Innovation: Pass it on! Redesigning how our teams can share knowledge to save lives

08 February 2018

In challenging environments, and with patient care at stake, smooth transitions among Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) field staff are vital. Charlotte Fountaine, a Service Designer working with MSF, outlines how she's working to redesign the hospital handover process.

MSF operates in extreme situations: in refugee camps, cholera outbreaks, war zones, in the places where people’s medical needs are greatest. Due to the challenging conditions that people are working in, members of our international staff typically only stay for 6-12 months at a time. 

I am a Service Design student from Royal College of Art. I'm spending the next six months with Médecins sans Frontières, working to redesign the handover process for key positions in field hospital management. Handover in any job is vital, but in the context of a field hospital it is critical for patient safety. 

Charlotte Fountaine running a Service Design workshop

Charlotte Fountaine running a Service Design workshop. Image: MSF

Service Design is about designing services that work for the people that use them. We use innovation research and prototyping methods in order to create solutions.

"In my first mission a handover saved my life...without this handover I imagine I would've left the project"

Bart-Yan Bekker, MSF Improvement Lead

 

“I didn’t really make a big deal of not having a handover with my predecessor. I just tried to stay positive and went with the flow. But then... how much I wish I had known”

Julia Fedec, MSF Nursing Coordinator

 

Eugenia Serbassi, medical coordinator at MSF, being interviewed about the hospital handover process

Eugenia Serbassi, medical coordinator at MSF, being interviewed about the hospital handover process. Image: Charlotte Fountaine

The nature of MSF’s work means that the type of handover that incoming staff receive varies greatly, and medical staff can be thrown into new and difficult situations without adequate preparation.

After running a hospital in an MSF project, international staff leave the field to return home to their friends and family for a well-earned rest. Often there is a gap between one member of staff leaving and another starting. Staff might not have time for a face-to-face handover, to explain to new staff the process of running the hospital.

The nature of MSF’s work means that the type of handover that incoming staff receive varies greatly, and medical staff can be thrown into new and difficult situations without adequate preparation.

Staff will always come and go, working in a field hospital will always be busy. A robust, well-tested handover process is vital. Poor handovers mean that it takes staff longer to settle into their roles, which can impact the quality of patient care and mean that the overall strategy of improving lives the field can get lost or diluted.

Designing a way to share knowledge between incoming and outgoing staff successfully will lead to better medical care, a better staff experience, and therefore improve the patient experience.

MSF staff carrying out handover workshop

MSF staff carrying out handover workshop. Image: Charlotte Fountaine

The first stage of this project is research. We are currently interviewing and running workshops with MSF staff, to understand the challenges they face around handover in the field. We are also collecting insights from other industries: how do teachers, software developers, producers and marine engineers carry out handovers? And what can we learn from them?

The next stage of the project is developing and testing new solutions. MSF staff at all levels will contribute ideas on how the new handover process should look and feel. Those solutions will be tested and prototyped with incoming and outgoing staff in the field. Does the new handover process work for people without Wi-Fi or in a hurry? Does it make the daily running of MSF projects and missions easier?

When we have found a new handover process that works in a variety of circumstances, we will work together to roll it out, first across a number of agreed hospitals, and based on the success of this stage, look to scale the process to the wider organisation.

Questions about the project? Want to contribute ideas or insights? Contact me at charlotte.fountaine@london.msf.org

 

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