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DHW Lab (Current Workplace)

Located inside Auckland City Hospital, the Design for Health and Wellbeing (DHW) Lab is designing better healthcare experiences for patients, families, and staff. A collaboration between the Auckland District Health Board and AUT’s Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, the DHW Lab was set up to develop products, services, systems, and experiences for the improved health and wellbeing of all hospital users.

What makes the DHW Lab a unique initiative, particularly for healthcare in New Zealand, is its emphasis on human-centred design, which is about designing with (rather than for) hospital users. All projects undertaken through the DHW Lab are guided by the belief that the user’s voice is integral to a meaningful design outcome, since the intimate knowledge they have of a given service, product, or space – how it looks and feels to them – is key to meeting their needs and improving their experience.

Recently completed projects in the Integrated Cancer Centre and the Emergency Department, for example, focused on mapping patient pathways. Mapping the patient pathway is an important visual communication tool that reduces a sophisticated whole – a complex service, its procedures and priorities – to a comprehensible representation of its major elements, and the relationship between them, to a wider audience. Sometimes this mapping can become a starting point for identifying opportunities to make improvements to a service. In the case of the Emergency Department, the map was installed in the waiting room to communicate the department’s complex procedure to patients. The map, which will inform a digital patient-facing dashboard to display wait times and service updates, aims to reduce stress and frustration within the space.

The users of the DHW Lab space also include students from design and the health sciences, and the initiative has proven to enhance the learning experiences of undergraduates and postgraduates alike. Student interns benefit from having access to real design problems within the context of use. Their research is conducted with the support of healthcare professionals who, in turn, are enjoying the opportunity to think about and approach problems from a range of design perspectives.

The scope and scale of the DHW Lab’s projects at Auckland City Hospital are continuing to grow. Each project, whether it is addressing parking issues in Grafton or a thirty-year vision for the Grafton campus, is a human-centred collaboration that aims to make the healthcare environment more welcoming, safe, and intuitive for a wide community of users.

Josh MunnDHW LabComment