pds getting started header
Marcie Hopkins, U of U Health.
Four Steps to Prepare for the Patient Design Studio
Patient Experience Manager Marcie Hopkins and Patient Experience Specialist Rocío Torres Mora explain how to get valuable patient feedback early in your improvement efforts by meeting with the U of U Health Patient Design Studio.

Case Study

Rochelle is developing materials to improve one of the most difficult points in health care delivery: the transition from hospital to home. She hopes to create discharge education materials that are easy to understand, respectful, and helpful to patients who are just getting better. Her goals are to reduce complications and eliminate avoidable readmissions, while easing the burden on patients. She recently learned about the Patient Design Studio—a way to get their materials in front of patients before they are printed and integrated into the discharge process. How can Rochelle make sure she is prepared to meet with the patient design studio?

What is the Patient Design Studio?


he Patient Design Studio (PDS) is a focus group of patients and caregivers who meet monthly to share their perspectives on early-stage improvement projects. As an organization, we value seeking patient feedback early in the improvement process. It supports our teams in designing initiatives that better meet patient needs.

The Patient Designers represent a diversity of health care experiences: some are healthy, some are chronically ill; some feel comfortable with technology and others are MyChart novices. All are passionate about improving health care delivery.

They provide a casual, honest and safe environment where improvement teams chat about projects that are about to be implemented, as well as projects that are still in the planning stages. This timely feedback helps ensure that proposed solutions address actual patient need.

How do we know when to come?

The best time to bring a project is during the early stages of planning. Maybe you have noticed a trend in your weekly patient comments but are unsure where to start. Or perhaps you are concerned about how to implement a new mandate, regulation, or policy? These are perfect times to come. Patient designers can offer you a wide range of perspectives, which represent the demographics of the communities that we serve. You can also count on them to provide feedback you can use right now.

What types of projects do they review?

Examples of recent projects presented at the PDS include a proposed chaperone policy, releasing lab results on myChart, and using mail order pharmacy. 

Here are a few more examples that incorporate patient feedback received:

Problem Patient Designer Feedback
Construction: We’re building a new outpatient clinic building. What should the exam rooms look like compared to the proposal from the architectural firm? Exam rooms should maximize conversation. Rooms should allow my doctor to look at me without the barrier of the computer, but there should also be a place for my doctor to show or draw something for me. At least 2 people need to fit in the room, and one of those may be in a wheelchair.
Endoscopy: There is discomfort, extra cost, and lost time for patients that don’t properly prepare for their procedure. The prep document contradicted itself, needed to fit on one page, and should include more pictures or diagrams where possible.
Dermatology: Our acutely sick patients don’t know what to expect after their appointment. Acutely ill patients need more structured communication. Try providing written information at the end of the visit with diagnosis, medications, when the physician expects the patient to feel better, and what to do if the patient doesn’t feel better in the expected amount of time. (read more about same-day dermatology)

Interested in presenting? Here are four steps to prepare:

#1: Tell us about your project

If you have an improvement project or idea that you would like to run by the Patient Design Studio, contact the Patient Experience team at epe@hsc.utah.edu to schedule an onboarding meeting. 

During this initial meeting, we will schedule time with the design studio and review your project and how you can best engage the design studio. The Patient Design Studio meets on the second Monday of every month from Noon – 1:00pm to discuss two improvement projects. 

#2: Prepare for the meeting

Prepare your documents

Prior to meeting, we ask you to submit a 1-page prep document that outlines the problem, describes your ideas for solving it, and lists any additional reading materials patients should be familiar with.

We then send your documents to the patient designers one week before your scheduled session to give them enough time to prepare and to make the most of your face-to-face time. 

We also send you the group members’ bios so you can get to know them ahead of time. 

Prepare your team

Each team has roughly 30 minutes to meet with the patients. We recommend sending no more than 2 or 3 project representatives to the session.

#3: Attend the session—and stay open to feedback

Great sessions happen when both patients and improvers feel heard. Active listening—eye contact, restating important points to ensure all parties understand—goes a long way.

We have facilitators on hand to help with introductions, jump start the discussion, take minutes, and audio record the session so you can listen, rather than take notes.

While it may feel a little stressful or anxiety-inducing, most of those fears are dissuaded once you get into the session. Our design studio members are engaged and welcoming. They want your project to be successful. 

#4: Reflect and improve

Approximately one week after the meeting, we will send you a one-page summary with key insights and a transcript of the discussion, along with a list of questions for you to think about. 

Improvers are encouraged to come back to the group to provide updates on their project, seek additional feedback, and provide closure to patients.


A visit to the patient design studio can save time and money for your improvement efforts by ensuring that patients will actually benefit. Rochelle, who's story we shared in the intro case study, used her time with the Patient Design Studio to organize her team's discharge materials by patient need. She learned to centralize the information in a single document and to include check boxes so patients can visualize their progress. They also added pictures and links to online resources.



Marcie Hopkins

Manager, Patient Experience; Graphic Designer, Accelerate, University of Utah Health

Rocío Torres Mora

Former Patient Experience Specialist, Patient Experience and Accelerate, University of Utah Health

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