Transforming healthcare for children and their families: Doug Dietz at TEDxSanJoseCA 2012

I thought I'd start with this which is kind of a little bit of the thread or the kind of a heartbeat of my story today and you've heard a lot about the design thinking in the design process that a lot of these folks have gone through very powerful tools and I just want to emphasize that empathy at the beginning for me is something that I think is really what is the heartbeat of the project when you move forward and a lot of times when you move forward into the iteration and prototyping and some of the design phases you go through you need to actually refocus back and see what the empathy was it actually got you started at the beginning so I thought I would just say share a quick story with you guys and this is a little tough story to tell but I'm going to give it a shot so I had just finished designing a big Mr scanner how many people here have an EMR scan it's a big OMR I scan oh my gosh a lot of you guys so don't charge the stage so I had just finished designing this big EMR scanner and I was very proud I think I had worked on this thing for probably about two years and you know doing I'm an industrial designer and I was doing the enclosures and controls and displays and the coils and patient transfer on that kind of stuff and I was so excited to see this first product that we installed so I went to see it in its actual environment in the hospital so I was just running through this hospital to check out my new product that I just finished I'm really excited and I kind of almost like barged in you know took my wallet and all the metal stuff out of my pockets you know and ran in and was you know with my baby you know and I was just a proud papa basically and I remember the technologist coming in and saying you know we have a patient that's going to be coming through so could you step out for a little bit I said sure no problem I'll come back in we can talk later and I remember walking out I was standing in the hallway and this is kind of what I saw down the hallway I saw this young family coming down the hallway and I'm just standing in the hallway and they're coming toward and I can tell as they get closer the little girl is weeping and is they even get closer to me I noticed the father just leans down and just goes remember we've talked about this you can be brave and they turn to walk into the mr suite and I kind of follow him in and I still remember it like it was today guys I'm standing baha behind the little girl she's probably about seven and I'm looking into this environment that I was just standing in I was just in there in this environment just you know doing my happy dance right and she just freezes and I looking at her angle and just seeing in that same environment where I was just standing I realized that this is something totally different on the wall is that you know horrible warning sticker and it's got the magnet and the big exclamation point it's got that yellow and black tape like on the family like you know almost like a accident scene you know everything looks really kind of like beige you know it's got this kind of weird colored flooring and you know just kind of everything's bleached out and then the room itself is kind of dark and it kind of has those flickering fluorescent lights and the machine itself that I designed basically look like a brick with a hole in it and then of course an MRI for you folks that have had one it is just a terrible noise so the little girl just starts to really cry I mean she's just breaking down and I can tell you guys I'm standing behind and I see these parents and it's for you guys that are parents they're looking at each other and they don't have to say a word because they don't know how they're going to get their child through this so that was a huge awakening for me so the challenge that we have here is you've got that little guy and he needs to go through a scan and that and what does that look like you guys what does that machine look like big big clam looks like a stapler I mean it looks like a transfer it's just ridiculous and guys this is a color pitcher this is a color pitcher so really this this experience the family goes through the child goes through it looks like those little footprints on the bottom it looks like a anxiety curve and that really starts when they first understand that they need a scan or they're in their car coming to the hospital and it just starts to ramp up as they get to the hospital and you know how it is you get on like nine elevators and you follow the blue line on the floor and you get to the you know yet to the site when they see that when they come in contact with this piece of equipment you know the tears started to come way up in there and actually at the bottom of that arc it really doesn't even flatten out that much I mean just working with these these young families and these parents I spent some time with this one father and I remember they had to sedate his his son and in this modality nuclear medicine they have to sedate the children about eighty percent of the time so they can scan them and he was carrying his his little boy out to the parking lot because he had had sedation and I'm walking out with him just to thank him and all sudden he just stops and he's got this kind of weird look on his face and I'm like what's up and he goes you know I forgot where I parked my car why do you think he forgot where he parked his car absolutely I mean it's just you know and my hypothesis and some of the ideas I even had at the beginning things like they would be worried about you know are they going to diagnose what's wrong with their child his insurance going to pay for this you know is my boss can get mad because I had to take off work again all those things that I thought he'd be worried about and a family be worried about their number one thing was how am I going to get my child through this so this is where we started and I just thought I'd throw this in it's kind of a cool picture this is our first brainstorming session at a local daycare that's kind of cool and you guys probably notice here some of my very young designers even younger than some of the high school kids that came up here I went to the source and what was really neat about this when I remember this little boy in the white there and he was actually had the crayons and he was actually just sticking him in the cracks he wasn't coloring like some of the other children that were down the way there and I realized right off the bat when I was looking at this little boy and he's just sticking those crayons in the crack that I had to learn more about some of the developmental stages of children some of these things that would cause the anxiety for this to see if I could make it better so you know I tried myself and I told you guys you know I basically failed at my job when I did the other when I did the scanner so I got some experts so here's a fern Schupak up at the top I love her pose she's very passionate and she's the director of the Betty British Museum in Milwaukee Wisconsin where I'm from and both her and her team came in and we did lots of brainstorming sessions actually at the Museum up with the kids down they have a really cool area um these are actually most of the people that are on that picture on the right they're our customers actually bringing the customers into this innovation this ideation session with us to come up with some really strong solutions so we have the director radiology there Kathryn caps in and Sara's a Child Life specialists and Steve is a nurse just great team to do that and these are just some of the sketches here and you know what came very apparent to me kind of in the middle of the especially working with the kids is what is three kitchen chairs and a blanket fort castle boat shelter truck you name it it's everything and how long will they play with it for ever because they've got this fertile imagination they've got this place where they can go to do this so what can we do with that this is actually a picture of my desk when I was working on this that I threw in here just to remind me that you know there's a lot of the right-brain that went into this particular project and I want to walk you through a couple of the rooms that we developed for these children to help them get through this situation these are some of our pilot rooms that are actually at the University of Pittsburgh a UPMC hospital and this one right here this one actually is the same machine as you saw that was the stapler we just worked a little bit on the design softened it out we have a ringg now instead of that big big clamp but what's magical about this room is you got to admit you know these pictures don't really do it justice you got to imagine when you go in there there's this like light blue sky that's cascading down we tickle all the senses we have aromatherapy in there and I believe in this one we have kind of a like a water scent that's kind of a nice kind of a soothing scent has a little lavender and it kind of relaxing to do that we have of course some of the graphics so on the back you'll see there's a waterfall that cascades off the wall it comes down underneath the scanner and there's a koi pond that comes out below and what's magical about this part is on the rocks that are the border actually come and they come down the room