Fraser Health, PHSA and VCH collaborated with the Health Design Lab to consider how the patient experience in hospitals could be improved.



Design Research


Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health


Healthcare systems in Canada have been struggling to improve overall patient experience in light of massive changes to care and its delivery. These initiatives have ranged from shifting some responsibility for hospital safety to patients; boosting patient involvement in policy-making; and improving communication lines between large bureaucratic structures and the communities they serve. Common to all of these initiatives is a recognition of the need to move from treating illness and disease, to treating the patient. While this shift could be dismissed as semantics, in fact it recognizes the need for a fundamental shift in the way in which we approach healthcare—one that recognizes the patient as a whole person, not a collection of treatable symptoms.


VCH, PHSA, and Fraser Health, like all health authorities in Canada, are struggling with this issue and have already conducted significant research in the area. To add to the knowledge space, they agreed to collaborate with the Health Design Lab at Emily Carr University of Art + Design on a design research project to specifically consider how they might improve the patient experience in hospitals.


The primary outcome for the first stage of the project is to apply the Lab’s use of human-centred research methodologies to explore the problem space, considering in depth how patients feel about and experience their treatment in hospitals. A secondary outcome was to make innovative recommendations for change for ways to approach the problem and engage with staff in changing attitudes and behaviour. Designed outcomes are not a primary deliverable, but  “key messages” are to be articulated with some suggestions for implementation. This initiative aligns with the BC Ministry of Health’s Patient-Centred Care Framework and Health Authority Strategies (2014) to promote patient-centred care attitudes and behaviors as central to organizational culture.