With approximately over 37,000 deaths predicted in British Columbia (BC) annually, only 55% of BC adults have a current and legal Will. It’s a tough topic to broach with loved ones when it comes to death, but it’s necessary as we will all die one day. Having to deal with the loss of a loved one is already difficult, but then there is the added effort of notifying the BC Government.
To relieve citizens from the stress of this difficult time while modernizing and streamlining its operations, the BC Government brought cross-ministry design teams together to work on this initiative.
Ultimately, the government isn’t currently structured to best meet citizen needs when one of their loved ones die. It falls to the next of kin to do the hard work, having to communicate between many of the governmental departments (driver’s license, healthcare, and social services) to name a small few. Surrendering a deceased person's ID card or receiving a notification letter a year after their death can evoke unwelcome reminders of their loss. The onus is on the next of kin to do the time consuming work navigating the process during this stressful time.
This is why the BC Government saw value in applying service design and its holistic approach during this process. Harmonesse was chosen to facilitate this approach, speaking to citizens who recently experienced the death of a loved one and understanding their needs and pain points when notifying the province of a loved one’s death.
For user research, Harmonesse held in-depth interviews with next of kin, held phone interviews with Service BC front-line staff, facilitated a cross-discipline workshop with stakeholders, and spoke with funeral directors and death doulas to gain a better understanding of citizens’ needs.
From the research, a few insights such as how people were uncertain of what to do next, how death was rarely discussed hence many citizens had to learn as they went along, and experiencing the disconnect and inconsistent message about notifying the right people arose.
Although there are common steps of dealing with a death (getting a death certificate, planning a funeral, managing the will, and closing accounts), the speed, social and emotional effects can widely vary between next of kin. An expected death such as someone with terminal illness versus a sudden death such as a car accident, or a vulnerable person with disabilities dealing with a death can show the variety in circumstances. And depending on the type of death, each person’s experience would indicate the different levels and types of support they require.
From these insights, inspiring principles and concepts were developed that could help citizens around these pain points and encourage government teams to work closer together.
With a large citizens’ experience map to aid in the understanding of the current state of death and next of kin journey, seven core experience principles developed. Such insights and improvements included providing awareness in advance, reducing the steps it takes to notify the government of the death, and making the process clear for everyone involved.
The death of a loved one is painful enough on any citizen, let alone having to handle all the financial and practical matter after the fact. If we can help reduce the stress and effort citizens need to experience during this difficult time, it would go a long way to ensure every citizen is supported.
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