Emergency Room Redesign

Dave Tupper, Blas Madera

Project type
10-week project

Natalia Marmolejo

The ask

To use the power of design to create a product, service or space that empowers communities.

Visiting the emergency room in the U.S. is one of the most terrifying experiences a person can go through.

Observational research
Visiting ERs and first hand experience helped to illustrate how people are interacting with the infrastructure of a hospital and helped identified key pain points for doctors, nurses and patients.

In order to gather insights into patient’s experience in the Emergency Room, I conducted surveys to more than 50 people. These surveys became the base of how the journey mapping and how the problem got defined after the research.

Industry research
Innovation in Healthcare is happening in silos. There are improvements that help the hospital’s infrastructure, simplification of billing services, and now universities are offering new undergraduate degrees where the focus is healthcare administration.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is attempting to change the way hospitals make money and how they are rewarded, which could lead at how a hospital operates on a day-to-day basis.  Innovation in Healthcare is happening in silos. 

141 million

visits to the ER average per year in the United States

20 million

Americans were recently insured under Medicare and Medicaid

2 hrs 15 min

is the national average wait time to see a doctor when visiting the ER

1 of 4

patients are high-priority emergencies, the rest are semi or non-urgent patients

Gathering all the pieces while doing research

Patient’s journey

Intended to understand what the patient is going through in the whole experience, this journey takes into account moments before and after getting to the ER.


Key takeaways

They want to know what’s happening, if it’s treatable and if they will I die.

“I was anxious, scared that something would go so wrong”

“I was in excruciating pain and I had no idea what was wrong with me”

“ ‘It’ll just be a few minutes’ turned into a couple of hours with nothing happening”

They want to be comfortable in the space, with the room’s temperature, with the nurses and doctors.

“I was scared and in pain and was left alone for long periods of time”

“I felt worried, unsure of what was wrong with me upon arrival; I had to wait around 30-40min before seeing the doctor. After that it was tests, more waiting, more tests”

They want to be understood and to feel better as soon as possible.

“Impersonal, inattentive, irritating”

“Terrifying, scary, anxiety producing, even gross”

“It was frustrating and there was a lack of communication from the staff”






Long wait times and an overall uncertainty about your personal health, generates anxiety while visiting the ER.






Reducing the wait time in the ER doesn’t necessarily result in better care of the patient.

How a hospital works


Hospitals are optimized to profit from the patient’s sickness and the variable cost that entails. Their high fixed-costs drives them to be focused on volume of patients that are admitted.

Possible future

The challenge of having the patient in the center of the experience would require a change in the business model and a focus on patients’ outcomes.


A patient-centric product that decreases anxiety through a personal, transparent experience.


It’s about being knowledgeable and communicative, sharing what’s happening, who is next, and why.


Providing healthcare experiences that feel warm and comfortable, even when we know this is the last place you want to be at.


Showing compassion at every moment and understanding the patient’s pain.


Check in

Seamless check-in and triage of the patients’ symptoms by matching their needs and conditions stated in their profile with the ER’s current volume and wait time.

Wait time

Creating a transparent, anxiety-reducing experience happens through showing the expected wait time and the explanation of why it’s going to be that long.


Discharging a patient takes around 30 minutes. The doctors have to fill in all the symptoms, the procedures that were done, the test results and post-care instructions.