Co-Design creates opportunities for health professionals, consumers and carers to work together to find innovative ways to deliver effective health services. By their very nature co-design processes are fluid, flexible and geared to meet the priority needs of consumers, whoever and wherever they may be.
Different individuals and groups will have different needs and expectations, and these will change over time. These differences become apparent in the process of using Co-Design tools, when service providers may become aware that established processes are not working as satisfactorily for consumers as they would like.
Where gaps exist between consumers’ needs and the available services they should, first and foremost, be recognised and acknowledged. Co-Design processes, which involve health professionals, consumers or carers working closely together throughout, may then be utilised explore strategies for overcoming these issues. Co-Design is not a static or once-only solution. It involves a commitment to continuous, active engagement.
Just as Co-Design requires a willingness to venture into new territories, it also, sometimes, requires a readiness to compromise. Health services have to work within the restraints of what they can and cannot do (as defined by policy and ethics guidelines, and limits on resources) and consumers have their own capacity restraints.
If everyone is open to new ideas and compromise, then solutions can be developed to make genuine progress towards improving consumers’ health and wellbeing.
Every consumer, carer and family is different and the level to which they are prepared to engage with clinicians or health professionals will vary from family to family.
Families involved in caring for someone with complex health needs go through different stages as they come to terms with the realities of managing the condition that has impacted their lives. Inevitably different families will be affected very differently, and will progress through different stages in their own ways and in their own time. Many find their lives are an emotional rollercoaster, involving periods of managing well and others of not managing so well as things change over the years.
Co-Design creates opportunities for health professionals to invite individual consumers and carers to actively participate in the process of shaping care and support strategies that address their wants and needs in a way that suits them specifically.
It is the responsibility of clinicians and service providers to take the initiative, and to provide consumers and carers with every possible support and encouragement to participate in this process. This may mean working very carefully with a family to build trust, and developing a relationship with them to gain a better understanding of their life.
Sensitivity and understanding are essential and there will be those who prefer more traditional models of health care. This in itself is a statement about a family’s needs and should be respected.
It is also true that some consumers or carers may form hopes or expectations that simply cannot be met by health service providers. Not everything that every family wants, or hopes for, will be possible. Reinforcing the principles of partnership that underpin Co-Design is important so that everyone involved has a shared goal to collaborate towards realistic, achievable solutions to practical problems, within the limits of available resources.