UPMC Patient Experience


By 2007, UPMC had grown to be a conglomerate of 20 hospitals and 400 outpatient sites in Western Pennsylvania. The result has been a disunity and lack of cohesion, most apparent from the perspective of patients and employees.

Our design team was initially brought in to examine and improve patient experience in the South Hills surgery and outpatient facility in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania. After observations, ethnographic research, interviews, and other methods, it was evident that the patient experience was actually one of the facility’s strong suits. Our team worked with management to change our course to another problem that emerged: the lack of overall vision, planning, and unity in the facility and UPMC Corporate. We delivered a vertical map for how South Hills could become a model for other outpatient facilities.




Roles: Human-centered design research, strategic planning, prototyping, design modeling.

Collaborators: Elliott Williams, Gabe Clapper, Bridget Lewis; Shelley Evenson, Advisor.
A collaboration between Carnegie Mellon School of Design and the UPMC Center for Quality Improvement and Innovation.

A 50 minute talk on this project includes research methodology, process, and the structuring of the vertical map.

While the directive was to improve patient experience, research indicated high levels of satisfaction across many departments. What was revealed, however, was a lack of cohesion in the facility.

The physical plant itself felt like a “dead mall.” We saw opportunities to reach ahead — beyond patient experience — and explore the future of community healthcare hubs.


A New Methodology

↑ Our traditional toolbox of research methods proved useless when subjects were asked to envision the “future of health care.” What our team developed was a remapping tool — Juicetaggr — abstracting the question enough to become accessible.

“If the future of healthcare were one of these juicers, which one would it be, and why?” they were asked. The method was repeated with vacation spots, cars, magazines, and more. While the choice mattered little, the justification informed us of values. This provided us with a word cloud of responses, not to direct us to concrete solutions, but rather to the design of a broader vision for UPMC.



Alexander R. Wilcox Cheek
Copyright 2017