phone, meaning more time can be given to patients with more complex issues.

Due to time constraints, we had to find a way to find a solution to this problem quickly and efficiently, whilst making sure we were testing with the people who would actually use our final product. With this in mind, we decided to run a ‘design sprint’, which helped us break down the problem, develop an idea and test it – all in five days!

We wanted to make sure we were well prepared for our sprint so, before we started, we spent two days conducting one-to-one interviews and observations with NHS 111 clinicians, managers and call handlers (the people you speak to when you first phone up).

The sprint

To get the most out of the time we had we made sure all of the technical and clinical expertise we needed was in the room for the first two days. Their insight helped us gain a clear understanding of our users’ needs and define our sprint goals and objectives. This insight was invaluable and without it we wouldn’t have realised, for example, that call handlers would need access to non-medical prescription information if we were to make a real positive impact on the frontline.

We used a variety of methods to help people generate ideas but mainly focused on my favourite, crazy 8s. Once the ideas had been generated, we narrowed them down based on both technical feasibility and their value to users and the NHS. After a bit of dot voting, we decided on a single idea we were all happy to take forward. To bring it to life, we opted for a piece of software called Figma that allows both Windows and Mac users to collaborate on the same prototype. Speed was key and being able to work on the prototype simultaneously meant we had a working sample within a day’s work.

Our intention was to test our prototypes on the final day of our sprint but it’s worth noting for anyone reading this who intends on running their own design sprint…plan ahead! To conduct user testing you need to have users to test with, so make sure you line people up in advance. Thankfully, we were able to book time with our users just a few days later which meant we could keep up the momentum.

Our prototypes weren’t perfect, so we went back to the drawing board or, in our case, Figma, and made changes based on the feedback and insight we’d collected from user testing. We’re now in the middle of testing these improved prototypes with our users and hope to release an electronic prescription tracker across NHS 111 by next winter!

Download our design sprint slide deck [link broken].  

Last edited: 30 September 2019 2:00 pm