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UPMC Patient Experience

By 2007, UPMC had grown to be a conglomerate of 20 hospitals and 400 outpatient sites in Western Pennsylvania. At South Hills, we observed a certain level of disunity across the offerings and designed new possibilities to strengthen organizational ties and patient experiences.

Our design team was initially asked to examine and improve patient experience in the South Hills surgery and outpatient facility in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania. After observations, ethnographic research, interviews, and other methods, it was evident that the patient experience was actually one of the facility’s strong suits. Our team worked with management to address another problem that emerged: a need for stronger overall vision, planning, and unity between South Hills and UPMC Corporate. We delivered a strategic plan and vertical map for how South Hills could become a model for other outpatient facilities.

Roles: Design research, strategic planning, prototyping, design modeling.

A collaboration between Carnegie Mellon School of Design and the UPMC Center for Quality Improvement and Innovation.

A 50 minute talk on this project includes research methodology, process, and the structuring of the vertical map.

Collaborators: Elliott Williams, Gabe Clapper, Bridget Lewis; Shelley Evenson, Advisor.

Extensive Field Work




Interviews, shadowing, blueprinting, and surveys were amongst the methods used during the weeks of field work.

We audited wayfinding systems, information flow, records, scheduling, and referrals.

While the directive was to improve patient experience, research indicated high levels of satisfaction across many departments. What was revealed, however, was a lack of cohesion in the facility.

A New Research Method

When research participants were asked to envision the future of healthcare our usual set of design methods proved useless. What our team developed was a remapping tool — Juicetaggr — abstracting the question enough to become accessible.

“If the future of healthcare were one of these juicers, which one would it be, and why?” they were asked. The method was repeated with vacation spots, cars, magazines, and more. While the responses mattered little, the justification informed us of individual values. This provided us with a word cloud of responses, not to direct us to concrete solutions, but rather to the design of a broader vision for UPMC.

A Strategic Plan

Rooted in research, interviews, organizational planning, and design ideation, our report provided a vertical map for the future of UPMC South Hills. It was the desire of the corporate steering committee for South Hills to become a model for the future healthcare. The vertical map provided a tightly integrated plan for ground-level service design changes to high-level visioning and planning. Proposals offered a range of solutions that were short- and long-term, cost-effective and expensive.