by Bhaskar Bhatt
National University (India’s first Design University)
The stark reality of the importance of public health & how individual well-being is deeply connected as a systemic whole, has been revealed by recent happenings across the world. Covid-19 has exposed the deep fissures in our healthcare system. As our rapidly growing economy comes under pressure from a burgeoning population, it becomes imperative to ensure equitable health resources to all citizen. With less than 3% GDP allocation each year, healthcare in India is an under-funded, over-stretched system that is ripe for disruptive innovation through design thinking. Rather than focus on what has been, it is time now to focus ahead & build resilience for the generations to come.
Often interpreted as “absence” of disease, a more encompassing definition states Health as “a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being and not merely absence of disease or infirmity; and an ability to lead a socially and economically productive life” (WHO). Healthcare is an expression of concern for fellow human beings, defined as multitude of services for individuals, families or communities that are diagnosed, helped, cured, educated and rehabilitated by medical and allied personnel. The robustness of a country’s health system is founded on 5 pillars–Accessibility, Affordability, Quality, Availability & Utilisation. Furthermore, these 5 pillars provide us with perpetual design thinking opportunities:
How can we deliver healthcare to every single citizen of this nation, however remote? (e.g. Telemedicine)
How can we disrupt the rising costs of diagnosis & care? (e.g. Barefoot doctors)
How can we ensure gold standard quality for services across the country? (Service design & training)
How to ensure that every province has an equitable spread of health options? (e.g. AYUSH)
How to ensure that existing infrastructure is judiciously utilised? (e.g. Community health programs)
Historically, the term “design for healthcare” has been ascribed to public health design which deals with the design of policies, strategies and field level interventions; and subsequently, biomedical engineering that creates devices that quantify health or diagnose maladies (MRI machines, X-ray machines, BP machines, pathology equipment). However the scope of design in health has broadened manifold over the past few decades. Communication Design with its print campaigns and audio-video messaging (Malnutrition, Polio), & Interaction Design driven mobile apps (Cooey, Practo, 1mg) are widely used. Space Design which deals with the creation of hospitals adhering to standards, rules and regulations of the country whereas Service Design seeks to ease the patient journey. Another field which is highly scientific is Occupational Health which deals with health conditions that are caused by our professions (Silicosis, back-pain, tendonitis).
Until the rise of design thinking in the decades past, the common methodology for medical inventions was bench to he bedside – a metaphor for technology developed on an engineer’s bench and then deployed at the bedside of the patient. Nowadays, medical design consultancies and the global majors look to the clinical ecosystem for deep insights which are then designed, tested and implemented or in other words – bedside to the bench. Design thinking espouses the importance of empathising with the users and subsequently design, prototype and testing. Several successful medical equipment designs have also benefited from co-creation where engineers, doctors, designers and nurses work together to achieve tangible and impactful solutions.
Design is the binding force that brings innovation, human centred thinking, engineering, experience design and creativity to leapfrog deeply embedded challenges in the Indian health-space. These trying times of a global pandemic should be utilised in all urgency to collaborate and innovate. To ensure accessible and affordable health services to each citizen should be a clarion call for all of us. We must not forget that health, and not just economic growth, is a key indicator of overall societal progress. Given the fact that more than 75% of our medical needs are imported, action towards self-reliance is an absolute must.
To a healthy and resurgent India in the coming decades!
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.)