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Project Type
UX Design and Strategy

2 months

UX Researcher and Designer

Google Form, Excel, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
In collaboration with a local hospital, this project focused on delivering social impact design within our local community. As a researcher and designer of the project, I co-led the generative research phase and co-facilitated an ideation session to better understand the patient experience in the hospital environment. Through a range of user research methods and collaborative brainstorming, we identified key struggles of patients in the ICU and ED and explored feasible solutions with our partners.

Project Initiation & Definition

About the project

Hospital environment is often overwhelming, disorienting, and at times, uncomfortable for both patients and their visitors. Our Healthcare Provider (HCP) partners in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the Emergency Department (ED) of a local hospital wish to uncover and address any existing issues affecting patient experience within these units.
Therefore, our team aim to explore solutions that can make a tangible difference in this problem space.

Target User
  • Primary: Patients in the ICU and ED
  • Secondary: Family, Nurses, and Doctors

HMW Questions
  • How can we best facilitate trust and communication in this overwhelming space?
  • How can we build trust and reduce condusion within the hospital environment?

Project Design
  • Generative Research: Identify key issues of patients in the ICU/ED units
  • Ideation: Brainstorm research findings and ideate them into feasible solutions
  • Prototyping: ceased due to pandemic

Generative Research

Method & Approach

1. Literature Review
Building foundational understanding of patient experience in ICU/ED space.

2. Ethnographic Research

To gain a deeper understanding of the problem space, our team initiated our research in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Emergency Department (ED) units where our partners are based.
We shadowed an ED Doctor’s overnight shift, closely observing interactions, the physical space, and sensory stimulations that were closely tied to the identified issues in the literature review.

3. Interviews 

Building upon our understanding of the problem space, we conducted interviews with experts from various healthcare sectors directly linked to our ethnographic research findings.

These sectors included Healthcare professionals, Healthcare Insurance, Medical Device designers, ICU Nurses from multiple states, CAPS and referral programs.

4. Survey

To gain an overview of the patient experience while respecting their time, survey was selected as a research method for patients. Patients in ICU/ED are usually in a vulnerable state to do the survey, so we recruited patients with prior ICU/ED experience or family members who closely stayed with patients in the ICU/ED for the survey.
Also, recognizing the vulnerability of patients, we consulted mental health experts to ensure our survey would allow them to safely and comfortably share their stories.

Research Findings


1. Stakeholder Map and Personas

Hospitals involved so many people within the space so it was crucial to prioritize who is our primary and secondary stakeholders to focus on.
Then for primary and secondary stakeholders, we created personas to represent their situations, feelings, and struggles in the problem space.

2. Patient Journey Map + Mood Chart

Based on our research data, we recreated a patient journey map that matches our partner’s space.

3. HCW Statements

We formed HCW statements that would direct our ideation phase.

  • How can we build trust amongst patients, visitors, staffs and all involved to improve the intensive care unit experience? 
  • How can we reduce anxiety in a patient’s physical and sensorial experience in the ICU? 
  • How can we create tools that allow patients to feel more connected to the staff?


Market research
Based on the research findings, we conducted market research for analogous solution

Brainstorming Session

  • Divergent thinking
  • Random areas with no filter
  • Interest in improving spatial stimuli and stressors
  • Interest in the behavior defining tests/games
  • Personalized care

Co-design workshops with our partners

Individuals in the medical industry are often isolated into their own work. Through the co-design workshop, we aim to bridge the gaps in the medical industry by bringing together specialized professionals to discuss current practices in the ICU.

This collaborative platform allowed holistic problem-solving to address the challenges faced within these spaces.


Impact on product development

Although the project was unable to progress to the prototyping stage due to the pandemic, the valuable research findings and co-design sessions provided our partner with a comprehensive understanding of the problem space.
These insights have equipped them with actionable knowledge for potential future improvements.

Impact on UXR

The co-design session allowed a more human-centered approach to my design practices, fostering empathy for future projects.
For example, I applied the workshop strategy in a project with refugee minors and women, allowing their voices to be heard and providing a creative space for expression.

© Sejin Hwang