Tag Archives: service design

Lady Business

Self-service healthcare in the women's restroom

On December 16, I presented my thesis poster, “Lady Business.” The poster reviews my research, design ideas, prototypes and approach. Responses varied from horrified to enthusiastic about the idea of putting women’s health care products into a vending machine.

Lady Business

Self-service healthcare in the women’s restroom

This could be easier

This project began after it took 3 weeks for me to obtain a pack of birth control pills this summer. My prescription had run out, my insurance changed, I was living in a new city, and I didn’t have a doctor to see. While hiding in the phone booth at work to call a nurse I thought, why is this so hard?

Dream machine

I started daydreaming that I could buy my birth control pills from a vending machine in the restroom. Soon, I became interested in using my thesis project as a piece of design rhetoric. By showing an easier way, I want to argue that the current system is too burdensome.

Research

OBSTACLE COURSE

Do I have to?

Getting care for your female needs is time consuming, can sometimes be embarrassing, and may require access to health insurance, a clinician or a pharmacy. No matter her situation, one of these issues will affect a woman’s care experience.

Weird looks

Women fear being judged when they walk up to a counter to buy virtually any female product.

FLYING BLIND

Information, please

Interviews reveal women often deal with their care in isolation from their peers, and rely on scraps of information from doctor’s visits, commercials and hearsay.

Low visibility

Because many contraceptions and treatments for common infections are available only by prescription, women don’t often see their full range of choices.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS

On the loose

Doctors speak about women’s health in tones of fear, saying common contraceptions and treatments are “dangerous” and subject to “abuse” if made widely available. In reality, serious side effects are rare and the consequences of not having access to care are much more severe.

Too much faith

Some providers believe women aren’t educated enough to handle self-care. But women say, “Nobody knows my body better than me.”

Ideation

ENVIRONMENT

In the ladies’ room

So how can women get the care they need without the hassles of the current system? Well, the answer is hanging on the wall of a women’s restroom near you. Yes, the humble and archaic feminine product vending machine.

We have the technology

The women’s restroom offers several advantages. It is public and accessible to women as they go about their day. The space is inherently women-only and anonymous. Vending machines are ubiquitous but under-used.

On the spot

Buy what you need and use it right away, even if you’re away from home.

PRODUCTS AND PACKAGING

Self Diagnose and treat

A sample testing and treatment kit for urinary tract infections (UTIs).

What a pill

Refilling birth control pills is a pain. Refill‑at‑will packaging could be topped up when you’re running low.

Prototyping

What’s next

In a second round of user research, I plan to ask women to assemble their ideal self-care kits for treatments and contraceptions. After they assemble the kits, they’ll stock the vending machine prototype and place it in a bathroom mock up.

Futurism

“Proposals” not solutions

Roberto Verganti said, “We do not look at the market, we make proposals to people.” I am proposing a future scenario for women’s health. This design isn’t about designing a solution around every medical regulation that exists today.

False Evidence

This project aims to suspend disbelief and ask viewers to imagine women’s health care as a selfservice. My prototype is presented as a possible future, meant to convince the world that this is a problem that needs solving. Women and care providers don’t question the system, even though it isn’t ideal for many. Rhetoric is needed to push women out of their “This is just the way it is” mindset and towards new models of care.

Jessamyn Miller
MDes candidate 2012
Communication Planning & Information Design

Graduate Thesis
December 2011
Advisor: Suguru Ishizaki
Carnegie Mellon University

Presentation

I presented the poster formally to a group of three design faculty members, Nick Durrant, Bruce Hanington and Terry Irwin. Here are my talking points:

Lady Business: the self-service female health care vending machine

  • My motivations for starting this project.
  • This is design rhetoric, not simply a solution. I am seeking to push change in attitudes about women’s health.

Research findings

  • The biggest problems women face in getting care are time, access and shame.
  • The “fear of the cashier” is ubiquitous in any health care purchase.
  • Women have 30 years of fertility and are given contraception in 1-day to 28-day doses. This means dozens to hundreds of trips to doctors and pharmacies.
  • Making decisions alone. Women feel like they are “flying blind” in how they select and use female health care products.
  • The choices aren’t in front of me. How can I know my options unless a health care worker recommends something?
  • Doctors treat ladies like “damsels in distress” who need to be protected and monitored.
  • This attitude creates a hindrance for women who want to decide for themselves.
  • Pharmacists think women can’t handle the drugs without their help and control.
  • Irrational fears such as people “gobbling down pills” are used to keep medications under lock and key.

Ideation

  • The women’s restroom is a good spot to buy women’s health care products.
  • It’s a place women can enter and leave at their convenience, it’s not a separate trip, it’s women-only and anonymous.
  • Packaging could make it easy to test, treat, and refill on women’s health care supplies.
  • Packaging could be an educational tool to help guide women’s choices.

Prototyping

  • Next round of user research will be to have women participants assemble self-care kits and vending machines.

Futurism

  • This is a proposal, not a solution.
  • This represents a possible future.
  • The goal is to question the current state of women’s health care.
  • The project is not meant to create a perfect system for today.
  • Isn’t meant to conform to the restrictions and bureaucracy of the current model.
  • This is a proposal to change the model of care.

 

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Communication experts’ role in service design

After reading Suguru Ishizaki’s article, “Service Design and Technical/Professional Communication” I feel I have even more promise for a career in service design. Ishizaki writes that communication experts, with backgrounds in fields like visual and information design and rhetoric have an important role in service design activities which aim to create an intangible, meaningful experience for customers. The overall impression of a service activity, created through communication “touchpoints” demands the involvement of technical and professional communicators who recognize the rhetorical situation of customer experience and construct language which is sensitive to the audience group.

The shift in technology from human agents to self-service interactive experiences means that customers may be more likely to encounter a service through a designed interface than a face-to-face encounter. The convenience of anywhere, anytime access sets the customer expectation of convenience for services. Communication artifacts must align in terms of voice and share similar language across tangible (print and digital) and intangible (phone and personal interaction) moments of service.

Ishizaki proposes service design as a perspective and provides a framework which relates the roles of social and cultural values, service activities and communication artifacts with blurred boundaries. Based on the customer values, certain types of technology or language may be negatively viewed, such as an elderly population preferring a face to face interaction over self-service kiosks. Customer responses to services emerge over time through engagement with multiple touchpoints: employees, websites, bills, phone calls, etc. Service as perspective asks us to look at communication as a complex system of activities and not just an artifact in isolation.

In terms of this thesis project, the framework suggests that any artifact I create should be viewed as part of a larger system. The overall service can be modeled and a single part of it could be developed and prototyped, but cannot exist in isolation. My design should be a touchpoint in a larger network of services. The rhetorical situation is the context from which to begin my research and develop a service blueprint.

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