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

Format: Papers, RSD3, Topic: Policy & Governance

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.

Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2014
Title: A communications canvas to improve and individualize patient engagement in healthcare systems redesign
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 28 September 2014
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights