Blank

As we all know, a good product or service begins with user research, with understanding the desires and needs of the future users. The user-oriented approach has long been at the heart of the development of new products. However, like any other approach, it evolves through time. Thus, now we are talking not just about focusing on users, but about focusing on people in general. It means that during the product development process, not only do we pay attention to the end users, but also to other people who will interact with this product – everyone’s needs should be taken into account.

A new maternity hospital of the Scandinavia clinic in Saint-Petersburg is a good example of the application of this approach. The chief doctor, Vladimir Ostromensky, told SAMSONOWA & Partners about how this maternity hospital was designed, what values were placed at the foundation of the project, and why it was important to create a place convenient for everyone, not just for patients.

How it all started

Initially, the idea of building a new maternity hospital in Saint-Petersburg was dictated by the lack of them in the north part of the city: all of them were located in the center and in the south. They were limited in capacity, so the increasing flow of patients to the central hospitals showed the need for the creation of a new separate center. Therefore, in 2017 the Scandinavia clinic started working on a new maternity hospital project.

The management of the clinic faced a difficult task – to design and build a modern maternity hospital, comfortable for the use of both staff and patients. Moreover, it was necessary to transfer all the operation activities of the current Scandinavia’s maternity department to a new location, and adapt all the processes without losing the quality of the service. I came to the project at the very beginning. We had to not just construct a new building, but, based on the experience of the existing maternity hospital, design an entire ecosystem in which it would be comfortable to be for everyone,”– says Vladimir.

Blank

Blank

Blank

Blank

Blank

Team formation

The work on the project began with the formation of a core team. It required different expertise: in the fields of medicine, management, architecture and construction, design and marketing. From the very first stages, the project managers planned all the details comprehensively, looking at them from different points of view. For example, for patients, the inside navigation should be as clear and easy as possible, and their paths should not overlap with the paths of other patients. On the other hand, the most important thing about navigation for the staff is to be able to provide urgent medical care everywhere in the hospital.

Different specialists think differently based on their professional goals. According to Vladimir, bringing different experts together and helping them find a common language was one of the main challenges: “The most difficult thing was to make sure that everyone – construction workers, engineers, designers, and doctors – spoke the same language and understood each other. So everyone can explain their needs, and together we could find not a compromise, but a synergetic solution.” For example, in the original plan of the building, the intensive care unit and the patient rooms were located on different floors. From the construction workers’ point of view, there is no problem in such a plan. However, from the doctors’ perspective it is critically important to have them on the same floor, so that the path between them takes as little time as possible.

The main design challenge

At all stages of the project, the same attention was paid to the design of both visible sights (for patients) and internal systems and processes (for staff). Usually, the standard requirements for the design of medical space are focused exclusively on functionality and safety. They do not take into account the convenience and comfort of patients at all. We all are aware of such a standard design: one-color painted walls, simple ceramic tiles on the floor (so that it is easier to clean them), no curtains and other textile details (so that staff does not have to change them after each patient). Such rooms are relatively cheap to use and easy to maintain, but it is unpleasant for patients to stay in. 

On the other hand, you cannot simply put the desires and comfort of patients in the first place. Hospitals and medical institutions have special safety standards, which you cannot ignore. For example, the use of certain durable materials, smooth and soft surfaces, or technical windows in doors is a must. It may seem that such restrictions do not allow us to use a user-oriented approach, since we cannot take into account user wishes. However, at that point this approach turns into something bigger, focusing on people in general, not just the end users.

Blank

Vladimir calls this principle human-centricity: “We tried to make our solutions convenient for the people who will be there, no matter whether they are patients or hospital staff. All of them will interact with our department in one way or another, which means that we cannot ignore their needs.”

Blank

It was important for the team to meet everyone’s requirements and desires, including patients, their relatives, doctors, middle and junior medical staff, technical equipment specialists, and many others. But at the same time, the key criterion for design and engineering at all stages remained safety. The team kept all the necessary functional requirements first, and then they were looking for new opportunities and improvements. Where it was possible to replace the standard material with an alternative one, with the same properties, they did it. Where it was possible to replace standard fluorescent lamps with more cozy lamps without compromising the level of safety, they did it too. Thus, step by step the space was developed so that people feel good and be safe there.

Even more details

One of the necessary safety requirements for medical institutions in the Russian Federation is the presence of special air purifiers in all rooms where patients are located. Only a few companies produce such purifiers and supply them to all hospitals and clinics. There is no such requirement in other countries, so it is almost impossible to find foreign manufacturers of such equipment. All standard medical purifiers are either convenient for maintenance, but are huge and ugly, or vice versa, they are nice looking, but require several hours to replace the filter inside. None of these solutions suited the Scandinavia project team, so they organised a special tender among the producers. The goal was to find a supplier who is ready to combine the necessary functional and sufficient visual design in one device. In the end, only one company agreed to develop the suitable option – devices which are convenient for technical service, and at the same time fit into the overall interior of the future clinic.

Chairs and beds for moving patients are another example of how the team took into account the needs of various stakeholders. Such chairs should be quickly accessible wherever emergency assistance might be required. Initially, it was planned to have them in a neutral color, not to attract the attention of patients. However, such chairs have to be visible, so that the staff can instantly find them. As a result, the team decided to make them in a bright green color, easily noticeable, but still within the general visual design of the building, and place them in the corridors in a way that they could be seen from everywhere.

Even though paying attention to every detail takes a lot of effort and time, this approach pays off in the end. Choosing simple and cheap solutions only helps to save resources in the short run. However, long-term this strategy loses, because it does not focus on the real needs of people, and therefore cannot meet their expectations.

Blank

Blank

From launch to routine

After the construction and the launch of the maternity hospital in January 2020, the human orientation approach has been applied to manage all the internal processes. Now, when someone notices a problem, or something does not meet the needs of patients or staff, it is a signal for a change. The team is constantly working on improvements, never stopping at what has already been achieved. For instance, one design bug was identified immediately after the launch. It turned out that for the majority of employees it’s inconvenient to use soap dispensers when washing their hands. Initially, the dispensers were hung quite high, but it turned out that the staff in the maternity hospital are mostly women who are not very tall. This detail was missed out, but as soon as the staff started working and noticed it, the problem was immediately fixed.

The people-centered approach is not a strict methodology, but rather a way of thinking. It does not end with the completion of the project. In fact, it never ends. It helps to improve the product constantly, long after its launch. But most importantly, this approach teaches us to value the needs of different groups of people equally, not to focus on satisfying only the desires of the end customers.