Physiotherapists in the spotlight:
How to innovate and design
by Jenny Lewis, Head of UX

Physiotherapists in the spotlight: How to innovate and design with patients in mind


What have user experience and physiotherapy got in common I hear you ask? Actually, a lot more than you might expect! To be a good physiotherapist you have to be able to understand your patient to give them the best possible care and recommendations; suited to their lifestyle and their needs. The same can be said for user experience. Without understanding the people you are designing for, it’s impossible to make suitable recommendations to improve a service, that will have a truly positive impact on their experience.

Working with Bournemouth University Students

Toward the end of their degree and before becoming fully qualified, Physiotherapy students on the Bournemouth University degree course are tasked with coming up with some ideas to solve a challenge or problem in physiotherapy and present these at the end of unit conference – Innovations in Therapy Practice. We were invited by Dr Osman Ahmed to run a talk and workshop with the students; introducing them to the concept of UX and how it could benefit them and their innovative ideas in the run up to the event.

The workshop

We wanted to design a workshop that would introduce a toolkit of activities that the students could use throughout their project; giving them a chance to consider the patient or end-user and place them at the centre of their thinking. The first item in any researcher’s toolkit has to be the ability to listen. I’m sure a lot of us will remember being told the age old saying of “you’ve got one mouth and two ears for a reason…” but nowhere else has this been truer than in user-centred design. Being a good listener is all about listening to understand, rather than to respond, and we had great fun practicing this during our active listening exercise.

Next up was a Lean Profiling activity, a great chance to broaden the understanding of the person you’re designing for. Context is key here and building a better picture about the person will help us to understand what’s really motivating them to complete their goals.

Stuck? Try solving an Anti-Problem

We rounded off by trying to solve an anti-problem. A super tricky task for anybody to get their heads around, but a great tactic if you’re getting stuck on your ideas and feel like you’re not progressing. We asked students to identify a problem, and then find ways to solve the problem opposite to that. Sounds confusing I know! For example, if the problem is ‘I can’t find my medical notes’ the problem opposite would be ‘I can’t lose my medical notes’ and how on earth do you solve that? With some of the genius ideas from the group – put them in a pinnate and smash them up, use them as toilet roll, or dip them in a paint tin.

The Student Conference

We were delighted to have the opportunity to go along to the end of unit conference to see some of the student’s ideas come to life. A great range of ideas spanning technologies like AR and VR with an interesting common theme shared by a lot of them; how to develop a better understanding and empathy for their patients, ensuring they feel confident and qualified to support patients in the best possible way. The event was attended ex-students and industry representatives, including Louise Rich (whose End OF Life care ideas from the 2018 student conference is to be rolled out to Royal Bournemouth Hospital later this year) and Amanda Weaver, NHS Professional Lead in Physiotherapy and Change Champion.

What do we get out of it?

Our mission is to eradicate the world of poor design and empower innovators to design with users at the forefront. By donating our expertise and time to this project we are not only supporting emerging designers to think differently for their end users but are also joining the circle for service providers to understand the importance of this method. Experience design is the bridge that can span the gap between just-okay to brilliantly effective, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that, where we can, we are doing our part to raise the bar.

If you too would like to create more purposeful, effective and first-class products, experiences and services, let’s chat. Please Get in touch, we’d love to talk to you.

Please get in touch with Neil, he’d love to talk to you.

UX Consultant Emma Peters

Let’s Chat

Got a question? We’re here to listen and help you and your organisation become more user-centric. Talk to us about how usability testing and user research can help you. Contact us today.

01202 293652