Imagine you’re in a hospital, having to lie still and alone in the midst of huge, noisy equipment to have an MRI scan. It can be a terrifying experience for an adult. Imagine how terrifying it is for a child. Not surprising, children often need to be sedated to get through an MRI scan.
Doug Dietz, an MRI engineer for GE Healthcare, was deeply disturbed when he saw a girl in a hospital crying uncontrollably while waiting for an MRI. Observing how terrified this child was, he went to work without a budget, and put together a team of people. They included creative people from a local children’s museum, kids and doctors in addition to hospital workers whose job it is to help families get through a scan. That’s why we have chosen Doug Dietz as one of our favorite world changers.
In the pediatric department of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, with some paint, scents, lights and a little imagination, the scan rooms were turned into adventures. Colorful decals were applied to the outside of the machine and to every surface in the room, covering the floor, ceilings, walls, and all of the equipment. They also created a script for machine operators so they could lead their young patients through the adventure. Even the hospital staff was dressed in costume. Imagine, one room is an ocean and the scanner is a submarine, in another room the scanner becomes a tent in a camping experience.
The new scanners have been hugely popular with kids, and the hospitals and doctors who are GE’s customers. And it hasn’t ended in one hospital. Dietz has been training other GE employees — both in the medical division and beyond — to use design thinking and innovation methods in their teams.
What is revolutionary about this wonderful story is, instead of focusing on the technical side of the problem, as most engineers of these types of machines normally do, the Dietz team focused on improving the experience for the patients.
The “Adventure Series” scanner by GE is a great example of applying empathy and creativity in solving problems.
Dietz was doing the design thinking program at Stanford’s d.school at the time, which must have inspired him to redesign the process from the children’s perspective.
Previous statistics before the scanner reported that around 80% of pediatric patients required sedation in order to have an MRI done. Those stats have changed. After the redesign, only 10% needed to be sedated and some actually wanted to return to play at the MRI Pirate Island.
Now that fewer children require sedation, anesthesiologists are freed up for other urgent operations. Most importantly, as more children get scanned, extra lives can be saved.
By thinking holistically about how children experienced and interacted with the technology, Dietz was instrumental in transforming the MRI suite into a kid’s adventure story, casting the patient in a starring role.