ICU Experience

Project Type

Design Research and Strategy


2 months


UX Researcher 


Google Forms, Excel, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop


In collaboration with Rhode Island Hospital, this project focused on improving patient experience in the ICU environment. As a researcher of the project, I led the generative research phase and facilitated an ideation session to better understand the patient experience in the designated hospital environment. Through a range of user research methods, we identified the key struggles of patients in the ICU 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) 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 
  • Secondary: Family, Nurses, and Doctors

Research Questions

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

Project Design

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

Generative Research Process

1. Literature Review

Building a foundational understanding of patient experience in ICU 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/Contextual Inquiries

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, a 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 Insights


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

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

3. Driving Questions

We regenerated driving questions of the project that would better direct our ideation phase.

  • How can we build trust amongst patients, visitors, staff, 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?

Additional Research


Co-design workshops with our partners

After our initial research session, we encountered challenges in fully grasping the level of empathy within the HCP group towards patients. Specifically, due to the interviewee's offensive behavior during the interview or observation, discussing the topic comfortably and honestly became difficult. 

Therefore, I proposed the idea of a co-design workshop. The aim of this workshop is to bridge the gaps in the medical industry regarding patient experience by encouraging HCPs to brainstorm ideas that would directly address patient needs and pain points. This approach prompts HCPs to deeply consider patient experiences, needs, and pain points, easily reflecting their mindsets. The workshop brings together specialized professionals to discuss current practices in the ICU, providing a collaborative platform for holistic problem-solving to address challenges 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.

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