ISQua Design Thinking Masterclass

Design Thinking  (and Doing):

A disruptive health system model between designers, clinicians, and users. 

As part of ISQUA’s (International Society for Quality in Healthcare) 38th International Conference held in Brisbane, Australia in October 2022, Professor Evonne Miller ran a rapid 90-minute Design Thinking (and Doing) Workshop with conference attendees. The workshop builds off the work from the HEAL* initiative between QUT Design Lab and the Clinical Excellence Division of Queensland Health. 

*HEAL – the Healthcare Excellence Accelerator Lab – is a partnership between QUT Design Lab and Clinical Excellence Queensland designed to connect healthcare professionals across Queensland with designers, who will work together and use design approaches to transform thinking, spaces, places, processes and products, and positively transform healthcare.

Exploring the Value of Design for tackling Healthcare Challenges

ISQua is an organisation dedicated to inspire and drive improvement in the quality and safety of healthcare worldwide through education and knowledge sharing, external evaluation, supporting health systems worldwide, and connecting like-minded people through global healthcare networks. 

However, with growing healthcare challenges across the world, including escalating costs, an ageing population, chronic disease, systemic inequalities, system fragmentation, and primary care under-utilisation, there is a growing need to look beyond the realm of healthcare for opportunities to innovate in collaborative, interdisciplinary partnerships, as exemplified in the HEAL project. 

Change is happening now, but what fundamental changes do we need to make to support these models in the future? This workshop introduced design thinking to academics and experts in healthcare and invited them explore and reflect on the value and transformative power of a design-led approach for healthcare which connects design & designers in collaboration with clinicians and consumers. 

Design Process

Step 1: The Radar Canvas | What is on your radar?










While design workshops typically start with a design challenge (e.g., How Might We…reimagine procedural pain?), this workshop invited participants to draw from their own experiences and knowledge to brainstorm a problem that they want to focus on for the workshop. The first step of the workshop helped them to arrive at that problem. 

A Radar Canvas, or “What’s On Your Radar” method, is a visual tool used by designers and teams to prioritize tasks and ideas based on their importance or relevance to a specific project or problem. It helps individuals quickly understand and organize items or concepts within a given scope. This participatory research method fosters improved decision-making, uncovers thoughts, challenges assumptions, and clarifies action items. It involves plotting ideas within concentric circles to visualize relationships, rearrange tasks, and make work more manageable. This method is commonly used in design thinking to establish priorities and ensure solutions are innovative and feasible. 

This activity had 2 steps:

1. Quickly list any tasks, challenges, or areas of concern or opportunity that is currently on your radar. 

2. Now, review the tasks and rank them one-by-one on the bullseye based on their level of priority. 

Participants were invited to cluster similar or related task – i.e. colour code tasks by theme, project, person, or location, or use wedges of the circle to categorise themes. 

At the end of the activity, participants shared their top 1-2 ideas, and than formed into groups to work on a particular problem. 

Step 2: Empathise




























Whether it is through personas, empathy maps, or the powerful narratives of real-life consumers, good design – and good healthcare – always starts with listening and deep empathy. Designers use empathy – the understanding of people and how they relate to environments and products – to design experiences that create new opportunities.

Step 2.a. Persona Canvas | Who are you designing for? 

A persona is a profile of any person, created to represent an important stakeholder, customer, or user that might use a service, product, site, or brand. Creating personas help you to step into the shoes of another, and understand their needs, experiences, behaviours, and goals. 

In this activity, participants were invited to pick from one of the following categories: patient, carer/family, or clinician/staff – and describe their role/persona in more detail, including their name, age, and gender. 

Afterwards, they take their problem (from Step 1) and their persona, and use that to write a How Might We (HMW) Statement following the following formula:

How might we _________________________________[a verb: action you want to achieve e.g., How might we…redesign/improve/reduce/encourage…] for___________________________________[name: persona to be influenced or affected] in order to ___________________________________ [desired outcome you would like to see e.g., seamless, engaging, accessible]. 

Example: How might we redesign the paediatric intensive care unit at the children’s hospital for parents in order to create a supportive environment where they can feel comfortable and included in their child’s care? 

A good HMW is:

    • interesting and inspiring
    • narrow, but not too directive
    • focuses on user, environment, and experience
    • identifies an impactful FRICTION point

Step 2.b Empathy Canvas | How do they think & feel? 

Following 2a, participants were invited to step into the shoes of their chosen persona and think from their perspective – using the Empathy Canvas. They were asked to record their reflections on the following: 

Negative Trends: from the environment. What are the people, things, or places which might influence how they might act? 

Positive Trends: from the environment. What do they see or hear in their environment that influence how they feel?

Think & Feel: What is this person thinking and feeling about their experience?

Headaches: What are their pain points?

Fears: What are their personal/professional/role-specific issues? What challenges might they hope to overcome?

Needs: What does this person really want? What is their overall goal?

Opportunities: What are the potential outcomes for this person?

Hopes: What are their personal/professional/role-specific goals & desires?

