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Design students help improve prenatal care

2018-07-09

Interaction Design students at Malmö University are helping business advisory Innovation Skåne develop the future of digital prenatal care. 

Midwives handle a lot of information about pregnant women, but they struggle to use the data in the current system. Digital solutions can help midwives get more one-to-one time with patients.

Despite having no personal experience with pregnancy, it was only a matter of weeks before the five students involved in the project were well-informed about what happens in the stages leading up to giving birth. Using Post-it notes to map out pregnancy, they came up with a proposal for a digital service that acts as a ‘companion’ for pregnant women. The service collects important information on the woman’s health, upcoming meetings with midwives and tests. It can also be used to request an appointment with a midwife.

“This solution gives the pregnant woman all the information she needs in one place and allows her to share it with her partner. As it stands today, information is provided verbally or give to the patient on a slip of paper, but it's easy to forget what was said and one piece of paper can quickly go missing,” explains bachelor’s student Nathalie Strindlund.

The project is part of the service design course and involves using specific methods to design a service based on the user’s needs. As part of the assignment, the students interviewed midwives and several expectant or new mothers.

“Midwives are bogged down with outdated, bureaucratic routines. A digital service could free up time for personal contact and promote a more meaningful relationship with the mother, who in turn gets to voice any concerns she may have,” says interaction design student Igor Kovtun.

The students created the service in collaboration with Skåne Regional Council and Innovation Skåne, who have been following the work of seven different student groups. Innovation Skåne is already working on designing a digital prenatal service that resembles the students’ proposal. 

Maria Bjerstam is a manager at Innovation Skåne and is currently spearheading the business advisory’s work in the field of digital prenatal care.

“It’s really interesting to get input from the students. We will definitely use their insights as we move on to work with the bigger picture,” she says.

One such insight is that there is often a period during pregnancy where an information vacuum occurs. During the course of the project, the students found that information flow was very important not only for the women’s physical well-being, but also their mental health.

“When there is a lack of information flow, it’s easy to start worrying a lot. The students’ suggestion is to fill that gap in an original way," Bjerstam says.

She sees service design as a tool with great potential.

"I think service design can help the healthcare sector understand the full extent of patient experiences. From an insider perspective, I can say that we rarely have the patient's entire perspective in focus — instead we deal with issues as and when they arise."

Interaction design student Rebecka Wärulf hopes to see parts of her group's proposal in a future pregnancy service.

"It would be cool because then it wouldn’t just be another school project that ended up in some folder on the computer," she says.

Text: Petra Olsson

Last updated by Maya Acharya