Redesigning Teamwork in Healthcare

Combining the design way of thinking with the designers’ ability to come up with new products and solutions, designers can start to create tools and products to facilitate communication in interdisciplinary health care meetings.

VUmc Consultations. Image retrieved from TU Delft

The medical field is traditional, consisting of many different specialists, each with their own expertise. Nice and tidy, each his own box. But unfortunately, diseases do not really work that way.

As we are increasingly recognising that diseases tie into different parts of the body, it becomes more important for medical professionals to work together and to look at the patient as a whole, instead of separate parts. No person can ever become experts in all the fields, but we can try to bridge the gap between different expertises. This is where design can play a crucial role.

At the core, design is about understanding a problem from as many different perspectives as possible. Designers try to understand the viewpoints of all the stakeholders, without replacing them by becoming experts themselves. In this way designers try to get an understanding of the problem and the solution, a process known as ‘framing.’ As such designers are really good at facilitating communication; picking up on the essentials and translating it to a language everybody can understand.

Combining this design way of thinking with the designers’ ability to come up with new products and solutions, designers can start to create tools and products to facilitate communication in interdisciplinary health care meetings. Not only can this increased understanding improve the experience of the patient and increase the chances of finding a successful cure for the disease, it can also revolutionize the medical field. By breaking barriers design has the potential to shift the medical field into the 21st century, combining fields that could lead to new insights and a better understanding of the functioning of the human body.

Fortunately, design is getting more and more attention in the medical field. A recent example of design for communication in the medical field is the graduation project of Jesse Beem. He has gotten the opportunity to design for improved communication during multidisciplinary team meetings at the VUmc. He designed an environment to improve discussion among specialists and a tool that brings communication differences into line with visualisation. His design enabled specialists to discuss more efficiently about the patients before deciding on a patient’s diagnosis and treatment. Jesse showed the VUmc how design can facilitate communication and he is currently applying his design to all the meeting rooms in the hospital as the first employed designer at the VUmc.

As said, the design Jesse developed for his graduation, was a tool to make medical professionals communicate better. Compared to a conventional conference/discussion room, his new design was focussed on a centralised conversation. As shown in Figure 1, his new design is similar to the setup of an orchestra. As Jesse said: “..because a consultation between different expertises should sound like a piece of well coordinated music.” To facilitate this, he did not only design the round conference room. He also developed an application that syncs across devices with pictures of the patient (for example a CT-scan) and all medical experts can indicate their thoughts on the patient’s medical situation.
For all viewers in a further row, big screens and a sound installation are installed in the front of the room so that everybody knows who is talking about what. In the end what is most important, is that all professions have discussed effectively and efficiently, making the diagnosed situation and treatment more accurate and less prone to failure.

Jesse’s new design for medical consultation meetings
Figure 1. Jesse’s new design for medical consultation meetings

Although it is good to see the increasing role of design in some parts of the medical field, it is still too little to break the barriers and bring medical care into a new era.

Especially in this field, where a small change could have a huge impact, it is important to make a difference with design. We as designers should push that change.

References and Interesting Links:

  • Doss, H. (2014, May 23). Design Thinking In Healthcare: One Step At A Time. Retrieved from
  • Leggat, S. G. (2007). Effective healthcare teams require effective team members: Defining teamwork competencies. Retrieved from
  • Medical Graduation assignment of Jesse Beem (2016):

Topic Contributors: Stijn Bakker, Zoë Dankfort, Roel Redert, Chenyi Shao

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