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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
GJ conceived and designed the study, carried out data collection and analysis, and drafted and revised the manuscript. CM participated in the conception and the design of the study and helped to draft, restructure and revise the manuscript. PJC contributed to the conception of the study and helped to restructure the manuscript as well. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The utilisation of good design practices in the development of complex health services is essential to improving quality. Healthcare organisations, however, are often seriously out of step with modern design thinking and practice. As a starting point to encourage the uptake of good design practices, it is important to understand the context of their intended use. This study aims to do that by articulating current health service development practices.
Eleven service development projects carried out in a large mental health service were investigated through in-depth interviews with six operation managers. The critical decision method in conjunction with diagrammatic elicitation was used to capture descriptions of these projects. Stage-gate design models were then formed to visually articulate, classify and characterise different service development practices.
Projects were grouped into three categories according to design process patterns: new service introduction and service integration; service improvement; service closure. Three common design stages: problem exploration, idea generation and solution evaluation - were then compared across the design process patterns. Consistent across projects were a top-down, policy-driven approach to exploration, underexploited idea generation and implementation-based evaluation.
This study provides insight into where and how good design practices can contribute to the improvement of current service development practices. Specifically, the following suggestions for future service development practices are made: genuine user needs analysis for exploration; divergent thinking and innovative culture for idea generation; and fail-safe evaluation prior to implementation. Better training for managers through partnership working with design experts and researchers could be beneficial.