Dundee Touchpoint: innovating healthcare through service design

Dundee Touchpoint is a city-wide network of people working in or interested in service design. Open Change initiated the network as part of our objective to build local awareness and capacity in service design, and to contribute to Dundee’s designation as UNESCO City of Design in a practical way. For our second evening event, we centred the evening on developing proposals for a new healthcare innovation hub at the city’s Ninewells Hospital.

Around 40 people attended the session, held on the evening of 13 August at the South Tay Superstore’s Good Times bar – an appropriate name for a highly convivial and productive two hour session. The participants included R&D specialists from a major electronics corporation, social workers, health professionals, designers, local government officers, administrative managers, academics, students, retailers, community activists, research scientists and others. Our now customary speed dating icebreaker enabled people to quickly get to know each other.


Rod Mountain is ENT consultant at Ninewells Hospital and a key person behind the Academic Health Science Partnership in Tayside. This network brings together the NHS and University of Dundee, supported by the Scottish Government with a brief to improve healthcare provision. Rod explained that the network was developing ideas for an innovation hub based at the hospital that would seek to connect with patients, carers and clinicians, and enable co-design approaches to healthcare issues. At this stage they needed strong ideas that could feed into the hub. Our task was to generate design propositions for the service that could be taken up by the Network.

After the brief was presented, we invited people to put themselves forward as ‘health experts’ (on the basis that everyone is a health expert). Eight people came forward, ranging from individuals with long term conditions, to people who had accompanied others to hospital – each had their own experience, their own story.


Each ‘expert’ had a team to work with. The team spent 10 minutes interviewing their expert with the specific aim of finding out what would help them to contribute their ideas to an innovation hub. As they did so, they completed a persona sheet.

Following this the teams entered an ideation phase. Teams used different methods including six thinking hats, NESTA’s fast idea generator, and a conventional brainstorming process. Teams then agreed on the idea to take forward to the next stage where they sketched out an experience map. Finally they presented their ideas back to the whole group.


So what suggestions emerged? These were some of the main ones:

  • A space to enable visitors and patients to share experiences during long waiting periods.
  • Communicating clearly what patients, relatives and carers might experience in their healthcare journey.
  • Prototyping a single point of contact for health and social care information.
  • The hospital as patient – the hub could visualise capacity and activity in the hospital in real time.

What came across most strongly from all of the proposals presented was that communication is essential in an otherwise frightening and alien environment.

Rod took away all the worksheets that the groups had generated and will feed these into the next stage of the hub’s development. The evening seemed to be very well received by those who came along, and we had many positive comments from people. And what did it achieve?

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First, it demonstrated a significant and broad based interest in service design in the city which key partners in the locality can take forward. Our longer term aim is that Dundee becomes a model of how service design can be embedded in the processes that transform cities. Second, by taking people through a clear intensive process it is highlighted how service design must always start with real people and their problems, a sense of empathy, and a collaborative approach to developing solutions to those problems that can be effectively communicated to others.

Finally it showed how service design has a vital part to play in healthcare innovation.


Open Change wishes to thank all participants for their enthusiastic involvement, Rod Mountain and his colleagues, Rachel Lees for assistance, and Josh Kilimanjaro of the South Tay Superstore for very kindly providing such an excellent venue!