Design think your life: how rethinking problems can help address integrated care for people with diabetes (L3)

Design thinking was the hot topic of the integrated care pathways workshop at the European Health Forum Gastein conference today.  The interactive 90-minute workshop was organised by Roche to facilitate new ideas and solutions around how people with diabetes can manage their illness using the right food approache. It kicked off with a conversation on patient-centric care pathways between two leading experts; Prof Nick Guldemond from the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands, and Prof Bert Vrijhoef from the National University of Singapore. They gave their opinion on why integrated care is gaining momentum, how it is beneficial for patients and health systems across Europe and what we need to do to facilitate its uptake in real world settings.

l3Their discussion and introduction to the topic led nicely onto a ‘Design Thinking’ oriented workshop, where participants at each table had to dive into this novel methodology and work together to solve complex problems related to real patients lives and find desirable solutions in under an hour!! Tamsin Rose and a team, which included Young Forum Gastein scholars, facilitated each group to delve into the individualised personas they were given and identify as many challenges this person had to manage the different aspects of their life. I was delighted to be asked to help with this process as we had several interesting pre-conference activities to prepare us for moderating the session. Thanks to strict time keeping each group came up with one key problem, which was then taken onto the next phase in design thinking. A flurry of activity from pairs within each group led to many solutions being identified for the key problem, anything from lifestyle and behaviour changes to more technically oriented solutions.

The pressure was on to pick just one solution which each team felt was the best and take this into the final prototyping phase. Then each table had to flesh out their potential solution to try and figure out the different elements that would be necessary to make it happen and prepare a short elevator pitch – only 90 seconds to convince all the other groups it would work and the benefits it would bring. No easy task in the midst of having lunch and getting to grips with a new approach to design but the results were quite inspiring!! A huge range of solutions were presented in total, with some groups taking a more tech savvy approach using wearable devices and apps for younger people with diabetes to improve self-management. Others went for more socially oriented solutions and proposed ‘Active Family Breaks’, where people with diabetes who had children and partners to consider, could take time out over a weekend to meet peers with the same problems and take part in healthy eating, physical activity and personal development events. Overall participants were glad to hear that their hard work was going to feed into a broader EU policy process on delivering integrated care taking place in Brussels next October.  So it seems design thinking can not just offer a new way of thinking but it can translate into real world solutions that can be taken up to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes in a more integrated way.

This Blog was written by the Young Gasteiner Siobhán O’Connor
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