A healthier approach to design

Philips' Mr Low (centre) holds design workshops to seek input from clients, and considers the environment in which its products will be used.
Philips' Mr Low (centre) holds design workshops to seek input from clients, and considers the environment in which its products will be used. PHOTO: PHILIPS

Design can be effectively deployed in addressing social concerns, including, for example, the needs of an ageing population or in the healthcare sector.

In Singapore, firms like Philips are already championing the use of design in transforming healthcare. It is applying design thinking and consumer insights not just to creating healthcare products but also to understanding the environments in which they are used, said Mr Low Cheaw Hwei, head of design at Philips Asean Pacific and Philips Design Consulting Asia. He is part of Singapore's Design Masterplan Committee.

The company, for example, partnered with Eastern Health Alliance and Changi General Hospital to pilot Singapore's first telehealth programme for heart failure patients in November 2014.

The programme is aimed at bringing down hospital re-admission rates. Heart failure patients can end up back in hospital if they do not stick to their treatment, medication and diet plans.

Using a personal health tablet, weighing machine and blood pressure monitor, patients note down and upload information that "telecarers" use to monitor their states of health. These telecarers can quickly step in at the first sign of deterioration.

Initial results showed a high compliance rate - 84 per cent - with the self-monitoring programme.

"It is not just the equipment that improves the quality of medical services. We complement the hardware with an understanding of the people using the equipment... and that adds value," said Mr Low.

"It may not be design success that you can see - but you can certainly feel it."

Arti Mulchand

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'A healthier approach to design'. Print Edition | Subscribe