Changing Experiences through Empathy – The Adventure Series


Diagnostic imaging procedures are cutting-edge technology, but at the same time they are an unpleasant experience for patients – and even more for pediatric patients. Doug Dietz is an industrial designer, working for GE healthcare since more than 20 years. He remembered the first time when he saw a little girl who was crying on her way to a scanner that was designed by him. Doug suddenly saw the situation with the eyes of the girl. “The room itself is kind of dark and has those flickering fluorescent lights”, he remembers in his TED talk. He adds “that machine that I had designed basically looked like a brick with a hole in it.”


A new challenge was born. How could one create a scanner experience that children would love?

Approach / Insight

In their book on Creative Confidence the brothers Tom and David Kelley recall how Doug Dietz tried to find new inspiration for this project by trying out design thinking. He went to Stanford’s for a workshop.

“The workshop offered Doug new tools that ignited his creative confidence: He learned about a human-centered approach to design and innovation. […] Going through the human-centered design process with people in diverse industries and roles—from management to human resources to finance—struck a chord in him. “I started to imagine how powerful this tool could be if I brought it back and got cross-functional teams to work together.

[…] He started by observing and gaining empathy for young children at a day care center. He talked to child life specialists to understand what pediatric patients went through. He reached out for help from people around him, including a small volunteer team from GE, experts from a local children’s museum, and doctors and staff from two hospitals. Next, he created the first prototype of what would become the “Adventure Series” scanner and was able to get it installed as a pilot program in the children’s hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.”

(Cited from )


This is what Doug Dietz invented after his user research:

GE-Adventure Series – The Pirate Room

“In the Pirate Adventure, a visual transformation of the equipment that was available before, patients are on a dock. There is a shipwreck and some sand castles in the corner. Children then work on the plank to be scanned.  The Coral City Adventure in the emergency room gives children an underwater experience. It has a disco ball that makes light like bubbles around the room; children get into a yellow submarine and listen to the sound of harps whilst the procedure takes place.  The Cozy Camp gives children the chance to be scanned in a specialized sleeping bag, under a starry sky in an impressive camp setting.”

(Cited from the Newsroom of GE Healthcare)


Some positive impacts derive from Doug Dietz’ Adventure Series. First of all, the patient satisfaction scores went up 90 percent. Children do not suffer of anxiety anymore. Instead some of them even ask their parents if they can come back tomorrow. It makes it easier for children to hold still during the procedure what in turn prevents the doctors from having to repeat the scan. This less need for anaesthesiologists meant more patients could get scanned each day, which heavily impacts the financial side of the equation.

The experience of joy and play during the scan also took away the fear from parents. As Doug Dietz puts it: “If you got the child you got the parent, and if you got the parent, you got the child.” He now trains other GE employees to use design thinking and innovation methods in their teams.

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