Better designed health systems makes good business sense. Using design and design thinking as a way to improve patient experience and practitioners' performance means fewer costs to encumber an already beleaguered system and more opportunities for entrepreneurial activity. As a practitioner of design thinking, I always appreciate getting affirmation about the value of this creative and strategic problem solving process in fields such as health care. I was invited to give a talk at the Mayo Clinic's 2015 Transform conference about creativity and three things we need to stop doing immediately in health care. I came back home endowed with so many inspiring ideas that are making their way into the health care sector.

Here is some of what I learned. 

1. Modular health. There is quite a bit of design thinking going on at the Mayo Clinic's Center for Innovation and Multidisciplinary Design facilitated by their impressive roster of service designers. The fact that they are a physician-led organization, supported by health administrators--versus the other way around--is a refreshing paradigm shift. Most hospital organizations are administrator-led, supported by physicians. This is a subtle difference with huge ramifications in patient experience. Additionally, getting a tour of the Well Living Lab, the first human-centered research facility that examines how our physical structures impact health, was pretty awesome.

2. Human conversations rule. Being on the ground and looking into the eyes of those who need healing most--but may not know how to access it--is extremely powerful. Dr. America Bracho told us in her rousing talk about "promotores," which are community health coaches found in many Latino neighborhoods throughout the United States. It is a transferable model that many organizations, communities, and businesses can follow. Additionally, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris shared her brilliant and practical application of the Adverse Childhood Experience (or ACE) framework to pivot childhood environmental health conditions in underserved communities. And Sonja Batten of Booz Allen reminded us of the ways we can access the mental health needs of veterans in ways that make it easier for them to heal from trauma they have experienced.

3. Inserting play into difficult situations. Common Practice is a collective of designers and physicians that help people have difficult conversations about end-of-life choices. In one breakout session at Transform, hundreds of attendees gathered to play their game My Gift of Grace. Never before have I seen so many people smiling while chatting about what song they want played at their funeral!

4. Systemic challenges need design. Mario Schlosser, CEO of the startup health insurance company Oscar, shared creative ways his company has used technology to truly meet human needs in really delightful and simple ways. Oh, that more health insurance companies went to the people to identify what would make sense to us in navigating an opaque health care system. Equally promising was Bon Ku's Pecha Kucha sharing of ways that Jefferson University is integrating design thinking and business skills into its MD degree programs.

5. Go out to the margins to gain insight about the future. Rachel Maguire of the Institute for the Future demonstrated this idea when she discussed the value of reinventing the prison system and framed it as a public health issue. And as behavioral economist Dan Ariely explained, sometimes we do not even need to go so far afield to identify how to adjust for the future. It is often just a matter of reframing irrational behavior in very simple and rational terms.

6. We are natural hackers. Jose Gomez-Marquez and his Little Devices lab at MIT has come up with ways to bring the tinkering and hacking that nurses naturally do on their own into the spotlight and foreground. And John Costik, co-founder of "CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) in the Cloud," figured out work-arounds with parents who, like him, have diabetic children to identify simpler and transparent ways to help these children manage a chronic disease and have a childhood. And during the Transform conference, other entrepreneurs competed for two $50,000 awards for their startup ideas to improve health care in the Mayo Clinic's Think Big Challenge.

7. Story is still king. John Hockenberry is a master curator of story--we were gifted with NPR's The Takeaway host to moderate the entire conference, tying together loose and tangential ends. Storyteller and playwright Kevin Kling and musician Jill Sobule reminded us that laughter is medicine and illustrator MK Czerwiec's visualization of the entire three days brought home that we are physiologically wired to be visual thinkers.

8. Mindfulness can be easy! It was a real gift to attend Amit Sood's mindfulness session, because he removed all the mysterious trappings of meditation and gave us five simple and quick ways to practice compassion, gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness everyday. I posed to my graduate students in the Strategic Design MBA program the question, "What might our businesses look like if these principles were integrated into the way we treat employees and clients?" Something to ponder.

There are a lot of people shifting the paradigm about what healing looks like, about how we can access wellness- and the ramifications on our society, our organizations and the way we work are endless. A shift in focus away from disease and illness, to one focused on health and wellness makes good business sense.

 

Published on: Oct 23, 2015