Case study

Reimagining a community health clinic


the challenge

A passionate team of doctors were given a unique opportunity to open a primary health community clinic that would deliver a team-based approach to primary health care aimed at servicing underserved populations in a BC community. They partnered with (n)Design to design a new model that is both community-led and community-driven.
Healthcare in British Columbia is facing several challenges, particularly for individuals seeking to find a family doctor. An estimated one in five residents, nearly a million people, do not have a family doctor, indicating a significant issue in accessing primary healthcare services.
This shortage is part of a broader health-care crisis, which includes also other systemic issues affecting the overall healthcare system. Underserved populations feel these challenges even more intensely, putting even more institutional pressure on already vulnerable populations.
These populations also require a more holistic type of care than is typically offered through family practice.Team-based approaches to primary care have been shown to provide clear benefits and the team wanted to design a clinic that tailored this model to the unique needs of their community.
As part of a complex strategy to address these challenges, the BC Government supported a team of doctors and other health care professionals to design and pilot a different approach to primary health care, a community-led clinic.
"Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with our community. No one has ever asked us what we need before."

solving the right problem

Accurately identifying and framing the problem to be solved prevents wasting time and resources on solving the wrong problems, enhances the effectiveness of the design solutions, and increases the likelihood of meeting or exceeding user expectations.

Guiding Questions

  1. What are the systemic challenges for healthcare in BC? In Canada?

  2. Who will our clinic be serving? What are each of their unique needs?

  3. How can we integrate the needs of our community with the team-based model of primary healthcare?

  4. What are the core driving principles of our community health clinic? What must we do in practice to serve these principles?


The team realised that a community health clinic is not only a physical space — it's about knowing the people who'll use it and the problems they face. We needed to see the big picture, including the social, geographic, and cultural issues that affect the health of the communities the clinic would support.


A systemic design approach was key for success.It allowed the team to identify not just the problems but also why they exist.

By understanding the root causes, we could make a health clinic that really helps—both now and in the future.

It's about creating a place that can evolve as the community's needs do.


From the outset, getting feedback from the community was vitally important. People in the area know best what they need when it comes to their health.

By listening to members of the community, we could make sure the clinic works well for everyone, respects cultural needs, and would become a place people can trust.

It's all about creating a clinic that's there for everyone.

Key Insight

In British Columbia, every community is different, with their own cultures, health issues, and needs. A health clinic that understands and meets these diverse needs can make a huge difference.

solving the problem RIGHT

Once we connected with the community and completed our systemic design process, we had a clear understanding of the various constraints, pain points, and opportunities for intervention that all contributed to the ultimate design of the clinic itself.

A Principles-Based Approach & Strategy

The team broke out the launch of the clinic into two phases: (1)pre-opening staff training; (2) launch and community connection.

Importantly, the team defined a set of core principles to guide these phases and created several key objectives connected to these principles to drive the clinic’s initial operations.

 The Intended Change
That Was Achieved
The clinic had a soft opening in late 2023 and is slowly ramping up services for a more formal opening in Spring 2024. Already, the clinic is full of astounding stories of team-based collaboration around health care delivery and the creation of new types of community-driven positions, like the Indigenous Health Care Navigator. Future plans include a Community Advisory Panel to connect clinic staff to the community and the development of co-created programming.

Tools & Methods

System Mapping
Systemic Design
User Research
Service Design
Developmental Evaluation
System Force Analysis
Causal Loop Diagrams
Information Design
Stakeholder Facilitation
Value Proposition Canvas
Participatory Action Research

Contact Us

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We acknowledge that we reside and operate on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Sqilx’w/Syilx (Okanagan) peoples. We are grateful to all Indigenous communities for their stewardship of this land and for sharing it with us.