Solving Health Care Problems By Design
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And consumer goods, like digital book readers, require product designers. Those are the people who make goods functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Design firm IDEO is known for its cutting-edge bicycles and other common things, like your computer mouse. Lately, IDEO staff have been redesigning health care. They worked with Kaiser Permanente to improve patient care. Now they're involved with the Centers for Disease Control on a project to combat childhood obesity.
We spoke with IDEO's CEO, Tim Brown.
Mr. TIM BROWN (CEO, IDEO; Author, "Change By Design"): One of the problems I think we have in health care is that we tend to be thinking about how do we select from the existing choices that we already have, the existing approaches that we already have? The role of design thinking is to help create new alternatives, new choices, things that we haven't had before, ideas that we haven't had before. And it starts with focusing on people, which is the same thing whether you're designing a computer mouse or you're interested in childhood obesity; it starts with people and then applies creative tools to deliver the solution.
MONTAGNE: What's an example of a very simple change that was made based on design?
Mr. BROWN: Well, one of the first experiences we had was working for a health care system in Minnesota called the DePaul Health Care system, where they were interested in how to improve the emergency room experience? For anybody that's gone through an emergency room, we've all had that chaotic, confused, what's-going-on-around-us kind of experience.
So one very simple idea - this was one of many ideas that got implemented - was each of the various people, the health care people in the emergency room: the doctors, the nurses, the charge nurses, the porters, we designed these very simple kind of uniforms for them to wear so that it was really clear who was who. And it even said it on big graphics on their uniforms, so that you weren't asking a nurse the question you might be asking a doctor or you weren't asking a porter a question you might ask a doctor.
MONTAGNE: Was it hard to implement, say, this change you're talking about and others? I mean tendency is for organizations to be quite fixed in how they do things.
Mr. BROWN: Well, this is where the participation of the people themselves that are going to change in the design of the new approach was key. And we see this all the time, don't we, in larger organizations, that when something's designed on the outside and then pushed into the organization, there's often a lot of resistance. But when you involve the people themselves, then they already own the new solution, and it's so much easier then to get the change to happen.
MONTAGNE: Is there something you couldn't imagine designing that you're not doing right at the moment and maybe not possible, but you think, boy, if you could only get that assignment you could really make something that's not very efficient to really work?
Mr. BROWN: In my view, ultimately we're only going to solve the health care system and make it sustainable if everybody, as consumers or patients or citizens end up managing a lot more of our own health care, just like we have done with our personal finances and many other parts of our lives. If that's going to happen, then we're going to have to design much better ways for us to monitor what's going on and manage all of that information.
So one of the things I'd love to design is the sort of electronic medical record of the future that belongs to the patient, that not belonging to the doctor, that includes ways of keeping track of our blood pressure or our heart, all those other things that we need to as we get older and that we're trying to prevent some of these chronic diseases.
MONTAGNE: And presumably, it's easy to read and understand.
Mr. BROWN: Exactly.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. BROWN: It was delightful to be here. Thank you very much.
MONTAGNE: Tim Brown is the author of the new book called "Change By Design."
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