Step 3: Ideation






























The third step in the design process involved several smaller activities for ideation, outlined below:  

Step 3.a: Ideation Canvas | What are your ideas?

In this activity, participants quickly brainstormed as many wild, practical, and darling ideas as they could using the Ideation Canvas. The key here is to not worry about evaluating these ideas at this stage. In this activity – anything goes! 

Here’s a brief overview of each category:

    • Wild Ideas: Uncultivated, unbridled, unconventional. These are imaginative, unconventional, and often “out-of-the-box” ideas. Wild ideas encourage creativity and help participants think beyond constraints and limitations. While they may seem far-fetched, they can lead to innovative solutions when refined and adapted.
    • Practical Ideas: Realistic, pragmatic, heuristic. Practical ideas are more grounded and feasible solutions. They consider real-world constraints, such as available resources, time, and budget. Practical ideas are typically easier to implement and are designed to address immediate problems or challenges.
    • Darling Ideas: Charming, pleasing, appealing. Darling ideas strike a balance between wild and practical. They are innovative and exciting while also being realistic and achievable within the given context. These ideas often represent the best of both worlds, offering creative solutions that can be implemented effectively.

The Wild, Practical, and Darling framework encourages diverse ideation and allows teams to explore a wide range of possibilities before refining and selecting the best ideas for further development. It’s a valuable tool for fostering innovation and creative problem-solving in various fields, from product design to business strategy. 

Step 3.b: Idea Evaluation Matrixes 

In this activity, participants take their favourite ideas from activity 2.a and plot them against 2 matrixes:

Effort x Impact – Can you execute it right away? Can you reach the same impact with less effort? Can you increase the impact? Or should you focus on other ideas?

Feasibility x Originality – How? Wow? Now? or not Now?

Step 3.c: Refining the Idea

In this step we encouraged participants to refine their idea – keeping their ‘How Might We’ Question front of mind, and respond to the following prompts using an additional Ideation Canvas (below):

Who? Who is involved? Who does it affect? Who do you need and what role will they play?

What? What are the key resources you require? What is the research? What does it reduce, maintain, improve? Consider also doing a SWOT analysis here (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

How? What are the steps and application? What is the process? How will this idea be achieved? What are the key activities or methods? Consider also doing a SCAMPER analysis here (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify, Purpose, Eliminate/Minimise and Rearrange/Reverse).

When? Is it a once-off or ongoing? Can it be achieved in the short-term, mid-term, long-term, or in phases? Are there any time constraints? Does it need to be done in a particular order?

Where? Where is this most needed? Is it site-specific or in multiple locations? Is it tangible, online, or both?

Why? What are the positive consequences of implementing this idea? What are the negative consequences of not implementing this idea? Consider completing the Checklist for Success – included on canvas.

Step 4: Prototype





















Prototypes are a creative technique and a critical step in the design thinking process. Prototypes are physical models of ideas and should be easy, quick, and cheap to create. By giving concrete form to abstract ideas, prototypes help communicate, test, and refine ideas. Prototypes are action-oriented, driven by the question: What can be learned from this model? How can it be changed/improved? What other ideas does it spark?

In the design process, prototypes are essential for early and iterative concept development – by the design team, clients & potential users. The focus is on direct user interaction and feedback – and in an ideal world, the prototypes will be tested by real users, so they can identify the basic functional requirements for the proposed solution. Good prototypes are provocations, about what might be – and stimulate conversations and feedback about the relative importance, desirability, practicality of different features. Prototypes are designed to spark ideas – and to be altered and to be changed, and that’s why – in most cases – we want the level of detail in a prototype – what is called the fidelity – to be low. Low fidelity (low-fi) prototypes are made from sticky notes, basic cardboard models, sketches and storyboards  –perfect for high-level brainstorming and for developing, refining and changing ideas.  Low-fi prototypes are most common in design thinking workshops, while high-fidelity (‘high-fi’) prototypes represent the more final look, feel and basic functionality of the final product. Whatever you want to develop – whether it is a product, a service, a physical space, a system or process, or a website – you can and should use a prototype during the development of the idea.

Step 3a: News Headline 

In this activity, participants prototyped their idea through a ‘Headline Activity’ – represented as a digital article on the fictional website – ‘Healthcare Insider’. Using the template, workshop participants wrote a headline of their newsworthy idea, a description of their idea in the content of the article, and drew a picture of their idea. 

Step 3b: Pitch! 

Then each group had an opportunity to present their idea to the rest of the room where each audience member could rate it based on the following characteristics of a successful idea: 

Radical: Does the idea have disruptive potential? 

Timely: Does the idea provide care when and where it is needed? 

Quality: Does the idea maintain or improve the quality of care? 

Interdisciplinary: Does the idea help teams to work together? 

Sustainable: Does the idea address resource constraints? 

Project Team

Professor Evonne Miller – Design Sprint Facilitator, Director of the QUT Design Lab 

Dr Sarah Johnstone – Resource Designer, Research Member of QUT Design Lab



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