Southern Cross Healthcare

Using human-centred design and technical validation to make life easier for nurses.


UX Research
Technology Assessment


Framework for technological investments
Device recommendation
Findings from UX Research

How we used human-centred design and technical validation to make life easier for nurses.

When it comes to creating solutions for our clients, we’re well known for our expertise in the digital space. But our clients’ biggest challenges are seldom limited to just a digital experience; after all, digital products exist within a real-world context. And in some cases, the technology has to quite literally fit with physical constraints.

This was the case when Southern Cross Hospitals (now known as Southern Cross Healthcare) approached us with a seemingly-simple question: could we help them decide on the best handheld device to roll out in multiple locations across NZ, to streamline the experience for nurses and other staff?

This one question kicked off an exciting human-centred design process that took us across the country and gave us insights into the needs of healthcare workers at high-performing private hospitals.

Every nurse has a top priority: their patients. To care for their patients, they need to be able to work efficiently and comfortably; to accomplish that, they need the right technology. As long as the technology is convenient to use in this high-pressure context, it enables critical information to pass through the hospital and alerts the right staff when necessary. The whole system depends on this information flowing smoothly. But if the technology is cumbersome or unreliable, nurses will find workarounds in order to give patients the care they need (a key takeaway: nurses are nothing short of genius when it comes to getting the job done).

The Southern Cross team gave us the brief: their nurses were encountering problems and inefficiencies because they had to use a variety of different devices to do different tasks. Southern Cross recognised that there was enormous benefit to streamlining the devices wherever possible and determining whether one device could do the job of many. While the team had a pilot device in mind, they approached PaperKite anyway, knowing that with our expertise in technology and human-centred design, we might be able to identify what was missing or hadn’t yet been considered.

We took a two-pronged approach: a tech assessment and UX research.

We started by conducting an assessment of their technical landscape – what were the key systems and platforms in use, and how did they interact? It was important that we didn’t just recommend the latest and greatest device in the market; we had to recommend a device that would play nice with the systems and technology already in use at the hospitals. Once we had an understanding of the technical environment that the solution would have to fit into, we began to assemble a score-based list of criteria that would allow us to measure the suitability of any device.

Meanwhile, we deployed a two-part UX research programme at one Southern Cross hospital site, which was later replicated at two additional sites:

  • The first part was a diary study. We created a survey for each nurse to take at the end of their shifts over a period of two weeks – but we designed it to be quick and predictable, aware that we were asking tired nurses to do this task before going home for the day. With active championing from the Southern Cross team, we got a massive response from every site. Clearly, the nurses were onboard with our efforts.

  • The second part was interviews. Based on the most interesting and varied responses to the diary study, we hand-selected nurses for in-person interviews at their workplace. These interviews took place in context, and the nurses eagerly took us on tours of their physical environments, showing us the devices they use and demonstrating points of friction. We even measured the pockets on their scrubs!

As a result of this UX research, we were able to add human-factors criteria to the score-based list that had been started for the technology criteria. After the full list of criteria were given a nod of approval from the Southern Cross team, we applied the framework to measure all of the options available in-market against each other, labelling each device with a numerical score in order to determine the one most suited to Southern Cross’ unique needs.

We ultimately proposed a suitable device. But the key benefit of this 
work wasn’t the recommendation itself - it was the criteria and scoring framework.

The devices in-market change from year to year. System-wide tech changes are much slower, and human behaviour is even slower to change. This score-based framework will help Southern Cross to decide on technical investments well into the future, long beyond this single engagement.
Experience Lead Q Walker comments on a key element of our engagement with Southern Cross:

“We took the opportunity to coach the Southern Cross team in doing this work. From start to finish, we showed them how they could set up their own studies and keep this work going, even after the engagement with PaperKite ends. We started with one pilot site, and even though in the end the Southern Cross team were magnificent students and totally capable of running this on their own, they still hired us to do the research for two other sites. They really understood the value of having a third party provide a fresh perspective. That’s what makes this one of my favourite client engagements ever – the extent to which it felt like a collaboration.”

The original problem statement delivered to PaperKite was simply to assess a range of handheld devices and recommend one that meets the needs of Southern Cross Hospitals nurses. But as we investigated the problem space more deeply, many critical out-of-scope findings arose. Together, with the Southern Cross team along for the journey, we were able to deliver meaningful impact through many real-time fixes on-site, deliver an elegant solution to the original problem statement, and train the Southern Cross team on how to replicate the same valuable investigations on their own. It’s no wonder why PaperKiters point to this engagement as one of their favourites.

“We hired PaperKite to help us understand our tech requirements and identify a handheld device to roll out company-wide. PaperKite not only met the brief, but created a framework for us to assess future devices as needed, allowing us to keep our devices up to date while retaining criteria for both tech requirements and real human needs.

PaperKite delivered critical research findings that helped us make more informed decisions and empowered our staff to conduct similar modes of research on their own..

Trevor Delany, Chief Digital Officer, Southern Cross Healthcare

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