Human-Centric Design in Heathcare/Pharma


To have examples of successful applications of human-centric, which is essentially "patient-centric", design in healthcare that have resulted in re-invented products, services or business processes. To see examples from the pharmaceutical industry, as well as health/healthcare examples.

Early Findings

  • An alternative emerging at healthcare institutions worldwide is human-centered design and co-creation, a set of approaches that can accelerate and humanize healthcare innovation. This model isn’t just about getting greater patient feedback during the innovation process. Patients are co-designers, co-developers, and increasingly more responsible for their own and collective health outcomes.

The Helix (Healthcare Innovation Exchange) Center

  • The Helix (Healthcare Innovation Exchange) Center opened in 2014 to respond to increasing pressures on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Helix is a pop-up design studio in the courtyard of one of London’s busiest hospitals, St Mary’s, an institution with a legacy of innovation, including the discovery of penicillin. It is a joint project between the Royal College of Art and Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London where designers and engineers can work in close contact with clinicians to identify challenges and provide solutions. This is the first time within the NHS that designers, engineers and clinicians have been brought together to co-create.
  • The fruits of this collaboration are seen in the Helix Centre’s focus on end of life care, where the recent launch of Amber Care Plans gives patients a simple and effective way to plan their own care and make sure their wishes are known and respected.
  • The studio has also had success, working in close collaboration with the Resuscitation Council, in developing the new emergency care planning ReSPECT form which healthcare professionals are using across the country. New technologies, including innovative and sensitive chat bots and voice services are now in development to help support patients and caretakers in care homes or hospices.
  • A new project around the future of hospice care, looking at the unmet psychosocial care needs of people at the end of life is an embodiment of human-centered design. Other Helix projects include tools to “activate” patients before hysterectomy, involving them in decisions about surgery and post-surgical care and recovery; stroke rehabilitation work; and a pilot in pediatric emergency drug safety.

The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI)

  • The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI) was established in 2008, becoming the first healthcare innovation center to employ a team of in-house designers. Under the banner of the Mayo Clinic motto, “the needs of the patient come first,” it utilizes human-centered design to transform the experience and delivery of healthcare.
  • Interdisciplinary teams of service designers, clinicians, project managers, information technology specialists, innovation coordinators, hospital staff members and patients have undertaken projects including redesigning the clinical exam room, unchanged for 100 years, and creating flagship offerings for connected care including e-consults, video visits and patient applications.
  • A recent successful project involved a collaboration between the Center, Mayo Ob/Gyn staff and patients to improve the prenatal care patient experience. The project involved more than a dozen experiments including in-home monitoring, patient-driven appointments, and online communities. The resulting wellness-focused “OB Nest” integrated care model for low-risk pregnancies, now implemented within obstetrics and gynecology at Mayo, reduces patient visits while improving satisfaction.

The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech)

  • The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech), founded in 2012 and based at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health, brings together multi-disciplinary teams of healthcare and non-healthcare professionals to co-design novel solutions to US and global health challenges through hack-a-thons, awards programs, and business acceleration activities.
  • CAMTech is an open innovation platform now involving a network of over 4,300 engineers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, and designers from over 700 organizations. To source ideas, it often runs two-day hack-a-thons on specific health care challenges.
  • For example, in 2015 the Consortium arranged a global Zika Innovation Hack-a-thon in which 200 innovators developed 15 proposed solutions in 48 hours to help control the virus. In 2016, another event focused on the opioid-use crisis in Massachusetts and resulted in 18 innovation proposals. One hackathon led to the development of the Augmented Infant Resuscitator, an inexpensive add-on to ubiquitous bag valve masks that dramatically improves how birth attendants provide newborn ventilation. The device has recently won a $2 million transition-to-scale grant for trial in Ghana, Uganda, and India, bringing it closer to commercialization.

Additional Early Findings

  • Applying Design Thinking to health care could "enhance innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness by increasing focus on patient and provider needs."
  • Patient centricity is one of the most pressing priorities for healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) organizations. From pharmaceutical companies to urgent care facilities, organizations across the industry are asking how they can prioritize patient outcomes and meet consumers’ expectation for on-demand care delivered on their terms.
  • The HCLS field hasn’t seen a truly patient-centered business model in practice yet, because there isn’t one “North Star” organization in the industry that’s achieved it.
  • “Many pharmaceutical companies have fallen short in developing viable, sustainable digital health programs,” says Tim Davis, VP, digital patient at ERT. Early patient-based apps, for example those focused on simple adherence reminders, have experienced difficulties in providing sufficient value for patients over extended durations."

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