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Co-designing a digital platform with boundary objects: bringing together heterogeneous users in healthcare

Journal article
Authors A. S. Islind
T. Lindroth
Johan Lundin
Gunnar Steineck
Published in Health and Technology
Volume 9
Issue 4
Pages 425-438
ISSN 2190-7188
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Institute of Clinical Sciences
Pages 425-438
Language en
Keywords Co-design, Health informatics, Cancer rehabilitation, Information systems, Designing boundary, knowledge, communities, view, ethnography, systems, record, Medical Informatics
Subject categories Cancer and Oncology


Healthcare is increasingly permeated with digital platforms supporting cooperative care involving both caregivers (i.e. nurses and physicians) and also patients. New mobile technologies allow for patients to continuously monitor and document their symptoms and gather data that can increase self-care and support the nurse's decision-making process. A design process of such platforms calls for new design approaches involving heterogeneous conditions and goals. Our research is conducted at a clinic that supports cancer patients in their struggles with treatment induced illnesses. The methodological approach is design ethnography that draws from two years of following a design process that resulted in a digital platform to support the care provided by the clinic. The aim of the paper is to analyze how the boundary objects are engaged in the design phases, both concerning what type of boundary objects as well as how they play a role in the different stages of design and we show how boundary objects in design can be used as a mediator for different users' needs and conditions. The research question that this paper explores is: what type of boundary objects can be used, and how are those boundary objects engaged in different design phases during healthcare platform design? We show how different boundary objects come into play during different design phases, from rich narratives, to conceptual formulations and finally into concrete prototypes of the platform. We argue that using boundary objects actively as design tools can inform and forward the design of healthcare platforms and that the approach can guide future design processes, where co-designing with boundary objects can be especially useful as a design approach when doing design with heterogenous user groups in complex settings, such as healthcare settings.

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