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DSI Alum Swar Raisinghani is Creating Better Patient-Centered Healthcare Systems

“I love it!”

Swar Raisinghani, a graduate of DSI’s Class of ’15, is a Service Designer at the New York office of the global design and innovation consultancy Veryday, originally founded in Sweden almost 30 years ago. At Veryday, Swar is working to design a support service experience for patients with Alzheimer’s, a long-term and complex project.

Swar is involved in all aspects of the work, from research planning though journey mapping, concept development and deployment. Veryday employs a holistic, human-centered design approach, looking at the entire system to understand the unmet needs of all the stakeholders, which for this project includes patients, caregivers, payers, and healthcare providers. Swar is making sure that the touch points in the experience are designed based on a user-centered approach. “One of the things I gained from DSI is an understanding that whatever you’re designing is based on the needs of the stakeholders, the people whose lives the service is going to affect.”  This can be very difficult – on a project such as this one there are many moving parts, and as a service designer, Swar’s role is to understand them all. Success requires developing insights into behaviors, emotions, decisions and needs, to open up new opportunities, and spark innovation.

At DSI, Swar partnered with fellow student Pragya Mishra on her thesis, for which they designed a better patient experience in government hospitals in India. “We knew we wanted to choose an issue in India because we knew the cultural context better.” Both Swar and Pragya’s fathers are doctors; having grown up seeing how doctors work and the challenges they face, this was an issue close to their hearts.

Swar emphasizes that when looking at human behavior, it’s vital to understand the cultural context and nuances that affect this behavior.  Specifically, their thesis project, GoodGuides, tackled the issue of long waiting times: a patient waits for an average of 4-6 hours to meet a doctor for just 4-6 minutes. Swar admits that at the beginning, this topic seemed intimidating as the challenges are so complex, but navigating that is now helping her to navigate other real-life challenges. Her DSI experience left her feeling more confident and equipped with the right tools for her role at Veryday. The Alzheimer’s project Swar is working on right now is also a global project, so being able to learn from and understand affected people in different countries is vital. “Working on a global scale is a challenge, as you have to learn to see things from other peoples’ perspectives.”

Swar graduated from a 5-year undergraduate degree in graphic design at the MIT Institute of Design, Pune, India, and had interned at advertising and design agencies before coming to DSI. She says that learning about social innovation design helped her understand her own goals. “When I discovered DSI I learned that’s exactly what I wanted to do…I felt in my work I was always pushing to think about and include social context. DSI presented me with the path to do this.”

Swar also had a personal connection to DSI, having studied at the same college as DSI alum Tanya Bhandari (Class of ’14). They would get together while Swar was interning at an NYC design agency, and Swar took up an invitation to attend the DSI global guest lectures, and then came along to a DSI open house. She found she loved the experience and the people she was meeting, even though, as she admits, “I wasn’t planning to study any more” – she actually first came to SVA to drop off an application for her brother to a different program, but ended up applying to DSI herself.

As a newcomer attending the global guest lectures and meeting DSI students and faculty, Swar says what was most striking was how genuinely nice people were. These first impressions stayed true when she joined the program as a student. Swar also believes the diverse mix of students gives DSI a unique quality. “I felt like the program was so culturally enriched just by the fact that in class, there were 20 people from different countries with different opinions and perspectives…Personally I felt I was introduced to such amazing people and they are such good friends now.”

Of her student cohort, Swar says, “We’d always celebrate each others birthdays, and if someone was struggling to think through an issue, we’d work together to solve each other’s problems.” Swar noted that in some design agencies it’s so easy to feel competitive, but that “I never felt that edge of competitiveness or envy at DSI. Our attitude was always: ‘tell us what you’re stuck on and we’ll help you out’ – and we still do it!” Although the class of ’15 is now spread out across different cities, they remain in close touch. “If someone has an issue – our attitude is still ‘let’s sort this out together!’ ”

So what is Swar’s best advice for anyone thinking of coming to DSI?  “Make the most of the program in your own way, and truly connect with the people you meet.”  As she is discovering, they will be your lifelong network.

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