Design thinking in healthcare: developing patient-centred communication materials for breast cancer detection

Beaumont, Corrine (2011) Design thinking in healthcare: developing patient-centred communication materials for breast cancer detection. (PhD thesis), Buckinghamshire New University, .


This thesis is the culmination of five years of communication design research (2006 – 2010) on a specific area of healthcare—breast cancer detection and screening. It is a project-based doctoral work, underpinned by a practice-led research journey of a graphic designer. The result is this written thesis with an accompanying set of uniquely designed objects: • a series of posters on breast cancer detection • an educational leaflet and risk assessment form • a series of working website prototypes (see This thesis offers an in-depth case study that demonstrates and contextualises the need for using communication design in patient engagement and education efforts in order to create a more patient-centred experience in breast cancer detection. The significant contributions of this thesis are: • the development of a human-centred design thinking methodology, known as the ‘USER’ model, which helps a designer develop a product for use within a system in an iterative, intuitive and analytical way. This is the first design thinking model of its kind to embed a framework for analysing objects within a systems framework; • the production and testing of visual metaphor, which was found to improve patient literacy and confidence. The significance of this has been to increase the potential for symptoms to be reported early and decrease mortality rates; • a map illustrating the patient journey of breast cancer screening that illustrates roles, communications and detection activities. This has been developed for general practices and imaging centres in a visually clear and distinct way; • a risk assessment tool that encourages doctors and patients to engage in collaborative decision-making in the planning of breast cancer screening activities. Finally, the work presented here has profound implications for future studies of patient engagement and health literacy in breast cancer detection. The research journey, findings and objects in this thesis may lead to improved patient communication experiences and decreased mortality in breast cancer. This thesis also acts as a model for exploring and developing design solutions for other health causes.

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