Co-design and participatory design in healthcare

The healthcare sector is experiencing a turning point: on the one hand, accelerating change brought about by the pandemic, on the other hand, processes and technologies that facilitate progress

31 March 2023
  • Design
  • Design Thinking
  • +4

Co-design is an approach that can bring visible benefits in the short term, as well as benefits in the long term

Team Conflux

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31 March 2023
  • Design
  • Design Thinking
  • +4


Health care is undergoing remarkable transformations in recent years that will lead to redefining the concept of care. Technology will be one of the key drivers of this change, thanks to the contribution of elements such as digitization, data science and scientific innovation.


These new tools offer us the ability to adapt, customize or produce from scratch more effective solutions to everyday needs. That is, we are able, and will be increasingly able with future technological developments, to take care of each patient as an individual element with different needs, tastes, and attitudes, not starting only and solely from the diagnosis of a pathology.


That change in health care has been further accelerated by the pandemic is a given: just think of the importance of digitization in the administration and monitoring of medical care outside hospitals, that is, all the technological aspects that have enabled remote monitoring of patients.


Another hot item in recent years has been the economic vulnerability of health care systems: increasingly, the quality of life and the availability of medical care for all will come through the capacity for prevention, which, in turn, can only be fostered through technological developments.


To meet all these new needs and put in place new and fundamental developments requires the collaboration of different figures, capable of working together, such as designers, makers, therapists, physicians, and of course people with disabilities and their caregivers.

What is co-design

It is what since the 1970s, a time when the need to involve end users in research was gaining increasing acceptance, was known as participatory design, or the ability to design a product or service through the involvement of various stakeholders in idea generation and concept design.


This is a new human-centered design approach to technology and, the focus on the outcome, has given a strong impetus to collaborative innovation in healthcare.


The method to develop and foster these solutions is Co-design, which can enable and facilitate processes, stimulate creativity to create new solutions, and improve people’s lives by generating innovation.

“This is a new human-centered approach to technology and, the focus on the outcome, has given a strong impetus to collaborative innovation in healthcare.”

How co-design works

Broadly speaking, Co-design is an approach that involves a range of stakeholders in the design phase of a product or service and, in the specific case, of the healthcare sector, aims to share everyone’s needs and dictate the guidelines for a new project. This is done through a series of informal workshops in which participants are transformed into true co-authors of the project, seeking solutions through brainstorming or Design Thinking techniques.


In health care, this means creating spaces where we listen to the voices of those who live and those who understand the patient’s condition and needs, such as psychologists. In other words, it means eliminating the distance between the design and the user, with the aim of looking at the problem from the patient’s point of view.

The purpose of Co-design in health care

The real shift in perspective is right here, from a very provider-centered, medicine-centered model such as health care is opening up to a model in which patients themselves are very much involved in their care. But not only that, today, the very involvement of the patients themselves is helping the development of programs for better delivery, access and the ways in which the care itself is made available.


Co-design is an approach that can bring visible benefits in the short term, as well as benefits in the long term. Among the immediate benefits in adopting a co-design model we find:


  • Generation of better ideas with a high degree of originality and value to the user;
  • Better understanding of the client’s or user’s needs;
  • Immediate validation of ideas or concepts;
  • Higher quality and better differentiated products or services;
  • More efficient decision making;
  • Lower development costs and reduced development time;
  • Better cooperation between different people or organizations and across disciplines.


There are also benefits that we might define as medium- to long-term, such as:


  • Higher degrees of satisfaction and loyalty from customers and users;
  • Increased levels of support and enthusiasm for innovation and change;
  • Better relationships between the product or service provider and their customers.


In the process of co-designing healthcare innovation, one possible reason for the deficits found, in terms of innovation, is the lack of attention to end-user needs and the subsequent adaptation of innovations to meet those needs. In this sense, carrying out co-design projects provides healthcare innovators, applied health science researchers, clinicians, and quality improvement specialists with a privileged point of view, that of the end user, those who will be the recipients of the products/services generated.

At Conflux, we have the experience to help your organization with the Co-design processes it takes to innovate your products or services in healthcare. If you are thinking of adopting this new approach, turn to Conflux; our staff of specialists from different disciplines will be able to guide you through the entire process.

  • Design
  • Design Thinking
  • Healthcare
  • User Experience
  • UX
  • UX Design

Team Conflux


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