Paper Prototyping

As part of my thesis, I am helping a team of nurses explore solutions to communication issues. They discovered that patients need more support understanding what to expect before they enter the hospital and throughout their care. The nurses also discovered that patients don’t understand the difference in roles between the members of their care team. While these two sets of information can be standard across different patients, the team also identified that patients want more feedback on their personal progress. These focuses for communicating care with patients has lead to the development of a prototype.

As part of a 90 day program the team of nurses are participating in, they have been introduced to the different components of innovative thinking. This thought process emphasizes the value of rapid validation. Creating concepts quickly and cheaply allows you to get feedback before investing significant resources. The feedback can help refine the concept before it reaches its final stages of development. With this in mind, the team discussed concepts that could address the focuses they intended to address.

They talked about a guide/check-list/flow chart that could explain each step a patient would experience throughout their care. For a few minutes this remained as just conversation about a concept. I took two sheets of paper and folded them to reflect a trifold pamphlet. I then drew a rough sketch of my interpretation of the concept and ask “is this what you are envisioning?” This propelled the conversation exponentially.

prototype 2

The conversation shifted from theoretical to concrete. Now the team had something physical to point at. They expanded on the workflow idea and suggested included daily schedules for the different floors the patients will be on. This will allow the patients to understand the daily routines during their stay at the hospital.


By the time the meeting ended, the team had flushed out two schedules, and the entire experience a patient would go through when receiving cardiovascular/heart surgery. I told them I would be happy to turn their idea into a printed prototype that they could then use for gathering feedback.

DSCN0311 copy

The next time we met, they were able to hold their concept in their hands.


RevisionsAfter reviewing the concept, we made revisions and a game plan on how we would get feedback from both fellow employees and patients. We not only want to make sure that the information is accurate, but does it address the  area of focus?

I was able to tag along with a couple of nurses as they got feedback. Patients seemed to be receptive to be appreciative of the concept but it didn’t have a personalize component that answered questions that are unique to each patient. Some employees felt uncomfortable about having a process that specifies where a patient will be day by day. This could lead patients who become outliers who become more concerned about their situation.

Some of the nurses seemed slightly discouraged from this feedback but I assured them it is all part of the process. I told them that it is highly unlikely for anyone to get a concept perfectly right on their first try. I explained how this feedback will help us refine our next iteration. This seemed to make them more comfortable with their feedback. Fortunately, I am working with a group of nurses who are a resilient bunch. They are determined to get it right and I am confident they will. I look forward to the evolution of this concept.


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