Exploring the application of Inclusive Design to the improvement of healthcare services

Change log

An ageing population is demanding more of healthcare services worldwide, particularly for long-term conditions. In the UK, the challenge of limited healthcare service resources and the influence of the Equality Act on services have increasingly led to the consideration of people’s access to community rehabilitation services. These present a potential opportunity for Inclusive Design. The literature suggests that Inclusive Design and its associated tools have been widely applied to the accessibility of buildings and public transport, as well as consumer products and services, but there is little evidence of their application to healthcare services.

A review of the literature highlights the importance of improving people’s access to community-based rehabilitation by providing care at or closer to home which has become an increasingly prevalent option to meet the healthcare demand for long-term conditions in an ageing population. Therefore, this thesis investigates how Inclusive Design can be applied to healthcare delivery services to improve patients’ experiences of accessing these services. It accomplished this through two case studies: community-based rehabilitation services of back pain and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The case studies involved online surveys and interviews with healthcare professionals and patients in understanding the patients’ care journeys and challenges in accessing these services. The impact of services demands on patients’ capability and their access to services was analysed using an Inclusive Design tool, the Exclusion Calculator. An inclusive approach integrating tools and procedures was summarised to facilitate the understanding of patients’ capability-related needs both for the recipients of care and for the providers of care.

This research provides a novel contribution by filling the gaps in the literature on the application of Inclusive Design to healthcare delivery services, i.e., community-based rehabilitation. It demonstrates that an Inclusive Design approach can be used to improve people’s access to healthcare services and the tools applied can make a useful contribution to understanding service provision and hence service improvement. The Inclusive Design approach focuses on identifying the demands that healthcare services make of their users’ capability and in estimating services’ exclusion. The process of applying Inclusive Design in this research may be used to improve other healthcare services.

Clarkson, P John
Inclusive Design, Healthcare Design, Community-based Rehabilitation, Accessiblity, Capability
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
China Scholarship Council, National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health and Research Care East of England Programme