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Winnow Research was thrilled to work with a large, cross-functional team at Kaiser Permanente to shape the “lobby of the future” for very soon-to-be-built medical buildings in Southern California. At the EPIC Conference (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry) last October Hillary Carey and Brady Sih presented a piece of the project focused on the conference theme of “evidence.” We talked about how the tangibility of the full-scale, working prototypes helped team and leadership who normally work in silos, and from their functional expertise, collaborate on new solutions through user-centered design.

To understand the future vision for the lobby experience, we followed a familiar set of steps for user-centered design projects:

  1. Observe: current patient and worker experience.
  2. Rough prototypes: Bodystorm with minimal props and in a simulation space (Oulasvirta 2003).
  3. Working prototypes: Transform a current, working medical facility into the format of the future buildings. We brought in new furniture, signage, and technology to the building and coached the staff to work in new ways.

In this way, we practiced new roles and explored multiple solutions before we worked up to pressure-test our best ideas with staff who had urgent jobs to do and patients who were most concerned with getting to their appointments on time.


What this project showed us— as a healthcare organization and as design and ethnography practitioners—is that with a growing emphasis on merging digital and physical experiences, there is also a growing need to use ethnography and prototyping to ensure user needs are front and center at every stage of facility design and implementation. These methods to study user experience are particularly important during implementation when multiple systems are being resolved and information is needed about how they will influence each other.

You can read the conference paper here: https://www.epicpeople.org/ethnography-prototyping-late-stage-design/

And if you are an EPIC People member, you can watch the presentation we gave at the conference.