Health professionals in the developing world face the twin challenge of growing populations requiring services and dwindling resources in the face of reduced funding. Developments in information and communication technologies (ICT) present an opportunity to streamline service offering in a way that maximises the available meagre resources. Such innovations require the input and support of the public that these institutions serve. Design thinking has over the last 20 years developed into a “design paradigm” that can assist service providers to craft solutions to problems that take into account the views of the stakeholders involved.
This work explored how information technology can be used to improve service delivery. Adopting a pragmatic philosophical paradigm and a design science research approach, the researcher used concepts underlying the theory of service dominant logic, coupled with technology capability concepts, to develop a conceptual framework for use in design thinking projects. The development of the Technovation Framework continued over three design cycles, in which a number of design teams focused their efforts on how ICT could be used to improve post-natal care services. The empathy input for these workshops was derived from an eight-week-long in-depth study into the lives of new mothers, using journals and interviews. Interviews with midwives and doctors provided a healthcare perspective of the provision of post-natal care.
The first design workshop was made up of four teams, each consisting of two midwives, two mobile developers and two mothers in a design thinking workshop. The workshop resulted in the development of four prototypes of mobile applications aimed at assisting midwives in educating mothers as well as providing off-site monitoring. Two further workshops were conducted, providing two more iterations of the design process and resulting in further prototypes of potential solutions for use in healthcare. A final evaluation workshop was conducted to validate the fully developed Technovation Process.
This study contributes to knowledge in a number of ways. The first is a deep understanding of the lives of new mothers and challenges they face in a low-resource environment as they struggle with raising their babies in the first eight weeks after giving birth. The second contribution is a framework and an enhanced design thinking process that streamlines the process of consolidating empathy output while providing a mechanism to apply technology capabilities to proposed solutions. A third contribution is the set of lessons that arise from observing design teams at work. The final contribution is in the form of a number of prototypes that could be developed into solutions for use in a developing environment healthcare setting.
Keywords: ICT in healthcare, e-Health, innovation, co-creation, design thinking, developing country, post-natal care, design science research, Technovation, technology capabilities