Redesigning a Rehabilitation Space to Increase Patient Motivation

Catalina Bonavia | 13 July 2023


What if healthcare were driven by the patient experience instead of by policies? A Physical Rehabilitation Clinic I worked with did exactly that. In this blog, we'll explore how service design can transform healthcare experiences and outcomes for both patients and healthcare providers, all while respecting policies and ensuring quality.

Take 30 seconds to think about the last time you visited a healthcare facility as a patient.

How was your experience? How were the outcomes? Did you feel supported, engaged, and motivated to work and get better? Why is that?

Healthcare is often driven by policies. Don’t get me wrong, policies are there for a reason, but I believe that we can provide patients with so much more when we design healthcare experiences and spaces with the patient at the heart of the experience (at the risk of sounding cliche).

Service design, when used correctly, can have a transformative power in redesigning healthcare experiences and outcomes. In the dynamic and ever-evolving field of healthcare, providing an exceptional customer experience, improving processes, and ensuring high-quality care are paramount.

In this blog, we’ll explore how a service design approach can drive remarkable enhancements in these areas, ultimately benefiting both customers and healthcare providers – while respecting policies and ensuring quality. This is what a great teacher I had would call a win-win-win!

A few years ago, I worked with a Physical Rehabilitation Clinic that wanted to improve the experience of their customers and staff members to ensure better outcomes for their rehab customers. They noticed that patients weren’t motivated when entering the space and staff were bored of doing the same thing over and over again.

One thing was top of mind for my team: in healthcare, it’s crucial to create an environment that not only facilitates physical healing but also nurtures emotional well-being – that was a non-negotiable for us if we were to take on this project.

By adopting a service design mindset, the team reimagined this space and developed an experience that surpassed expectations, making the journey towards recovery as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Here’s an outline of what we did:


Understanding the problem

To embark on this journey of transformation, we began by comprehensively understanding the current state of the rehabilitation experience. Through interviews, observations, and careful analysis, we identified pain points, bottlenecks, and challenges faced by both patients and staff. By unravelling these issues, we laid the foundation for meaningful change.

Some of the insights the team found included:

  • When patients exercised outdoors, they felt better and more motivated, so they worked harder and improved quicker than when they exercised indoors
  • Physios were frustrated. They felt they couldn’t give their patients the best experience because of the limitations of the space and the equipment
  • For the clinic, the service ended when patients went home. For patients, however, that was just the beginning of their new life


Designing lasting solutions

Service design principles then guided us in our quest to improve customer experience, streamline processes, and ensure quality care. We mapped customer journeys to identify crucial touchpoints where improvements can be made. We also ran co-design workshops with patients, physios, and support staff.

By enhancing the patient experience, we aimed to create a rehabilitation space that felt warm, welcoming, and comfortable. We transformed the physical environment, carefully designing equipment, optimising layouts, and creating opportunities to adapt the equipment and the routines for each patient.

The design phase made use of a combination of experience design, service design, and industrial design skills to make it a state-of-the-art space.

two photos, the left showing the rehab cage before the change, with a cold, tile floor. On the right, it's in a bright room and looks less like a cage

The rehab cage, before and after


Making it stick

Just working on the space and the rehab experience itself wasn’t enough. You know you can have a beautiful space but still not achieve efficiencies and best outcomes for patients. That’s why we focused on three elements: process, quality, and adoption.

Process improvement was a vital aspect of our service design approach. By analysing existing workflows, we identified inefficiencies, redundancies, and bottlenecks. Through process mapping, automation, and digitisation, we streamlined operations and enhanced efficiency, enabling smoother transitions and reducing wait times. This meant, for example, creating storage spaces close to each working station, and improving the booking system to allow for greater flexibility while ensuring optimal use of space at any given time.

Equally important was the focus on quality. Implementing robust quality management systems allowed us to monitor and evaluate service delivery, ensuring adherence to the highest standards. Feedback mechanisms enable us to capture customer satisfaction and address areas for improvement promptly. Additionally, investing in staff training and empowerment guaranteed that each member of the rehabilitation team was equipped to deliver exceptional care and service.

Finally (and probably unsurprisingly if you’ve been following Three6), adoption was the key essential ingredient. Adoption can make or break any design. No matter how detailed and beautiful it is, if people don’t adopt it, you’ve wasted your time and money. To ensure adoption, we worked with team members throughout the process, involving them in key decision points, understanding their needs and expectations, and ensuring that they were as central to the process and the design as the patients were.

a series of 7 images showing the re-designed medical equipment, with brighter colours and a friendlier-looking, curvy design

Photos of the design of both the space and the equipment


At Three6, we work every day to change the world for the better, one idea at a time. We strongly believe that there’s a lot of work to be done in the care sector to ensure every person in Australia feels cared for and supported to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Join us on this journey, exploring the immense potential of service design in elevating the care space.

If you’re ready to uplift your clients’ experience, contact us below or reach out to us at

Together, we’ll uncover innovative solutions, celebrate success stories, and inspire the future of healthcare design.

Let’s change healthcare together!