Door to Doctor
Barnes Jewish Christian (BJC) is a hospital system in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Its patients experience daily difficulties accessing safe and reliable transportation to and from the hospital. This results in unnecessary stress and pain for patients, preventable appointment cancellations, additional duties for staff, and increased readmissions for BJC hospitals.
In an effort to ultimately lower readmission rates, BJC partnered with Washington University to prototype potential solutions to this problem with an interdisciplinary seminar lead by IBM’s Doug Powell and the BJC Innovation Lab.
As a part of a small team, I conducted ethnographic interviews with patients and hospital staff, creating a prototype to help patients get to and from the hospital safely. After the seminar was complete, I collaborated with BJC’s Innovation Lab to bring a pilot program to life based off my designs.
The first portion of this project was focused on spending time in BJC hospitals, gathering raw data from patients, their caregivers and social workers about their experiences traveling to and from the hospital.
My team (3 designers + 1 BJC Innovation Lab lead) was assigned to the BJC ER downtown, a notoriously overworked department that predominantly cares for disadvantaged, immuno-compromised patients and victims of violent crimes.
We quickly learned that there were frequent ER visitors who were returning due to lack of reliable transit to get to their normal primary care checkups or to pick up their prescriptions, resulting in increased emergency inpatient trips.
I led the effort for our team to process the raw data from our several interviews and created the journey map of a patient’s experience to/from the hospital through 4 common transit methods (metro, bus, disability service, car/taxi). A major trend we saw was that any time a patient was dependent on another transit service to drive them, their transit fell apart. We hypothesized that rather than re-envision public transit, we needed to create a better transit solution that capitalized on the small, but existing, patient success of private rides in cars from trusted connections.
Our team had also interviewed a number of full-time social workers stationed in the ER and learned from them that most of the transit problems were being offset onto them. One even said he felt as if he was “a travel agent.” One goal for our solution was to alleviate this strain on social workers so that they could go back to doing what they’re there to do.
Our BJC Innovation lead walked us through more of their social worker colleagues’ day-to-day and schooling process. We quickly identified that social work students have an academic requirement for a number of “practicum hours,” to be used for practical experience.
While full-time social workers didn’t have capacity to coordinate transit, we realized social work students could help offset this burden while getting practical experience towards their requirements.
Our solution then became focused on developing a rideshare program concept to match social work students with patients in the area that needed rides.
My role on the team was to create the brand and wireframes (first paper, then digital) to outline the student’s experience inputing their schedule, matching with a patient, and indicating their ride progress to a full-time social worker waiting to receive the patient at the hospital. My teammates focused on creating personas from our research and a corresponding storyboard to accompany the wireframes.
After the seminar ended and all the solutions were presented to BJC, a few participants were called back to help the BJC Innovation Lab launch pilots of their prototypes, after some additional research conducted by the Lab. I was fortunate to be one of them.
The Lab had conducted a wider range of ethnographic interviews with patients, social workers, and now, social work students. Their research yielded that the biggest problem for patients was actually the trip home from the hospital, so they concentrated on building a program for that purpose.
They also discovered that the nearby social work academic programs weren’t able to participate in this type of rideshare for a number of reasons. Quick to react, the BJC Lab soon found other drivers: recently laid-off medical supply drivers for the health system.
After the pilot was over, I heard from the Lab that it was a success and the program had received funding for the next year. This would not only help the patients and social workers, but also would create new jobs for the drivers – an incredible outcome I could have never imagined.