With full capacity in attendance in the evening of February 1st, 2017, the resonant sound of a gong at the session’s start brought us all to anticipatory attention. Introducing the principles at the core of IBMs ‘design thinking’ methodology, Yasmine Taha described the user-centric approach to developing solutions. In the consideration of the patient perspective when innovating healthcare solutions, empathy is the scaffold underpinning the design and development process.
In the weeks and months leading up to the event, a number of problems have been outlined on the Hacking Health Ottawa Sparkboard allowing participants to join a team and connect with one another. Now meeting as team member for the first time, the multidisciplinary groups converged to their dedicated section of the room with an IBM design member to guide the design thinking process.
On the premise that users are multidimensional, we sought to develop a holistic understanding of their character, behaviors, and particularities. We were instructed to define a single user from the ecosystem of individuals affected by the current technologies; in our case, we defined Monica, an outgoing five year old with a love for stuffed animals. By illustrating what that user would think, say, feel, and do relative to the current solutions, we could build a formative representation of the advantages and disadvantages of existing frameworks. Armed with colored pads of post it notes, stickers, and pens, we freely contributed to that holistic view. Under the premise that “no idea is a bad idea”, we were free to explore any and all avenues of thought to paint this complex picture. Understandably it was a messy and inexact approach, however was remarkable effective at capturing the essence of the problems faced by our defined user.
Upon saturating our thoughts and considerations, we focused on clustering elements of similar nature, hoping to map our ideas to actionable solutions. This hierarchal clustering revealed some major themes at the heart of the problem. Participating in a session on the topic of Sleep Apnea, and more specifically on the development of new diagnostic techniques for children other than the current “gold standard” sleep test, we identified that ‘fear’ and ‘disruption of routine’ to be major factors impeding the compliance to the current technology. Grouped with a number of other engineers, we eventually converged on solutions that included outfitting stuffed animals with sensors to better detect sleeping biometrics. Exchanging thoughts with our lead physician, Dr. Matthew Bromwich from CHEO-OCTC, we determined that a home-care solution where a larger collection of lower quality recordings was preferable over the standard single session of recording high quality biometrics. Since that single session was often non-representative of typical sleeping patterns, our innovative solution had the potential of greatly improving compliance to sleep apnea diagnoses in children.
In the end, we were each of us satisfied with the outcome. A number of promising ideas were exchanged, reworked and iterated, and eventually finalized. Certain groups flew through the exercise while others wrestled with the multitude of directions to take a solution. It was fascinating to observe the diversity of perspectives and the group dynamics that broke a complex problem down to manageable concepts to eventually propose a novel solution. We were recommended to take each other’s contact information under the pretense that we could follow-up on the road to the hackathon.
To conclude the workshop, Studio Director Kevin Grignon offered parting words on the significance of what was achieved in these short few hours. Briefly (and paraphrased), his words resonated with us:
“You all took an abstract problem and made something; by writing it down and putting it up on the wall, you made it real. Doing the work is the easy part, the thought that goes into the design is the hard part. You were each strangers and in the short span of three hours, you all came to a consensus and that is not a simple task. Solving problems as a group of people; you are driving progress forward through selflessness. Hacking Health is a passion play; it is about giving to the cause…” When the gong rung at the session’s start, we were each of us strangers; struck again at session’s end, we were each of us acquainted and anticipating the next visit to IBM.