How to collaborate with stakeholders in healthcare design projects?

Some useful tips and tools to design with patients, doctors, hospital executives and other healthcare stakeholders

In recent years healthcare organizations have started to apply ‘designerly’ approaches to innovation to improve the engagement of patients and carers in the design and provision of healthcare services. However, the introduction of the design approaches into the healthcare sector has not come without challenges: the differences in mindset can be a source of tension and evidence on the value of design practices into the healthcare sector still need to be provided. This tutorial and toolkit aims to tackle this challenge and to help service designers in collaborating and communicating with stakeholders in the design of healthcare services.

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Value alignment canvas


Align everyone’s objectives

When dealing with a service design project, by nature participatory and co-creative, it is important that all stakeholders are aligned from the beginning on objectives and expectations to ensure smooth and effective collaboration and meaningful results for all the people involved. 

To do so, tools like the Expectation Map (see this example or that), or the Alignment Canvas (see this example) can be useful to understand everyone’s vision and priorities and to synchronize the team’s understanding of the project scope.

They help align everyone’s objectives at the beginning of the project, envision user expectations from the service, build empathy and provide a holistic view on different perspectives. 

The canvas proposed by this toolkit is made of a simple diagram to help identify each stakeholder’s values and objectives, highlighting points in common and intersections. Visual cards with the different actors and values are used to fill the canvas.


-Each stakeholder group can select its values from cards or add others, discuss common and contrasting values, formulate shared objectives.
-If your project includes more than three stakeholders, feel free to adopt the same conceptual model to map all their values and intersections.


Understand the project ecosystem

Healthcare services involve different kinds of actors who engage in specific relationships among them and with the main user of the service. Thus, it is important to understand who will be impacted, and at which level, by the service being designed.

Use a stakeholder map to reflect on the roles and responsibilities of the different service actors, to be more aware of the ecosystem in which you are designing for.

The stakeholder map not only helps visualize the different categories of stakeholders involved in the service system and into the user experience, but also their degree of interaction with the primary user. The template suggests three possible categories of healthcare stakeholders: healthcare operators, support persons and larger social community of the patient.


-Place the actor card representing the primary user or stakeholder in the center;
-sort the actor cards based on the stakeholder group they belong to and place the cards in their corresponding sectors of the canvas;
-place the actors who have higher degrees of interaction with the primary stakeholder in the inner ring; consider the broader ecosystem beyond the healthcare system.


Reflect on different user-types

Conduct research  into the project context to gather first-hand insights on behaviours, motivations and characteristics of people involved in the service ecosystem. Building  personas helps better understand the needs, habits and attitudes of both patients and doctors (or other healthcare operators) within the healthcare service being designed. 

In order to better support this phase of analysis, the personas templates included in this toolkit contain healthcare specific factors for patient and doctor profiles, such as illness types and medical literacy.


-For the patient persona, start by selecting the type of patient and illness;
-for the doctor persona, firstly select the doctor profile and write down pain points.
-Using the cards, select the environments and actors the persona interacts with, the channels they prefer, their values and the emotions they experience.


Analyze the experience and envision better service journeys

We are all aware that the user journey is a powerful tool to map out the service experience, both the one in place and the one still to be designed. This can be done together with patients and other healthcare stakeholders, helping to create a common understanding of how the experience is or could be. You can also work directly with stakeholders, to identify specific pain-points and other factors that could be causing friction within the service. 

The healthcare journey map proposed by this toolkit can be used to analyse and visualize the experience undergone by the patient and/or the healthcare operators, looking at all components of the experience: the actors involved, the actions undergone, the channels used and the emotions experienced while receiving or performing the healthcare service.


-Write the persona profile the user journey map is for;
-use the cards as trigger materials to facilitate experience sharing and storytelling with patients and medical stakeholders;
-select the emotions being experienced for each action and display them vertically under the corresponding action.
-The patient journey can follow the entire treatment pathway, and so help understanding the issues that may occur at the intersection of different medical steps and departments involved, developing an holistic view of the experience.


main tool used

Service design scorecard


Prioritize ideas through evaluation

After context framing and analysis of insights and experiences it is time to generate solutions. Run concept generation involving different stakeholders is useful to favor the introduction of changes or to facilitate the acceptance of new services. 

Once solutions are identified, the selection of the most promising or suitable ones is a task not to be underestimated, especially in complex contexts such as those related to healthcare.

To do so, we suggest the Service Design Scorecard as an easily approachable tool to facilitate this phase of the process, especially when involving non-designers (see this example). It allows assessing solutions according to 4 main components: desirability, feasibility, viability, and strategic value, examining the degree to which the solution is aligned to the stakeholders’ goals, by simply answering to some critical questions.

The canvas you can find in this toolkit can be used to run your evaluations with healthcare stakeholders or any other project you might face.


-Identify key stakeholders to be involved in the evaluation session;
-synthesize solutions to be evaluated in an effective way so to avoid misinterpretations;
-if needed customize criteria and scoring according to what suits best to your project.

Preview image of the template for How to collaborate with stakeholders in healthcare design projects?