Improving Primary Care with Human-Centered Design and Partnership-Based Leadership


  • May-Lynn Andresen Quality in Health Care Advisory Group
  • Teddie M Potter University of Minnesota - Twin Cities



activation, engagement, empowerment, empowering leadership behaviors, health care, human-centered design thinking, leadership, partnership


Objective: The purpose of this quality improvement project was to empower and activate first-line staff (FLS) to improve the six-month depression remission rate in a primary care clinic.

Background: Lack of workforce engagement has been identified as an emerging national problem in health care and health care leaders have urged practice redesign to foster the Triple Aim of improved population health, improved care experience, and reduced cost of care (Berwick et al., 2008). Depression is difficult to manage and often exacerbates chronic illnesses and shortens lifespans, yet despite known effective treatments, six-month remission rates are low and care practices are often inadequate. Engaging in empowering leadership behaviors has demonstrated improvement in motivation, work outcomes, and empowerment in various industry settings across the world. Core approaches include: enhancing staff self-determination, encouraging participation in decision-making, and ensuring that staff have the knowledge and tools to achieve their performance goals, in addition to leadership communications that increase confidence in staff’s potential to perform at high levels, and their recognition that their efforts have an impact on improving organizational effectiveness.

Methods: In this outpatient setting, care was siloed, staff were disengaged and a hierarchical paradigm was evident. Human-centered design principles were employed to intensively explore stakeholders’ experiences and to deeply engage end users in improving depression remission rates by creating, participating, and partnering in solutions. Leadership was educated in and deployed empowering leadership behaviors, which were synergistic with design thinking, and fostered empowerment.

Results: Pre- and post-surveys demonstrated statistically significant improvement in empowerment. The six-month depression remission rate increased 167%, from 7.3% (N=261) to 19.4% (N=247).

Conclusion: The convergence of empowering leadership behaviors and human-centered design, offers great promise for improved patient outcomes, staff empowerment, and promotion of partnership.




How to Cite

Andresen, M.-L., & Potter, T. M. (2017). Improving Primary Care with Human-Centered Design and Partnership-Based Leadership. Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies, 4(2).