A communications canvas to improve and individualize patient engagement in healthcare systems redesign


Authors: Deaunne Denmark and Danielle Olson

Current healthcare systems are rife with extensive barriers to information transfer. Exacerbated by rapidly increasing volume and time constraints, these are considered a core wicked problem and key driver of healthcare system dysfunction. Thus, redesign efforts focused on collaboration and facilitating efficient, transparent, and bilateral communication are paramount to dissolving these barriers and effecting positive, sustainable system-wide transformation.

It is now clear that action in two critical areas can leverage radical health information and system reform: repositioning patient needs to the center of local and extended ecosystems (patient-centered care), and enhancing patient involvement at every stage of health information transmission (patient engagement). Allowing patients and caregivers to initiate, direct, and manage information flow aligns health decisions with the individuals primarily affected. Benefits include substantial delivery cost reductions, elimination of waste, and increases in treatment efficacy. Such a shift is a profound and necessary departure from the historically passive role of the patient as a less-knowledgeable recipient of health goods and services to a highly-informed leader in disease management and prevention, and importantly, lifelong health promotion. Designing for constructive communication and relationships between diverse actors may thus be an especially potent strategy to develop infrastructure that supports and encourages this shift.

To this end, we have created a communications-centered design tool (canvas) to help providers or organization managers improve patient engagement within a healthcare space, and designers, as they become increasingly more involved as agents and implementers at various levels of health systems change. The canvas is organized in a clean visual format that is flexible and approachable for diverse users and situations. Although simple in appearance, each section is inquiry-driven, requiring research, deep thinking and iteration to refocus the provider/designer on the patient’s perspective and individual needs. Drawing largely from innovation principles of user- or human-centered design, the canvas also reframes the context of health relationships by using the terms ‘health-seeker’ (Jones, 2013) and ‘health-advisor’ to diffuse assumptions of hierarchy, agency or unequal responsibility.

Posted Sep-2014



RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.


Author(s) (20XX). Article title. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) 20XX Symposium. City, Country, Month X-X, 20XX.

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