Using “design thinking” to improve health care

Groups naturally coalesce to solve problems


Health care workers creating innovations by applying “design thinking” – “a human-centered approach to innovation” that comes from the business world – is a growing trend, according to a recent New York Times article.

“With design thinking, the innovations come from those who actually work there, providing feedback to designers to improve the final product,” wrote author Amitha Kalaichandran, MD, MHS.

“Health providers ... are uniquely positioned to come up with fresh solutions to health care problems,” Dr. Kalaichandran wrote. An example at her own hospital: The leader of the trauma team now wears an orange vest, clearly identifying who’s in charge in a potentially chaotic situation. It was an idea created by a hospital nurse.

“A 2016 report that looked at ways in which a health system can implement design thinking identified three principles behind the approach: empathy for the user, in this case a patient, doctor or other health care provider; the involvement of an interdisciplinary team; and rapid prototyping of the idea,” she wrote. “To develop a truly useful product, a comprehensive understanding of the problem the innovation aims to solve is paramount.”

In design thinking, described as creative, multidisciplinary thinking around a problem, groups naturally coalesce to find such solutions. The article cites examples such as Clinicians for Design, an international group of providers focused on improving hospital layouts, and Health Design by Us, a collaborative group that supports health care innovations such as a mobile system for diabetes management, designed by a patient.


Kalaichandran A. Design thinking for doctors and nurses. The New York Times. Aug. 3, 2017. Accessed Aug. 7, 2017.

Next Article:

   Comments ()