A prototype is a rough draft of an improvement.
Many kinds of prototypes are used throughout improvement work (ranging from a simple verbal description of the improvement through to a full mock-up).
Prototypes can even be made just to help you learn. The key with all prototypes is to be clear about what you need to learn and who from.
Prototyping simply means using a 'rough draft' of an improvement or a touchpoint to learn more about it. Prototyping for services can seem difficult because they rely on intangible processes, such as relationships with people. For example, patients want to experience intangible touchpoints such as warm smiles, informative conversations and helpful actions. But in fact processes typically involve many tangible touchpoints, such as letters, gowns, signage and information booklets.
There are two broad types of prototyping, the first for intangible elements and the second for tangible ones.
Why use it
Prototyping can be used to test new processes, products or services to see if they will work.
When to use it
Prototyping is used throughout the design process. Early prototypes (such as concepts, descriptions, sketches and diagrams) are very useful for learning more about ideas and how best to develop them further. Later prototypes (such as drafts, role plays or physical mock-ups) are critical for making sure improvements are working as they should to improve patient experiences. Prototyping is a very useful way of engaging in learning with stakeholders and stimulating creativity.
In co-design work it is important not to spend a lot of time and money on individual prototypes. When working with stakeholders, a prototype only needs to be good enough for everyone to learn from.