Careful Painting: Exploring Paint As a Tool to Improve Healthcare Experiences
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Patient-focused communication design in healthcare is often poorly considered and executed. However, there is a growing recognition for the benefits to staff and patients when the arts are evident in a healthcare context. This research used painting, communication design and co-design to explore the potential for the often difficult and system-focused experience of a healthcare journey, to be balanced by a handmade aesthetic. Clinical and non-clinical stakeholders and experts, as well as end-users of healthcare were engaged through a creative workshop as well as three case studies to explore the ‘handmade’ in healthcare communication design. The case studies focused on diverse patient and staff experiences including; (a) the outpatient experience for the Deaf community, (b) communicating with clinicians, stroke patients and their caregivers about setting up tele-health sessions, and (c) communicating care to older adult patients in an Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation (AT&R) ward. A paint-based toolkit was developed over a series of workshops to discover how thinking through the act of painting, colour choice and mark-making, might enhance the experience of sharing meaningful conversation in a group setting. Painting methods were found to be valuable in creatively engaging patients and staff in co-design activities, and helped them to consider the focus topic of what ‘care’ looked like, and meant to them. The prototypes developed in each case study acted as applications of what was uncovered in the workshops and challenged the boundaries of what more colourful and insight-driven healthcare communication might look like. Designers and clinicians alike working in healthcare are often constrained by its rigid systems and hierarchical staff structures, despite a shared desire to offer patient-centred care. Completed during the time of Covid-19, and facing institutional challenges, the case study design outputs of this research remain in the prototype phase. However, they demonstrate the opportunities that exist to humanise healthcare communication design and the potential positive impact arts-based co-design workshops can have in the healthcare context.