Experience Based Design 

Workshop and Resources

What if the people we serve were no longer seen as patients, clients and residents, but rather as customers or consumers of health care services? What if they were consulted on how they would like those services provided? If it happens in other consumer-focused industries like retail and hospitality, why can’t the same concept be applied to health care?

Those are the questions being addressed through a way of thinking called Experience Based Design.

On January 8 and 9, selected health service providers from the South West LHIN participated in an Experience Based Design workshop in London facilitated by Dr. Lynne Maher, Director for Innovation and Design, NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and Paula Blackstien-Hirsch, Consultant on Effective Quality and Patient Safety.


Participants represented four South West LHIN initiatives: Access to Care, Behavioural Supports Ontario, Partnering for Quality and Pay for Results. Members of the South West LHIN Quality Advisory Group also participated.

The first day focused on the theory and methodology behind Experience Based Design. On day two, the participants broke into groups and analyzed how Experience Based Design could be applied to their own initiatives.

It has been argued that the health system is set up in a way that is good for the system, but not necessarily for the people using it. Experience Based Design incorporates the patient voice into health system design, and even lets them be a co-designer. It encourages providers to ask questions about how the patient or client wants to be cared for and studies how the patient or client feels as they go on their journey through the system.
In an example from Dr. Maher’s work, patients in the UK were asked to track their emotions as they navigated their way through their care experience at a hospital. The survey encouraged patients to share their feelings on everything from how they felt getting to their appointment, to how they felt before their procedure and what they were feeling during recovery.


Such experience-focused activities can help reveal the root source of patient and client dissatisfaction. Parking meters could be identified as a source of anxiety, and sometimes a simple offer to move a bedside table was all it took to make the patient feel more at ease. Other tools used include on-camera interviews with patients, and a process called “emotional mapping.”

Participants were eager to find ways to incorporate the patient perspective into their own initiatives.

“[This workshop] highlighted how important the patient experience is to all the quality improvement initiatives we might undertake,” says Dr. Rob Annis, Primary Care Lead, South West LHIN. “We have to really make the effort to [bring their] voice to the table.”

“We have done lots of interviews with patients and families, but we have never sat down and thought about designing a change in the system with them,” says Sue McCutcheon, Access to Care Lead. “That’s the piece I’m really excited to try.”

Videos from the two-day workshop are posted on this South West LHIN YouTube channel playlist:

To watch Dr. Lynne Maher’s presentation from the 2012 South West LHIN Quality Symposium at  


Experience Questionnaire: This tool can be used to understand and define experience of a patient's journey in a particular encounter with the health care system

EBD Observations: These are practical suggestions on how to approach observing patient experience

EBD Workbook: This is the NHS guide to Experience Based Design which has been made available to us for non commercial use

15 Steps Challenge: Dr. Lynne Maher's presentation deck about the 15 Steps Challenge

15 Steps Challenge Toolkit