Charting procedures and highlighting improvement opportunities can lead to developing effective design strategy simulations. Healthcare design is a complicated, iterative process of back-and-forth communication between stakeholders and the design team.

The first step is understanding the purpose of the building or space to be designed and the processes it will accommodate. As designers and trusted advisors, we aim to get at the heart of the issues our clients want to solve. One method that helps us achieve that is called process mapping, a way of tailoring design solutions to specific problems by visualizing every step in an organization’s existing or proposed processes.

Process mapping is a relatively simple exercise for uncovering the root causes of issues that, in some cases, our clients don’t even know about yet. First we chart the course through an organization’s current procedures. Then we highlight opportunities to improve the experience and outcomes for patients, staff and the facility as a whole. When it’s done right, the maps created contain enough information to develop simulations of various design alternatives.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of process mapping in healthcare is in finding opportunities to add value:

  • Consider those patients’ path from referral to discharge.
  • How cumbersome is that process?
  • Is it easy to navigate or unnecessarily complicated?
  • Can a design solution alleviate front-end issues during the check-in process?
  • How can we facilitate the patients’ journey and improve their experience?

Process mapping allowed us to identify the source of inefficiency, develop multiple potential solutions, and simulate their implementation to determine the real value of one solution over another. “Value,” of course, can mean different things to different clients.