Designerly ways of caring / Sustainable future healthcare

We all read it in the news from time to time: our current healthcare system is under pressure. We face the challenges of an ageing population, more people living longer with chronic diseases and as a result we have to deal with rising costs and staff shortages. The Nationaal Zorgakkoord  (in Dutch) in the Netherlands lists some of these challenges, linking them to actions and agreements that should ensure reliable, accessible and sustainable healthcare in the future. The introduction of healthcare technology, that allows for self-management of health, a focus on prevention, ageing in place and following therapy at home, is often presented as contributing to the solution for these challenges but it brings its own challenges. To tackle these challenges, we need expertise from and collaboration between multiple disciplines.

In her inaugural lecture, Geke Ludden elaborated on what expertise on interaction design can contribute to solving societal challenges in health and care. She introduced three -designerly ways of caringthat illustrate how interaction design contributes at different levels - micro, meso and macro - of our healthcare system. Prof. Ludden emphasized that we can only design for a sustainable healthcare system if we look at how people, other living things and our environment are connected.

An example from healthcare that shows how we sometimes neglect to study connections between these levels and that has received more attention lately is how we have organized our hospital care - focusing on curing the individual while producing enormous amounts of waste that negatively effects our environment. More and more, researchers in the design research and human computer interaction fields do not only study interactions between an individual and a product or a technology but it is emphasized that people live in interaction with the world and all living and non-living things in it - things that shape people and their behaviour, their attitudes and their values.

Elaborating on the macro level, Prof. Ludden stressed how the Sectorplan Techniek II , and more specifically the -Ontwerpende Ingenieurswetenschappenas part of that Sectorplan, gave an enormous impuls to research at this level. The Sectorplan gave the opportunity to start two new research lines. The first will focus on transformations in our healthcare sector from a health systemsand built environment perspective and will enable better understanding of how technology can change healthcare environments and care practices. The second research line will further develop system design approaches to study impact on both human and natural systems. This research line aligns with the impact programme Planetary Health of the TechMed Centre and the Climate Centre at UT that focuses on better understanding the relations between human health, environmental well-being, and the healthcare system. Topics that are much needed and that also provide a good basis for collaboration between UT and other Dutch Universities.

The Inaugural Lecture  took place end of June 2024.

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