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Assisted living for the severely disabled

Helsinki has used service design to develop the procurement process for assisted living services for people with serious disabilities. The project is part of a larger provision mode analysis in social and health care services to approach service needs and customer wishes with design.

Good assisted living with design

The City of Helsinki provides assisted living services for people with serious disabilities. The services are meant for people who require a great deal of assistance from other people in their daily routines because of their disability or illness. Assisted living is not about care or nursing but about living and active life.

Helsinki organizes assisted living services for people with serious disabilities mainly as contracted services. When the term of contract was coming to an end in 2019, the City surveyed the manners of organizing assisted living services with a provision mode analysis prior to a competitive bidding process.

Previously customer participation had not been present well enough in service descriptions in the procurement of assisted living services for people with serious disabilities. There were also deficiencies in the definitions of quality requirements, and the procurement package was not consistent.

A provision mode analysis was applied to update the service description of assisted living services for people with severe disabilities and to update the minimum requirements to fulfill customer needs. The goal was to understand more deeply what produces quality in assisted living services and to use the results to support the competitive bidding process, further development and monitoring.

The goals of the provision mode analysis:

  1. To improve the availability of services
  2. To better recognize customer needs and to develop the customer experience
  3. To increase impact
  4. To target the services better
  5. To understand continuous change in the operating environment

Co-creation process: Survey of customer needs by means of service design

Drawing inspiration from design thinking, the process began with the recognition of the starting points and a definition of the challenge. The process proceeded via information gathering towards analysis and solutions. The process was steered by the Social Services and Health Care Division’s in-house service designers, who assisted the process in the utilization of design methods and co-creation in various project phases.

First, workshops were organized to engage customers, their families and service providers. Customers and their families were questioned about good everyday life and obstacles to everyday routines in a customer workshop. Service providers were acquainted with the results of the customer workshop in a market workshop, which emphasized the importance of customer participation in competitive bidding.

Thereafter a Design Probe was used with customers and their families to survey the views of residents on services and dwellings as well as the everyday lives of residents. The survey was used to define the elements of functional services: the components of good living and important aspects of the social living environment of residents. The elements of functional services were visualized with a pyramid.

Next, new workshops were held in residential units, and an online survey was organized to confirm the validity and functionality of the pyramid of functional services.

Clear elements of quality emerged as a result of customer participation. The most important one of these elements was respectful encounters. Customer juries were compiled to assist in the preparation of competitive bidding. A jury meeting was used as a basis of formulating the competitive bidding criteria for respectful encounters, smooth everyday life, flexibility and individualization.

Provision mode analysis as part of strategic operations

The provision mode analysis of assisted living services for people with serious disabilities was used to pilot a novel approach. The provision mode analysis utilizing design improved the process of procuring assisted living services for people with serious disabilities and the quality of assisted living.

Since the provision mode analysis of assisted living services for people with serious disabilities was carried out, the City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care Division’s procurement services have implemented several other projects with the same model.

The benefits of service design:

  • The service description is produced in a customer-oriented manner.
  • The service description is increasingly approachable, better visualized and more tool-like, which enables the provision of services with more consistent quality than before.
  • The factors that produce the quality of service are better taken into consideration in competitive bidding.
  • Residents participate in the development of services through customer juries.
  • Customers are involved in the monitoring of the contract and in quality control.

Photo: Maarit Miettinen