Transplant patient education

Tools to help patients adjust to lifestyle changes after a lung or heart transplant


2021- 2022


Mater transplant team


Mater Hospital Foundation
HSE Spark Innovation


Undergoing a heart or lung transplant is a complex and overwhelming process. After the transplant is complete, patients have to make significant changes to their lifestyle in order to stay healthy. This includes taking an array of medications and strictly avoiding others to stay well.

Managing all of this can be really challenging. The pharmacist, nurse specialists and multidisciplinary team provide many face-to-face information sessions and written information guides to the patient before hospital discharge. Even so, patients often struggle to adapt to the lifestyle and medication changes required of them long- term.

We asked a team of designers to consider: How might we design a solution to better support patients in their adaptation to this new way of life?  


The design process led to:
  • Transplant journey folder - this engaging, accessible resource provides information about the journey to recovery for both patient and carer. It is personalised to each individual’s needs, encouraging the patient to manage their own care at home. The look and feel, as well as the tone of language, focus on comfort and warmth. Quotes from past patients were added to make the resource feel more relatable and reassuring.
  • Pocket medication card - this card is a simple and effective tool that patients carry. It includes important information about medications that can and cannot be taken. This card can be taken out and shown to doctors and pharmacists to minimise the risk of them receiving any medications in error.
  • Supportive signage - posters and screens were added to the clinic waiting room with encouraging quotes from transplant peers. Signage included helpful prompts for patients to ponder as they wait so they can have more fruitful conversations with their medical team.
Staff and patients have told us that the new tools are much easier to navigate and understand, and that they meet the patient’s needs better. They are more engaging for patients particularly because of quotes and case studies from peers who have been through transplant.

These co-designed tools have helped patients better understand the importance of medications and self-care. They can now plan their care needs and ask for the support they need from caregivers. This leads to patients having more confidence to look after themselves well at home and leads to fewer complications which could lead to a readmission to hospital.

"I got a call from the unit today. They were going to prescribe clarithromycin for one of our patients. They prescribe it a lot. The patient pulled out one of  the little medication reminder cards which says that he cannot have clarithromycin, so the GI unit doctor rang for advice on alternatives. The doctor said she had not known about the interactions”

Professor Patricia Ging, Chief Pharmacist, Transplant/Pulmonary Hypertension


Mater Transformation paired the heart and lung transplant team with a design student from NCAD. Led by the designer, the team worked through a collaborative co-design process involving patients, carers and the wider multidisciplinary team.

Applying design methodology, the project began with deep research into the needs, motivations and behaviours of patients following a transplant. Patients reported that the information booklet they received was too big, it didn’t have blank spaces for taking notes, and it tried to cover too much. They felt it would be more relevant and useful if it was smaller and contained more practical information on how to manage themselves at home after the transplant. The need for psychological and peer support also emerged as a theme.

These, and other fresh insights, informed a range of design solutions: an improved education booklet, helpful signage in the clinic, and a compact card that states medication details and hospital contact information.