Health care is evolving with the needs of people and changing technologies. Sometimes progress is slow, other times it’s more immediate. But no matter the pace of change, it’s crucial the health system adapts so it’s sustainable and provides quality care.
Graphic recording in health care, and other visual communications, are powerful tools when integrated with planning or public engagement/appreciative inquiry.
As a graphic recorder, it requires a keen sensitivity to the topics being discussed, a full-system perspective, and understanding of medical terminology and patient experiences. With this in mind, there are many ways graphic recording and visual communication is helping to shift the health system.
Patient Journey Mapping
Prior to starting my business in 2010, I spent 5 ½ years in health care. I began in mental health and addictions – specifically the assertive community treatment teams (ACT teams), which provide intensive outreach services for homeless / hard-to-house people with complex mental health or addictions in Victoria, BC. Some of the clients had experiences not unlike the patient journey of “Mark”.
Patient journey mapping is effective for plotting a patient’s experience in the health care system and identifying gaps in care. We focus on what happens 80% of the time to patients in similar situations in order to have as accurate an understanding as possible.
The patient is always at the centre of the mapping process, with health professionals providing their perspectives in order to help clarify the map. Health professionals include everyone the patient has contact with: family physicians, pharmacists, intake admin, outreach workers, counsellors, etc.
The map is created in real-time with the patient and health care providers in the room. The first iteration is often post-it notes, which are shifted around on the map until a clearer, sequential journey emerges.
The completed map is central to future planning and elimination of gaps in care. It’s the catalyst for change and is reviewed regularly to ensure planning is aligned.
After my time with the ACT teams I moved on to working in community health engagement and system-wide integration. This included on-going consultation with community health networks and examining the bigger picture of health care to identify major gaps or disconnects.
Community consultation is essential in understanding how people are or are not being served by the health system, which requires an open and honest dialogue.
Graphic recording helps create a safe environment to have these discussions – everyone feels their voice is heard when it’s captured in full view of the room. The graphics also translate complex diagnoses or health experiences into a visual summary that people are more likely to understand and connect with. This is especially important in reducing stigma and building new relationships to facilitate further open and honest discussions. We are all patients of the health care system – it is important the community voice is central to how the health system can improve.
Reducing the stigma of a chronic disease is key to preventative care. Whether it’s recognizing the signs of mental health issues and feeling safe to talk about it, or understanding the challenges of gastrointestinal issues … knowledge is power. The more informed we are about conditions, the more proactive we can be about our health.
Video is an effective way to communicate complex topics in an engaging and concise format. These animations, whether whiteboard video or short stop-motion paper animations, are excellent at connecting with people in a non-threatening way. The videos can be posted on websites, shared widely on social media, or presented at conferences.
My experience in front-line work, community engagement, and health system improvements gives me a well-rounded perspective when working on health care projects of all sizes. But beyond that, it’s incredibly powerful to see a patient’s story with all its ups and downs mapped out in full. And it’s immensely rewarding to bring clarity and understanding to topics shrouded in stigma. These are the changes that need to happen if we’re to have a strong health care system for everyone.