Design and engineering concepts are increasingly welcomed by healthcare communities for developing products and environments. With the recognition of healthcare as a safety-critical industry, design processes can also be used to develop services, organisations, and management systems in healthcare. The case study reported on here forms part of a wider research study of medical device purchasing practice, and provides an example of applying systemic design methods to one healthcare context. Collaboration between the researchers and a hospital provided an opportunity to explore design approaches as part of the research process, in terms of data collection, analysis, synthesis, as well as in the implementation of new practices. The paper firstly gives justification for using design and systems approaches, and specifies the particular aspects of design approaches used, including a discussion on their applicability to the purchasing of medical devices. Design approaches used included diagramming methods, participatory design, and risk analyses techniques, which were used in conjunction with qualitative methods. A description of the techniques used with the collaborating hospital then follows, including some of the methodological challenges encountered. The case study shows a practical example of how design methods and tools can be used to research within a healthcare context, and is deliberately descriptive, as the intended goal is to provide a framework for future design of purchasing systems. Good research practice in this study is therefore also taken to be the first steps in good design practice.
- Medical device