In February 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Israel. After that, the total number of confirmed cases increased dramatically. As the pandemic started, the Israeli government took some extreme lockdown measures. It was a very uncertain and dire situation for anyone. COVID-19 patients were suddenly hospitalized or under quarantine, didn’t have clear information on when their isolation would end, and could not see their families. With this unprecedented disease, the healthcare system was also challenged. Healthcare providers were in fight or flight mode to save patients’ lives and didn’t have much room to listen to patients’ needs.
In this situation, the Internal Innovation team at Clalit Innovation decided to apply design thinking to create better patient experiences during this pandemic. We talked with Shachaf, Director of the Internal Innovation team to talk about their “COVID Support Kits” that helped the patients of Israel – by giving them peace of mind in the middle of the pandemic.
The needs in the healthcare system
In such a pandemic, the Internal Innovation team observed that healthcare providers were in a fight-or-flight state of mind: fighting for people’s lives. Understandably, it was their daily task to prioritize the physical safety of COVID-19 patients and categorize other needs as a lower priority directly on the scene. The Internal Innovation team initially thought that they should bring in new technology to solve this challenge: “We have to monitor and communicate with patients from afar. We must create a platform that will enable us to manage many incoming calls and patience in parallel!” However, when the team members interviewed 20 patients, they realized that these were the needs of the healthcare system – the patients had different needs.
The needs of patients
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much uncertainty due to the unavailability of data. Patients were hospitalized or under quarantine without enough information. This caused psychological stress for patients and their families. In their interviews, the Internal Innovation Team heard that all patients mentioned this uncertainty as a struggle. Patients asked questions as simple as “How long can I be in quarantine?” or “How can I do laundry with my household?” but no one was able to give them answers. The quarantine term was unclear and kept changing, and even parents diagnosed with COVID-19 could not communicate with their children about when they could see each other. The team decided to focus on this human and psychological struggle as their central, reframed problem: How could they reduce uncertainty, keep patients safe and make sure that pandemic experiences would not traumatize them?
The COVID-19 Onboarding kit
While the Internal Innovation team approached this new challenge, working together with researchers and designers from the EY design studio led by Nissan Graisel, two constraints were specifically crucial when applying design thinking in such a situation. Firstly, time was more crucial than ever; as the daily number of patients increased, this was not a project with a lavish timespan, but what had to have an impact today. Secondly, this solution had to focus on the patients’ needs – “competing on attention from healthcare professionals that were fighting life or death situations.” Considering the patients’ needs and constraints, the Internal Innovation team came up with a few solutions, but after a quick patient validation – the vote was clear! A low-tech solution that was prioritized: an onboarding kit for those diagnosed with COVID-19.
The onboarding kit included
- Essential medical devices for quarantine (e.g. spirometer and thermometer)
- Clinical explanation of COVID-19
- A booklet that provides information regarding
- Anticipated emotional stress and how to cope with it
- How to explain the situation to your children when they are anxious
- The importance of diet
- Advice on physical activities
- Psychological support
- Other places to contact for support
This onboarding kit was delivered to patients contactless on their doorstep.
Overcoming Internal Challenges
In such a unpredictable and high-risk situation, it was no easy task for Shachaf and his team to bring to life innovative solution through Design Thinking on an organizational level. However, Shachaf shared some approaches that helped overcome internal challenges.
Main Challenge: No Time and Low Cost
In order to bring a solution that meets patients’ needs in real-time and at a low cost, it was crucial to keep the mindset of bringing the right solution at the right time, even if the solution does not seem to be the most creative or inspiring. This mindset enabled the Internal Innovation team to develop a low-tech solution that met patients’ needs and didn’t require much development time and cost.
The onboarding kit instantly received amazing feedback from patients. Patients reported that the onboarding kit reduced their anxiety levels in the house. Families were able to communicate without the anxiety of uncertainness again: parents could promise their children, elderly patients were taken better care of.
Iteration of the COVID-19 Onboarding kits
The pandemic did not stop after the first breakout, and second and third waves hit Israel. The onboarding kit has evolved through interaction loops to overcome three challenges that rose during the second and third waves.
- The lack of enough information and constantly changing information.
One challenge was the lack of information regarding COVID-19, and the answers to basic questions were constantly changing, such as quarantine regulations. For example, in the beginning, it had not been proven that COVID-19 was not transmittable to an unborn child as there was insufficient data collected. To provide up-to-date information, the team iterated on their onboarding kit and added a hybrid onboarding kit. In this booklet, they included the main guiding principles, such as: wearing a mask, no other person should enter your room during the quarantine, and COVID-19 is not infectable through doing laundry together. The booklet has a QR code that guides patients to websites with additional latest information such as quarantine regulations and local support.
- The lack of physical booklets.
During the second and third waves, the number of patients was so high that the Internal Innovation team could not produce enough physical onboarding kits on time. Because of this challenge, the team developed a digital version of the kit to be sent automatically to low-risk patients.
The Internal Innovation Team
Even under such a dire situation, the Internal Innovation team conducted interviews with 20 patients, involving key stakeholders in the process. They focused on the patients’ needs and brought the solution at the right time and with a low budget. What kept the team members working on this challenge?
“We saw the deep impact of the onboarding kit directly,” “Usually, they would’ve interviewed patients with doctors, but talking to patients opened our eyes to the importance of listening to the actual (emotional) journey.”
Shachaf, Director of the Internal Innovation team
He added how working in healthcare was also different and how Design Thinking was a great tool. He did not shy away from sharing this inspiration with the whole organization and was able to find success in his project.
“I was working previously in tech: they have their needs too, of course. But these needs of healthcare are illuminating in understanding HUMAN needs. And the power you can have in people’s lives.”
Shachaf, Director of the Internal Innovation team
More than 50.000 physical onboarding kits, not to mention the additional digital kits, were distributed in total. From the beginning, the Internal Innovation team anticipated that this onboarding kit would be a reactive solution and would not be the base for a long-running product or service. With the national effort of Israel, in 2021, Israel marked zero quarantine cases and the Internal Innovation team also closed this chapter of the onboarding kit. Shachaf humbly told us that he was very happy to terminate the onboarding kit after it turned out to be so effective that it was not needed anymore.
Current Projects at Clalit Innovation
After the termination of the onboarding kit, the Internal Innovation team has kept incorporating design thinking in Clalit Innovation. The Internal Innovation unit is leading the re-design of the organizational engine of Clalit to systematically enable Clalit Innovation to create more innovative and human centered solutions. The three pillars of their activities are 1) design thinking projects, 2) incubator and innovation projects with entrepreneurs and 3) creating a network of innovation centers. For example, Clalit Innovation today has 13 innovation centers in various hospitals and districts within Clalit, while only three years ago, had only two. This network is the base for more than 100 diverse projects in the organization ranging from the topics of rehabilitation, children, general healthcare and psychic healthcare. Clalit Innovation’s design thinking projects strive to solve patients’ needs.
Last but not least, we would like to thank Shachaf Snir, Director of Internal Innovation at Clalit Innovation, for his kind cooperation in our interview and for sharing information.
Some Facts on Shachaf Snir
We interviewed Shachaf, Director of the Internal Innovation team to talk about their “COVID Support Kits” that helped the patients of Israel – by giving them peace of mind in the middle of the pandemic.