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An International View on Human-Centered Healthcare

September 17, 2020

The New School’s Human-Centered Healthcare certificate is attracting students from around the world. Tiina Hahto, a service designer from Finland, offers her perspective on the importance of this specialized field and how the certificate can make a difference for citizens globally.

“The idea behind human-centered healthcare is to put the customer at the center,” says Hahto, who is sponsored by her employer, the City of Helsinki. She said the robust content and the online coursework attracted her to the program at The New School. “It’s very specific for healthcare. I was immediately interested in [taking] it.” 

Although Finland has a public healthcare system, there is still a need to acquire services from the private sector, and Hahto’s work revolves around this overlap between public and private. 

“When we have to buy something from the private sector, we figure out—with service design methods—what we should require from the service provider to make the service better for customers. Those customer insights can be applied in the private sector as well as in our own services.” Hahto explained. 

In Hahto’s workplace, “customer” can refer to anyone from a hospital patient to an average citizen. Working with disabled housing residents, Hahto implemented a “customer jury,” allowing residents to evaluate the service and care they received. Because of the large stakeholder group and the funds involved, Hahto says many of her other human-centered healthcare projects can take years to show results. 

A "classic" service design workshop where Tiina Hahto used Post-its to map out designs. 

Hahto graduated from Aalto University with a master’s in Information and Service Management and a minor in Strategy and Experience Design. She completed a study abroad program at Queen’s University in Canada but says The New School is her first experience with a university in the U.S. Because of the time difference, many of the Human-Centered Healthcare certificate live sessions are in the middle of the night for Hahto, but she takes advantage of the one-to-one meetings with professors and the online videos, all while juggling her job for the City of Helsinki. 

The certificate might point out differences in the U.S. healthcare system for many international students like Hahto.

“The states are a bit ahead. Innovation is a bit easier with private healthcare,” Hahto says. 

“Service design is still quite new to the public sector in Finland…There isn’t that much money because everything is tax-based. However, when you’re still working within those limits, and the effect is good, you can affect all citizens of Helsinki.”

Hahto hopes that the certificate differentiates her from others and offers her new methods for her work. 

“That’s why I like my job. I feel like there is a meaning behind my job and there is an actual effect. A meaning and value.

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