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Learning from analogy

What can we learn from the experience of children having to go through diagnostic imaging procedures that can be really scary

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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What can we learn from analogy?

As I was thinking of end-of-life experience, looking through the posts, what emerged was anxiety, fear, pain, powerlessness, etc. and it reminded me the story of Doug Dietz's redesign of an MRI machine described by Tom and David Kelley's book Creative Confidence (and by Doug in his TED talk).

Doug realized that children were super anxious before going through the diagnostic procedures, and their parents too (doubly stressed to see their children panicking). It also created tensions for nurses and doctors who were faced with the fear of the children, the anxiety of their parents while trying to get the best images. 

Doug used a human-centered design  process to try to understand the situation of the patients and their families to redesign the whole experience (rather than the machine) which became an "adventure". "He started by observing and gaining empathy for young children at a day care center. He talked to child life specialists to understand what pediatric patients went through. He reached out for help from people around him, including a small volunteer team from GE, experts from a local children’s museum, and doctors and staff from two hospitals. Next, he created the first prototype of what would become the “Adventure Series” scanner and was able to get it installed as a pilot program in the children’s hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.” (Kelley and Kelley, 2013, p. 10 sq.)

Here are "some positive impacts derive from Doug Dietz’ Adventure Series. First of all, the patient satisfaction scores went up 90 percent. Children do not suffer of anxiety anymore. Instead some of them even ask their parents if they can come back tomorrow. It makes it easier for children to hold still during the procedure what in turn prevents the doctors from having to repeat the scan. This less need for anaesthesiologists meant more patients could get scanned each day, which heavily impacts the financial side of the equation. The experience of joy and play during the scan also took away the fear from parents. " (in

This list of impact highlights how improving the experience of patients and their family has positive impact not only on the experience  has a positive impact from an operational (and financial) perspective for the hospitals.  

Doug Dietz did not redesign the MRI machine itself (he could have made the business case for it), but he thought of it as a touch point in the patient's journey and this opens up new ways for him to think of the patient's experience.  

He also used analogies (e.g. going to local museums): where can we learn from? 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

What can we learn from analogy? What are other experiences and other fields that might inspire us? How can move from focusing on technology (seen as standalone) to think of the experience holistically as involving all actors - patients, family and friends and medical staff - and where technology is a touch point?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Noni Gachuhi

Anne, thanks for this contribution.  I like the idea of revisiting those places/ machines/experiences that bring out so much anxiety in us. As difficult a place as the ICU is for instance, in my opinion it is definitely a place that needs reimagining because I think that for better or for worse, it is like to be a facility that we will need for a while to come. My recent experience in the ICU in which my father died was made a trillion times better by the presence of one of the absolute best doctors I have ever come across. Her compassion and empathy as she sat with my family and explained what was happening and what was to come, was like nothing I had ever experienced before. She was superbly suited to her role and place in the ICU. Sure the machines made noise and seemed to dominate the room, but her presence and calming effect seemed to quiet everything down.

Redesign I think, should also include dollops of empathy and care!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Noni for your comment. Sorry for taking so long to reply. I think anxiety is clearly something we need to address: for the patients, their family and friends and even the medical staff. 
Individuals like the doctor who took care of your father matters but how can we redesign hospitals (physically and organizationally) in order to support doctors and medical staff and reduce anxiety? Looking forward to what will emerge during ideation.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thank you!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Erica Gibson

Yes!  Empathy is key. Although we all will face death, we cannot know what others feels when it is their time but we can be empathetic because we will also be in their shoes one day.  Reframing the experience of death and dying can definitely be enhanced by use of analogous ideas.