Step 2: Gain concrete experience

Once a target group of interest has been selected, the key is to identify the needs of the target group and understand the experience they face, for example in coping with their health condition. As this forms the first phase of Kolb’s cycle, the ‘divergent’ phase, emphasis is on having as broad an experience as possible to avoid any options being shut down too soon. Below are three suggestions for how concrete experience can be undertaken. These methods are highly complementary so could be undertaken alongside one another to provide a solid foundation for the development of a project:

Map the care process

Every health condition carries with it a necessary ‘process’ that people with the health condition follow. A process map is a visual representation of the multidisciplinary system of events that occur for a person through the process of their care. These processes can range from formal stages in a treatment model that get followed closely by people with specific diagnoses, to broader and looser types of activity that somebody with a health condition engages in, such as appointments with their local doctor, routine medications, and visits to hospital for scans or treatments such as surgery. These processes also differ between countries and regions and even within specific health conditions depending on the age of the person, the severity of their condition, and other factors such as their healthcare insurance policies. Even if an intervention is being planned for staff or members of the ‘healthy’ general public, it will be important to understand their routines and the people and places with which they might engage. Although each person may follow a slightly different process, there will often be certain similarities in the activities they undertake.

Understanding these broad routes is important as it allows the identification of timepoints at which problems or challenges might exist. For example, it might show if treatment is particularly complicated or painful at any particular point, if patient experience is known to fall short of expected standards during part of the process, or if there are aspects of people’s physical or psychological recovery that are not fully supported. Some arts interventions may be appropriate for very specific parts of a person’s care, whereas others may be the sort of activity that people can engage with on a regular basis throughout their treatment. It is also useful to gather data on the numbers of patients involved in care processes to assess the extent of a potential target group.

Information on care processes can be gathered from a range of sources including healthcare professionals who are involved with the target participant group, from patient-facing literature on health conditions such as leaflets or websites, from national documents mapping patient care, from institution- specific protocols on intranets or with divisional managers, or from patients themselves. Even if the proposed intervention has already been conceptualized for a specific section of a care process for a particular patient group, it can still be important to go back and undertake a care process analysis to confirm that the proposed project is being timed for the most appropriate moment in that process or to ascertain whether it could have value if it is offered at additional points of care as well.

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