Members of the DesignSingapore Council International Advisory Panel (IAP) explored how design can play an integral role in shaping future healthcare systems during the fifth annual meeting in Singapore this week. The panel, chaired by Mr. Edmund Cheng, comprised renowned international design-related and business leaders from the United States, Europe and Japan.
After an overview of Singapore's healthcare system and hospital visits to understand the current processes, Mr. Chris Bangle, Managing Director, Chris Bangle Associates, commented, "Singapore's healthcare cluster is very robust and has already taken major steps in setting an example for other service economy systems. Design can add further to this already excellent foundation by making the healthcare experience a highly personal and meaningful one."
The panel discussed the role of design to go beyond practical considerations to address the emotional aspects across all elements of healthcare to that can help alleviate fear and misunderstanding, mitigate potential dangers and foster dignity.
"As part of the next phase of the DesignSingapore Initiative, we want to use design as a process and strategic business tool to enable Singapore's key economic clusters to achieve new value innovation. By focusing on the healthcare cluster at this year's meeting, we wanted to set in place the beginnings of a process that will challenge current conventions with a goal of identifying where design can contribute in a significant way to improving the quality of life for other sectors of the economy," said Mr. Edmund Cheng, Chairman, DesignSingapore Council International Advisory Panel. "An open mind and a clear view of the role of design will help accelerate Singapore's progress in becoming a world-class healthcare hub."
The panel's vision for design in healthcare centred on innovation beyond process planning and physical objects, to bring about a harmonic experience for all participants in the healthcare process, from healthcare professionals to those receiving medical treatment and their families. "Design serves more than just an aesthetic purpose. I believe it is very important to put the person at the centre of the process before we look at addressing how design and innovation can benefit healthcare," said Mr. Toshiyuki Kita, Product Designer, Studio Toshiyuki KITA.
With Singapore's diverse cultures and its appreciation of eastern and western philosophies, the panel agreed that design can help to bring together concepts that shape the whole experience, from both interventional and holistic medical practices. "Design is a prism through which to look at products and systems to illuminate a new perspective. Our vision is a harmonic and innovative healthcare system based on a balance of the best experiences, techniques and elements for all participants in the healthcare cluster. This model can set a new benchmark for an improved definition of the healthcare experience," Mr. Richard Seymour, Co-founder, Seymourpowell.
The panel recommended that the first step in creating a harmonic healthcare model would be design research, incorporating anthropological, ethnographic, human ergonomics and emotional considerations into how design can be applied as part of the planning and delivery process of developing healthcare systems. "We need to look beyond illness to focusing on meaningful healing and wellness. We need to assess the relevance of accepted norms, such as the hospital waiting room and whether its role has to be redefined. We need to be able to see the experience through the eyes of real people, for example when they are being transported on their backs on a gurney and the role of the ceiling in that context to inform and comfort," elaborated Mr. Toyo Ito, Architect, Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects.
"For example, technology can play a role to demystify healthcare and enable people to be 'always on' in a way that is meaningful and relevant to their unique healthcare requirements, said Mr. Dick Powell, Co-founder, Seymourpowell. "By providing information tools across multiple channels before, during and after a treatment process in a way that is sensitised to each person's need for deep or light data and frequency of information access, we can enrich people's lives by giving them a sense of control and ultimately, reduce anxiety."
It was noted that Singapore is well-placed to develop new models as a relatively small market that is able to break down barriers between healthcare institutions in the country. "Without doubt, the models that Singapore can develop, small or large, can easily be duplicated for the benefit of healthcare systems worldwide. Singapore is also already investing heavily in biotechnology and biomedical sciences that can incorporate the concept of design from day one of a new initiative," said Mr. Steve Hayden, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
The panel concluded that the benefit of a more harmonic vision for healthcare design could act as an economic accelerator for the cluster and will give rise to Singapore Solutions that help differentiate Singapore's role in contributing to healthcare systems worldwide.