By Tero Väänänen. 26 April 2018
By Tero Väänänen. 26 April 2018
At NHS Digital, service design is still a very young discipline, but I believe that here more than anywhere else, service design can really make an impact, and now is the time to do so.
Service design is a practice of designing the end-to-end service from the user’s point of view – from the very beginning of how users become aware the service exists, to the very end of them leaving it. But what makes service design different from just thinking about the user journey, is also the need to design the service from front to back. From all the individual touch points the users interact with the service at the front, to the back-end supporting processes, and the underlying policies and standards.
Service design is often described using the analogy of a theatre:
Service designers work across the whole end-to-end user journey, not just the digital bits. This is especially important when addressing topics like mental health and social care, where the services themselves can be delivered in many different ways, by diverse networks of people and organisations. And this is where working alongside user researchers, technical architects and business analysts to discover the landscapes and map them out in service blueprints can really help to understand where we have gaps, where can we improve, and where can digital make a real difference.
By focusing on designing the whole service, and not just individual touchpoints, we can also ensure services connect with each other seamlessly, providing a coherent experience. We can identify improvements in the service, which will have a positive impact elsewhere. For example, how might we redesign the letters sent to patients earlier in their journey to be easier to read and understand and therefore allowing us to design a simpler experience online. Only understanding the whole service, we can identify the touchpoints which are the most cost-effective or have the most impact.
The underlying premise is that, by allowing the public to self-manage their health using digital tools, or allowing health professional to focus on patient care, rather than filling in paperwork, we can make significant savings to the NHS.
With the growing service design community and some well-established service designers within our programmes, it felt like the right time to pull everyone together and tackle some of the challenges we faced as service designers at NHS Digital.
Recently, we had our inaugural Service Design Day at NHS Digital. It was great to get all the everyone together, meet each other and talk about the challenges we all face as service designers.
The main themes emerging from that were:
We are growing the service design community and are planning our next Service Design Day, where we we’ll continue with the earlier themes. This time, I will also invite some service designers from the wider NHS family, so we can start to learn from, but also support those service designers whose help we need to design the end-to-end experiences. After all, the challenge all of our service designers at NHS Digital are facing, is that we often own only a very small slice of the end-to-end service people experience. We simply can’t do this on our own.