Things are a-changing in health care
With an ageing population and budget contracts, we are seeing a demand for a more co-ordinated approach to primary health care, that gives consumers access to a range of different services in an integrated way; that allows them more responsibility for their own wellbeing; and where health professionals are able to work together for the good of their patients.
The newly formed Primary Care WA took an innovative approach to dealing with this change by asking key leaders from the health sector to collectively determine how to create healthy primary care systems within Western Australia.
They asked Dr Chris Kueh and myself to facilitate a planning session, based on the principles of design thinking.
An independent voice for primary health care
Primary Care WA formed because the sector said it needed an independent voice to represent primary care providers at a state level. (For more about what primary care is, read the AMA’s definition.) The work of Primary Care WA is to ensure that WA has the policies, practices and knowledge to “improve health outcomes for Western Australians”. So how could they do this?
Primary Care WA engaged Christopher Kueh of Sensible Design to design a process where the members – WA’s leading health organisations – would use their collective experience and knowledge to guide Primary Care WA’s strategic direction. Over three hours, 25 members met for the inaugural roundtable discussion and articulated the areas of work they see as key in establishing Primary Care WA as a valuable, influential representative of their industry. They then worked together to outline the steps to get them there.
Much of the actions were about enabling an integrated health care system, by creating appropriate policy and providing the means for nurturing strategic relationships between organisations.
Design thinking allows us to see the wider needs in health care
Chris’ process allowed the members to express their hopes and fears for health care, not only from the perspective of their organisation but from their own individual experience and through the eyes of the sector as a whole. When it came time to choose the most important areas to tend to in WA’s primary care sector over the coming nine months, the member organisations could set aside personal agendas and look together towards a positive future for health care.
As with all facilitated workshops there is rich learning from within the process and not just in the end result (in this case the identified strategic priorities and actions). In the fears that members shared we learnt where extra tending is needed to clarify Primary Care WA’s role and to help individuals feel a part of a credible organisation. As members worked out the details of the action plan we learnt that there are different understandings of much-used words like advocacy, collaboration and representative. And when groups were asked to build and throw airplanes we saw how much play can change the energy in a room of senior leaders and the new ideas that can result.
Ongoing consultation – a two-way flow of information
This was the first of many interactions that Primary Care WA will have with its members. We think they have set the scene for a collaborative approach, where the members can draw on their immense wisdom and diverse knowledge to continuously create healthy outcomes in our state’s primary care.
Sensible Design is a strategic design firm, specialising in service design and social innovation. Strategic Creativity at Work partners with Sensible Design on projects like this one, to design innovative meetings and workshops that get good results – and are enjoyable.