2019 Design & Innovation Awards: Empathy Awards


Empathy is the first step of design thinking and a core principle of human-centered design. Empathy, for both customers and employees, builds the foundation to user-centric innovation.This category looks to highlight the power of empathy in creation of products, services, cultures, and project outcomes. 

The winning case will display:

1. The highlighting factor of the case study is the use of empathy as the greatest impact to the outcome

2. Multiple methodologies/tools i.e. use of data, ethnography, journey mapping, etc., are used to empathize with the client(s).

3. A direct tie to the voice of the client is demonstrated throughout the entirety of submission

Our two Empathy Winners are: 

 End User Winner: Memorial Sloan  Kettering Cancer Center

Vendor Winner: Mad*Pow

We included summaries below to highlight their excellent work

About the Winner: Mad*Pow

Mad*Pow is a design agency that strives to help people improve their health and wellness, meet their financial goals, learn and connect. Our approach to design is backed by a flexible methodology that includes scientific methods balanced with experience, strategy, creativity, and invention. Our process is cyclical in nature and is centered around research and strategy. Our team adapts to a client's needs and can engage at any point in the initiative's life cycle, whether that be during the conceptual design phase, testing, or the development of a new product or service. The adaptability and flexibility of our design process enables us to accurately match specific steps with the scope and main business drivers of our client's initiative, ultimately delivering measurable results and exceeding our client's wildest expectations.


The Story


Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (CCHMC) embarked on a journey to ensure patient experience remains a core focus of the institution utilizing MadPow as a trusted partner to build empathy with patients and families.


Mad*Pow focused on pediatric patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a congenital condition requiring lifelong multi-specialty care and several significant surgeries in early childhood considering needs of the children, parents, and the CCHMC staff.


One specific pain point included scheduling of specialty visits. The cardiology department served as the administrative quarterback, but it was not meeting patients’ emotional needs. Patients scheduling led to confusion, leading to reassigning scheduling to dedicated concierges who can attend to such pain points.


Another was how information was handed off between specialty departments—at the time identified seven different ways to handle. It wasn’t always clear to patients or providers who knew what information. A redesign of the EMR interface resulted in “You Are Here” to let busy providers identify what information had been shared with the patient.


A third insight came from looking through the pediatric patients’ eyes. CCHMC invested in a beautiful architectural design of their facilities. However, as MadPow sat alongside pediatric patients, the design clearly was intended for adults-- Animal prints were hung above children’s eye level, common areas that might have lent themselves to play were marked with “Do not run” and “No climbing” signs. CCHMC began investing in a redesign and wayfinding system putting animal symbols on the floors and low walls to add interest at children’s eye level.


In order to capture the current experience, Mad*Pow designed a three-pronged  approach:


• Live, in-the-moment, on-location observations: Seven MadPow staff performed 240 hours of on-location observation and “secret shopping” to capture patient engagement touchpoints.


• Staff shadowing, on location and in the moment: Shadowing staff throughout their usual daily activities and interviewing them “on the fly,” removed unnecessary formalities and promoted open, candid responses.


• Longitudinal, 5-week, digital patient journal study: A long-term digital journal method captured patient and family experiences in greater depth over a month, empowering patients to record their most impactful feelings, opening a window into their lives.


This increased awareness led to specific solutions reflecting “experience rights” resulting in a massive redesign of a new hospital tower, nearly doubling the footprint of CCHMC’s main campus. This work kept the leadership conversation focused on the patient experience, positive outcomes and long term, high-impact investment.


MadPow recommended CCHMC establish a change management council with cross-departmental representation to consider the repercussions of changes in one department on others and instituted experience owners to handle an entirety of a patient’s experience. This council also conducted “fast sweeps,” or walk-throughs of the patient areas to witness change opportunities first hand.


A third internal practice actively looked to “integrate joy.” Where can staff inject levity or fun into the experience? The Cincinnati Zoo partnership was highlighted and these methods expanded for a large research and design grants to reduce medical/medication errors for children and families managing type 1 diabetes and autism spectrum disorders.


Mad*Pow recommended to the following KPIs be implemented in conjunction with the strategy recommendations:

• Net promoter score

• Quality of experience

• Ease of use