Academic journal article Visible Language

Developing a Design Brief for a Virtual Hospice Using Design Tools and Methods: A Preliminary Exploration

Academic journal article Visible Language

Developing a Design Brief for a Virtual Hospice Using Design Tools and Methods: A Preliminary Exploration

Article excerpt


Providing equitable access to specialist palliative care, regardless of diagnosis or geographical location, with relatively limited resources and an ageing population, will become increasing difficult for all hospice services. This paper describes the development of a Design Brief for a Virtual Hospice using design tools and methods. The main aim of the Virtual Hospice in this case is to improve access to services provided by the Highland Hospice in Inverness, Scotland. The project began by observing Hospice staffand their interactions with patients. Three User Personas were then created based on data gathered through interviews with a small number of patients and professionals. Each Persona's progress through the Highland Hospice service was visualised on a User Journey Map in the form of insights and opportunities, with five key themes emerging. The final step involved producing a Design Brief that synthesised the research findings in the form of a plan for creating, prototyping and testing the Virtual Hospice.


design methods; end-of-life care; health; hospice; palliative care; virtual hospice


Hospice is a philosophy of care that focuses on providing physical, social, emotional, and spiritual support for people with life-shortening illness. The first hospices date from the Middle Ages, where hospice referred to a place of shelter for weary or sick travellers. The modern hospice movement began in the UK with the opening of St. Christopher's Hospice in 1967, which transformed the approach to death and dying from "there is nothing more that can be done" to "there is so much more that can be done." The hospice movement has since spread across the world. Services are provided within a definable building or are purely community based, can include art and complementary therapies, bereavement counselling, chaplaincy and spiritual care, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, as well as direct nursing and medical care.

In Scotland, Highland Hospice is contracted by the NHS (National Health Service) to provide specialist palliative care in Highland, Scotland. Highland Hospice serves a population of 220,000 people distributed over an area of 10,000 square miles comprising the largest and most sparsely populated part of the UK, with a mountainous terrain and limited transport and communication infrastructure. The Hospice provides a 10 bed In-Patient Unit, a Day Hospice, a Day Therapy Center, and a Bereavement Counselling Service at its base in the principal concentration of the population, the city of Inverness. It also provides a Day Hospice in outlying areas, currently Fort William and Thurso. A multi-professional team supports primary and secondary healthcare professionals to provide palliative care in individual's homes, care homes, and hospitals. The Hospice also works closely with two cancer charities: Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

However, most clients access services based within the Hospice building in Inverness, tend to live within a 30-mile radius-given the difficulty of travel for a population who are often physically frail, have a diagnosis of cancer, and, if not inpatients, have contact only within office hours. Indeed, the total number of patients supported equates to 18% of the 2,500 people that die in the catchment area of the Hospice each year. In the near future, the number of people seeking specialist palliative care is expected to increase considerably because more people are living longer with long term and life-limiting conditions. The vision of the Hospice is to create a "Virtual Hospice" to improve access to its services for individuals and their families regardless of geographical location, diagnosis, or time of day. To this end, collaboration was forged with the Glasgow School of Art to develop a Design Brief for progression through the Digital Health Institute (DHI). The DHI is a Scottish Funding Council innovation center that aims to transform health and social care delivery in Scotland (Digital Health Institute). …

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