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Design Thinking Results in Innovative Clinical Pathway

Despite national efforts to reduce health care disparities, medically complex and socially at-risk patients continue to experience relatively poor outcomes during and after hospitalization, including frequent readmissions and preventable emergency department (ED) visits. New research shows that design thinking, an approach typically used in engineering and business, has merit in helping nurses and other health care providers develop clinical pathways to improve care transitions for socially at-risk patients.

In an article in the American Nurse Journal, researchers, including those from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), explain how they used design thinking as a framework to develop the THRIVE clinical systems innovation that improves outcomes for patients who are socially at risk. Since its inception, the THRIVE clinical pathway has enrolled over 400 patients and involved more than 100 hospital and community-based health care providers. Participating patients have experienced reduced readmissions and ED visits and increased primary care and specialty care follow-up.

“Innovation and design thinking supports nurses and other health care providers who want to address problems they face at the bedside by using creative, patient-centered approaches,” says J. Margo Brooks Carthon, PhD, RN, FAAN, Tyson Family Endowed Term Chair for Gerontological Research and Associate Professor of Nursing at Penn Nursing, lead author of the article. “Design thinking allowed us to work collaboratively to create a platform to positively influence the health of socially at-risk patients.”

The article “How Innovation and Design Thinking Can Improve Care” is set for publication this summer (Vimeo explainer). Co-authors of the article include Vivian Kim, BSN, RN, and Pamela Cacchione, PhD, CRNP, BC, FGGSA, FAAN, both of Penn Nursing; Heather Brom, PhD, APRN of Villanova University; Taylor Hedgeland, RN, BSN, CNOR and Eileen Ponietowicz, RN, BSN, both of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.