Reimagining General Electric’s mammography business through empathy and experience design

General Electric approached us with an unexpected challenge. Faced with declining market share in medical imaging, the company needed a new approach to their business that would create a catalyst for change within the marketplace and help the company rise to a new position as innovator and market leader.

In order to do this, we were tasked with an assignment to reimagine the mammography process and leverage key insights to help chart a course for GE’s future in medical imaging.

Applied Empathy in Action

In order to understand the challenges with the mammography process, we needed to truly immerse ourselves with the patients, doctors, technicians, and engineers who are all a part of the experience. Utilizing our Applied Empathy approach, we were able to create a set of research methodologies that gave us the ability to unearth powerful insights that would ultimately shift GE’s overall business trajectory.

Meeting Women Half Way

The hub for our research was a 5,000 sq. ft. retail-level experience located in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Known more for designer shopping and pricey brunches, this may have seemed like an unorthodox location for a medical research project, but, in fact, this was exactly the point. We wanted to meet women while they were going about their normal day. We wanted to make sure they felt comfortable immediately.

Walk Right In

The For Women By Women retail lab was programmed with a schedule of research interviews, panels, workshops, and events designed to expand the conversation and connect with a host of different perspectives. From intimate conversations with breast cancer survivors to design workshops with an all-star team of female design community leaders to panel discussions with brands as diverse as Kiehl’s and Victoria’s Secret we were able to open the aperture of the conversation, letting bigger, more meaningful insights emerge.

A Living Lab

In addition to the above, the For Women By Women space also had a prototype mammography room where we were able to experiment with different settings such as lighting, environmental and design specifications, and more. This prototyping lab created a safe space where we could test outside of a traditional medical facility and learn side by side with patients and doctors.

From Insight to Impact

Led by our research we developed an insight centered around patient empathy. In short, patient experience has historically been relegated to a minor, if not entirely absent, part of the medical imaging journey. In addition, innovation to the machines or the technology were not going to move GE’s business in the right direction quickly enough (on average, technical innovations take 8 years to pass approvals and be working at scale). Instead, we focused on understanding the soft-science and experiences that, informed by patient conversation, could be improved. By reversing the traditional perspective and instead focusing on the patient versus the hardware, we discovered the underlying pain points in the experience and built a program designed to not only solve these issues but infuse empathy into the mammography process.

On the business side, we developed a service layer to GE’s product business, allowing the findings from the research to be monetized by GE with its core hospital customers. On a more patient-centric side, this program helped uncover new modalities to screening and the overall patient experience that increased the propensity for regular patient scheduling of screening, testing efficacy, and ongoing follow-up and patient care.

“Tasked with completely revamping patient perception of mammography, GE Healthcare ….found a way to put women in control of their own exam…[and…] made patient comfort a priority….[GE’s] Senographe Pristina has the best of our technology, but it was also inspired by empathy with women.”

Aurelie Boudier, GE Healthcare, 2017

The results of this experience exceeded expectations on every front. Not only were we successful in developing a path to new financial and market share growth for GE’s medical imaging business through the program, we were able to unearth a variety of findings that improved the overall patient experience, efficacy of testing, and national screening rates for women. Heralded by GE’s then Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt, a new strategy for the medical business soon emerged for products beyond just mammography in which prioritizing patient-centric experience acts as a means to serve customers with both products and services born from deep insights.