Design Thinking en salud

Design Thinking in Healthcare

Great advances in healthcare through Design Thinking

The health field has undergone major changes over the last decades, especially by technological advances achieved during these last years. This evolution has improved diagnostic procedures and surgeries, the manufacture of pharmaceutical products, health strategies promotion and disease prevention.

Despite the many benefits that these advances represent, the practice of medicine has become more complex because have to take into account factors that previously were not counted, such as the patient experience. Nowadays big steps are being made in Spain, for instance, this year we visited Madrid to celebrate the First Congress of Patient Experience, and in September the  Expatient Barcelona Congress will take place in Barcelona which will cover the same topic.

That is why speaking about health not only involves talking about diseases but also and especially, talking about people and experiences. Although the health system still has much to improve, strategies and thoughts on how we should improve health, from sanitary management to the medical development teams and devices for patients, and put the focus on people. And if there are any professionals who have been dealing with people and their needs, those are the designers.

The Design Thinking in Healthcare


As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, the methodology of design thinking is a process of systematic innovation that prioritizes empathy for end users, paying particular attention to their wants and needs, in order to fully understand the problem, develop solutions more effectively and comprehensively and adapted to the end user’s needs. This is why the Design Thinking has been increasingly used in the health field.

Considering the current problems of our society (economic crisis, cutouts, politics …) and the complexity of our healthcare system (plus the big competitiveness in the private healthcare sector) if an organization wants to become a successful health system they must be able to innovate in providing services, transcending all geographical, political or sectoral frontiers.

Design Thinking can bring the integration of more creative approaches, interdisciplinary and focused on people to health professionals, which will help in improving the health management and innovation in this sector.

Design Thinking benefits for the patient


The benefits the Design thinking vision can bring to healthcare are many, but the benefits related to patients are probably those that cause more social concern, precisely because it is something that affects us all, because at some point in our life will have to go through that.

Among the benefits design thinking application has brought to healthcare, we can highlight the user experience improvement when interacting with machines (reducing anxiety and fear), the improvement of the professional-user communication (the doctor-patient communication or pharmacist-consumer) or the increase of comfort and mobility of patients. All these benefits can be proven in a series of real examples:

Some of the first applications of Design Thinking in healthcare were carried out by the company GE Healthcare, they not only applied this methodology to the innovation and development of new instruments and medical tools, but also on patient experience.


Doug Dietz was one of the pioneers applying design thinking in this regard. Doug is an industrial designer who worked for the company for over 20 years. He created a revolutionary machine for magnetic resonances (MRI) that, technologically speaking, was a huge medical breakthrough. However, he found that people (and especially children) suffer fear and authentic anxiety attacks every time they have to use his machine. From his patients’ experience, Doug proposed to redesign the look of the machine as well as the room where the resonances were made, until the point of converting his invention on a spaceship or on a pirate ship. This transformed the process of making a magnetic resonance into an authentic gaming experience for children.

Another example of patient experience is the redesign of patient costume, which used to be quite uncomfortable for users, especially for the timidest. Thus, using design thinking they were redesigned in order they could be used both inside and outside the hospital without embarrassment

It is also well known the case of a design that eliminates the need to use the supports for serum by encapsulating the device in a portable bag, which facilitates the mobility of patients with cancer and other diseases within the hospital.

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