Optimizing a Hospital’s Patient Transport System for Humanity and Dignity
The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins requested a redesign of the hospital’s ICU patient transport system, colloquially referred to as “Ticket to Ride.” My team designed a set of wearable, disposable, low-fi, and user-friendly stickers equipped with an icon system to increase both readability for staff and privacy for patients. From three competing teams, our team’s design was selected to be presented to Johns Hopkins’s Patient Safety Committee and beta tested with the goal of department-wide implementation.
Presentation Design + Delivery
The Armstrong Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital
We started by interviewing a few of the lead RNs from the ICU to learn about the Patient Transport System, including what was working and some of the workarounds the team had developed to address the system’s shortcomings. We also did on-site contextual inquiry to cross reference the interviews with observational data.
“The patients feel de-humanized. More than a few have complained that it reminds them of luggage or, even worse, a toe tag for the morgue.”
— FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH HOSPITAL STAFF ABOUT THE “TICKET TO RIDE” SYSTEM
After the interviews and observation, we synthesized our notes and found several common themes that kept coming up again and again. We were able to boil these key pieces of feedback down into a few pointed constraints for the end product:
We also created a user journey map to illustrate the complexity of the end-to-end transport process and mark the steps that were causing the most trouble.
We set to work designing a new artifact that would address the system’s current pain points and the constraints we had set, creating and iterating on several prototypes before arriving at the end product.
The new visual language was inspired by airplane boarding passes and public transportation iconography. We encoded patient statuses, like “unable to stand” or “do not resuscitate”, with icons to maintain a sense of privacy.
We maintained a visual language the hospital staff had already developed—yellow for highly contagious patients and purple for everyone else—to draw familiar parallels to the old system.
Transport staff sometimes confused whether a patient was going to or coming from a procedure, which caused patients to miss appointments. The new system was a 2-part sticker: patients receive one sticker when they are going and another one when they are coming back, so transport staff could see at a glance whether a patient was going (one sticker) or coming back (two stickers).