Human Centered Design for New Models of Wellness and Innovation

Business Innovation FactoryA year ago, in July 2012, Business Innovation Factory (BIF) began a partnership with Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to find “new models of care”, and better serve five counties of children and their families in North Texas.

In this community, families struggle to make a living, and suffer from many chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity. To create transformative, sustainable models of care, Children’s Medical Center needed to move away from “sick care” to a broader focus on “well care”.

“At the Business Innovation Factory, we believe that these models are the product of good human centered design. BIF starts with a strong understanding of how children and their families experience health care within the system as well as in their everyday lives. What are their beliefs, attitudes, and values that influence their experience?”

By focusing on patient experience through the principles of human-centered design, BIF provided insights shared in their foundational research, “Laying the Foundation”.

Elements of Wellness

“What if the path to wellness was approached as a journey to ‘wholeness’? Could this journey inspire persistent, healthy behavioral changes within a family? A community? Across a nation?”

The method behind BIF’s research was to uncover the stories of the families and children, “to crack open the complexity of their lives”, to identify the factors motivating them towards wellness, and the factors working against them in attaining basic health goals. The experiences culminated in five insights around health and wellness:  the need for a balanced proactive outlook, personal power, a system of support, a sense of self, and connected knowledge.

BIF Elements of Wellness

I spoke with Eli Stefanski, who is responsible for engaging people in BIF’s “experience labs” – laboratories for experimenting with new business models and areas of high social impact, including healthcare. Eli is overseeing the work with The Children’s Wellness Experience Lab.

“Often when institutions come at a problem, they come at it through their own lens, through their own set of capabilities … What we do with human centered design is we shift that thinking, so that now they are looking at it through the lens of the families and the children they are trying to serve. A lot of the work that we did was to help Children’s see the world through the eyes of their patients.” – Eli Stefanski

Play or download my interview with Eli Stefanski on SoundCloud, to enjoy the full extent of the conversation and insights:

Connected Knowledge

Access to health information that is meaningful, actionable and trusted is an important part of “connecting knowledge” to wellness. Not only do patients need a trusted relationship with their doctor or someone knowledgeable who can provide reliable health information, but they have to be willing to share their own information and symptoms. To be successful, there has to be a two-way flow of information.

“One of the things we found is that in the doctor’s office that flow of information is actually one-way. The doctor knows best and shares information with the patient. When that trusted relationship isn’t there, the patient is less willing to share information with the doctor. They are also less willing to share information with a parent, so the parent isn’t able to share information with the doctor. There are a variety of relationships which are really important in how well families are able to act in service of their own health.” – Eli Stefanski

Healthcare technology can play a much more powerful role.

The families in BIF’s study were found to have access to the Internet, access to a lot of television, and access to mobile phones. The Internet was one of many sources of information patients would go to if they didn’t have a trusted relationship with their doctor. However, if they had that trust, patients were less likely to go outside of that relationship to seek out information.

An interesting finding is that patients “googling” for information were not able to distinguish paid advertising from other search results. As a result, the quality of health information found on the Internet could adversely affect patient’s health.

Developing a First Generation of Changemakers

BIF is taking all this information to help design a new delivery mechanism for primary care. Eli says some of the questions they are looking at for the next phase of the project include:

  • What is the role that various technologies can play in helping families, and kids in particular?
  • How do we foster long-term and sustained engagement?

“Kids health is just not tangible to them. They don’t think about their health in a way that is forward-thinking or goal-oriented the way that they think about their education. They want to be the first one in their family to get a college education. (Yet) nobody wants to be the first one in their family to NOT have Type 2 Diabetes or high blood pressure. How do we create long-term and sustained engagement? Technology obviously plays a huge role in doing that … We need to create first generation changemakers.” – Eli Stefanski

Learn More About Human Centered Design

You can learn more about the design principles used in BIF’s research by downloading the study.

IDEO also developed a Human Centered Design Toolkit with social enterprises in mind, and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The process has led to innovations such as the HeartStart defibrillator, Cleanwell natural antibacterial products, and the Blood Donor System for the Red Cross.

Human-Centered Design Toolkit IDEO

angelaMore from Angela Dunn


The following two tabs change content below.


HealthIsCool is a writer and trends analyst. She writes about health innovation, wearable tech, the Internet of Things (IoT), new health technologies, and future trends. Her latest trends research includes: The Rise of Wearable Technology and Google's Ambitions in Healthcare. Follow on Twitter at @HealthIsCool.

, , , , , ,