and they go out the hallway and what's so cute is you'll see the little boys and girls and they're going like this they're walking on the stones right they're coming into the room they're looking back and going dad mom you know you got to get on the rocks and they're coming into the room three chairs and a blanket right there in this special mode they come into this room guys and the table actually lowers down into the water looks like it lowers down into the water and it's a hollowed-out canoe so there's a reason this hollowed-out log that they're laying on their back and they're and they're in there and then they tell them you know this is kind of like a boat and you need to hold still it's real important so you don't rock the boat and this is the magic if you really hold still the fish will start jumping over the top of you and these kids are like statues they're frozen and of course you know our detectors they're slowly start to go around these kids and they just love it and for a modality like this where they base today – maybe 80% of the time I think this machine's been in for a couple years now or about a little over a year and they've sedated like two kids like point-o something oh here's a couple more this one is uh this one's pirate adventure this one is it's funny I tilt I say they're all my favorite so get used to that this so this is my favorite so when you so when you walk into this room you come in on a dock and the floor is kind of this water color is right here you walk in you're come in on a dock there's a shipwreck that's in the corner there's some sand castles it's just beautiful and then there's actually a plank there that you can see that you actually walk the plank to go on to the scanner of course right and what's kind of magic about this one we couldn't affect the design as much on this one because we did on the nuclear scanner but if you look really close that picture on the bottom there that black and white picture is the same room as the top one and if you look at that we called the bore if you look the circle where you go through we put the steering wheel there with those radial handles on there and look at that that's the same piece of equipment doesn't it look like we stretched it out there like maybe 20% or something I mean it looks so much bigger in that one it's the same piece of equipment and this one the story that goes with this is pretty powerful there were a bunch of cabinets in this room and when we're talking the kids are the things that scared them in the room this particular one I said you know that reminds me of the dentist not a good thing so we got a little creative and we made a tiki hut you can see a little the top of it there we did a tiki hut there and then for our aromatherapy and there we put pina colada and what's so cute about that is the parents when they come in you know and they're they're in there and usually the child's playing with you know around we have characters on the wall that they're hugging and they're naming it's really cute and you'll see the parents they look at each other and I go is that what I think it is is that you go yeah and they go can we have one so now sorry we know that would help you get through but no I'm sorry you can't have one but I was actually you know what's nice about that too is when the children see their parents you know kind of elbowing each other thinking of you know about their honeymoon in Bermuda or something you know having a pina colada they're smiling and the children are really picking up on this and I learned for sure if you've got the child you get the parent to get the parent you can get the child because they're always looking for that reaction which is really cool and the story that goes with this one is so I'm talking with the parents about the Pina Colada actually and the little girl had already just had her scan and we're talking with the parents and little girl keeps come up and she's pouring on her mom's shirt and about on the second or third time you know the mom you know kind of interrupts and she goes what is it honey and the little girl looks up and she says can we come back tomorrow so I'm just you know that's a pretty powerful thing you know I had gone from you know really thinking I and I did screw up to having this little girl say can we come back tomorrow so unfortunately I was doing exactly what I'm doing here and I looked down at the floor and I can see the tears hitting the floor you know and I'm just going oh man this sucks and you know I don't have a Kleenex like I don't have now and but I look over to net standing next to me as the technologist and I see that she's shaking I'm going oh no this is not good so I look up at her she's bawling she has mascara coming down her face and I'm thinking to myself oh man this is not good I can see my performance review now you know uh you know next year try not to make the customer cry so um you know I it was that was a tough experience but I remember going in later that day and talking with her and she was sitting in the room her little it's hard to see in here but she or her window she looks out the same castle and I put my hand on her shoulder and I just said I'm really sorry I really did and she stops me and she looks up and she really just says you don't understand this experience reminded me of why I got in healthcare so with this environment you know it's probably like a lot of us that work in industry and stuff and there's all this crap there's HIPPA laws there's all this stuff that just gets in the way you know our sophisticated medical equipment is really hard to work on you know it all that stuff gets in the way she had forgotten why she got in health care and it was to help kids so that's what she got so you know though I really had this kind of very specific focus on children and the families I didn't even quite realize that really cascaded out to the to the parents really good I have a couple more I'd love to show you here um this one's cool this one actually is Coral City this one is actually in an emergency room so can you imagine the hectic craziness of emergency room and all sudden here's this nautical adventure and you can see it has these beautiful blue walls and they dim the lights and then this one there's a disco ball in the back and we hit it with white light and it looks like bubbles everywhere it's unbelievable um what and in this one I think they have like this really subtle harp music I mean it's mesmerizing especially in mr it's really cool and of course they get on a yellow submarine and they go up and they go in this one of course is my favorite yeah yeah this is being a camper too this is this is cozy camp this is really kind of neat so you come into the room you can see it's kind of got that purple wall it's kind of like the evening there's a thousand stars you can almost see that they're moving on the walls and the ceiling and the child comes in and that table lowers down and it's a sleeping bag and they get on the sleeping bag and they go up and they go inside the tent and what's really neat about this is the actual technologist can't be in the room and this is a PET CT scanner so they actually go over here in their camper and that's their window that the technology click out it's kind of cool it is really neat so so that's pretty fun and it that's a cool picture and you know you know if you're not having fun it's half your fault you know you know this is sometimes you know this kind of stuff can um even though it's very empathetic and there's some really neat stuff in here and there's a real meaning you can have a lot of fun and we did this with some of the development team um that worked with us which is really neat and probably the last thing I just want to leave you guys with here is really that when you design for meaning good things will happen and sometimes if you go the other way around which a lot of times we do where you're you're designing for money or you're designing for some of these other things and you're hoping that meaning comes it doesn't work that way and though we got the sedation to be reduced significantly here and I think they're passionate patient satisfaction and this hospital went up 92 percent and a patient volume also up so they're able to get more children in in a day which makes the the actual waiting list and some of the time you have to wait for scan a lot less so the you know a lot of people ask me things like are you really proud of those things which I think I really am and they asked me if I kind of measure the success of this on those things and I'll be honest with you I don't what I really think I would measure myself in this kind of a project is have I had influence on that conversation in the car on the ride home for that family and if I've had that opportunity to make that a different kind of conversation for this family and you've seen some things already in this great some great talks on how you interact with healthcare if it is just a totally different conversation in that car and it's maybe one of those things where they just embrace the experience a little bit better because a lot of times in healthcare you know this is like a speed bump in the road for these folks and if we can just make that a little bit smaller speed bump if we can turn it into more of an experience I think it's going to be a real positive thing thank you very much you


