Mobile Health Meetup #7 – Exploring design around end of life care

Mobile Health Meetup #7 - Exploring design around end of life care

Welcome to our first post of the year! To kick-off our first Mobile Health Meetup of 2017 (and our 7th meetup so far) we invited Ivor Williams - Senior Design Associate at the Helix Centre and co-founder of Humane Engineering - and Cassie Robinson - director of strategy and research at Doteveryone, service designer and researcher at the Co-op, and co-founder of The Point People - to talk about digital and service design for end of life care.

Ivor introduced the conversation with an overview of how our traditional approaches to death - across both design and contemporary culture - aren’t appropriate for the reality of people’s experience. Designers, for instance, have a tendency to simplify complex topics. While this is often heralded as a virtue, in the context of end of life care it can miss important nuances and the deep sensitivity required at every stage.

Similarly, the potency of myths around heroic, peaceful or poetic deaths actually impedes our ability to plan for death in a realistic way. Just as patients, friends and family may find it difficult to make decisions around end of life care, the conversations can be equally difficult from the perspective of healthcare practitioners. Trained to cure disease and save lives, junior doctors often feel unsupported and lack confidence around the relevant vocabulary to engage in meaningful end of life care discussions.

Changing these behaviours is difficult. Both Cassie and Ivor described how the culture of healthcare is so embedded, and how challenging it is to replace or introduce new processes or artefacts. As an example, Cassie described how even just addressing end of life issues across a person’s lifetime could improve how we deal with death at both an individual and system level.

Compassionate design can also play a role. In a project to redesign the Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) form, Ivor illustrated how a new type of tool - in both physical paper and digital formats - could help to prompt and guide humane conversations around end of life care. Cassie suggested that technology can be used to develop a better understanding of who is having end of life care conversations, how authorship of information is distributed across the healthcare system, and what kind of information is valuable, to whom, and when.

Through the conversation, we also explored the relevance of aesthetics in designing end of life care, and how digital tools can make advanced care planning simple and frictionless. We talked about how technology, now seamlessly embedded into our lives, is starting to shape how we understand and deal with death. To listen to the whole conversation, check-out the audio/video recordings of the event below.

Thank you very much to Cassie and Ivor for sharing such valuable insights and thoughtful conversations.

And as always, a massive thank you to everyone who attended the meetup. It was lovely to see both new and familiar faces. We look forward to seeing you all at the next one!