  1. EMPATHY meaning understood. Being a father I can say this is innovation done with human heart. I take my son to hospital that have child room, emergency room built this way and they are not afraid getting in there. God bless you and those who are doing such a commendable job

  2. Great work.

  3. Attended training with Doug this week. Very inspirational and eye opening. Thank you!

  4. This is amazing! How wonderful you are, sir! I've had many MRIs (in my 30's, 40's, and now my still young-at-heart 50's), and I can tell you that these designs probably would reduce the stress and make the experience better for us adults too! 🦈🐳🐡🐠🐙

  5. Awesome!!!

  6. Thanks for all the kind words!… this is my first look at some of the comments.
    The Adventure Series project at GE Healthcare has definitely been a blessing. We are nearing 100 installations and most facilities have multiple rooms! I still love to work with the families and kids to develop the adventures. Immersing in the 'Empathy' of your users gives you the knowledge, passion, and heart to… I guess bring tears to your eyes!

  7. Did you try the best version of Pikachu game like that (have fun and relax):


  8. Fantastic example of creating meaningful differentiation through an 'empathy' led design process

  9. 'When you design for meaning, good things will happen.'

    Great quote. Amazing talk!

  10. I work for a great company!  Thank you Doug.

  11. Doug Dietz – you're my hero! I love your work, your passion, your honesty and your vulnerability.

  12. Excellent presentation. Great to hear about cutting edge diagnostic imaging technology for chikdrens' healthcare

  13. “When you’re designing for meaning good things can happen. When you design for money and you’re hoping that meaning comes… it doesn't work that way.” 

  14. inspiring!

  15. wonderful story.

  16. "If you're not having fun, it's half your fault."  Great quote.

  17. I heard about Doug Dietz in another design related talk. This guy is fucking amazing. Im so happy people like him walk the earth.

  18. love the metaphor of reducing the speed bump at the end of the talk!

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