Design Thinking in Health Care: Valuable Tool Offers Growing Role for Marketers

December 5, 2018

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

Health care marketers have much to gain by getting up to speed on the concept of design thinking. This approach is becoming increasingly valuable in helping organizations effectively meet patients’ needs and address an array of challenges.

Joel Worthington, strategic innovation consultant at HDR

Joel Worthington, strategic innovation consultant at HDR

With more people living longer and needing to manage chronic conditions, and with the health care model shifting from a fee-for-service payment plan to one with value-added focus, the design-thinking model has been taking on a more significant role in helping organizations better navigate the changing landscape in today’s fast-paced world.

“Amidst the uncertainty and rapid changes occurring in health care today, design thinking has emerged as an important competency for marketing, communication, and strategic planning professionals in health care,” explains Joel Worthington, strategic innovation consultant at HDR, an international architecture and engineering firm.

The Value of Design Thinking in Health Care

Worthington recently co-led a presentation on the concept of design thinking for marketers and their organizations at the 2018 Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) annual conference. He was joined by Roberto Seif, also a strategic innovation consultant at HDR, and Michael Joyce, a design specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Consultancy. 

Systematic, Creative Approach to Problem-Solving

Michael Joyce, design specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Consultancy

Michael Joyce, design specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Consultancy

While many people would typically equate the word “design” in health care with the aesthetics of a facility, Joyce points out that design thinking actually isn’t focused on the trappings. “This is a highly systematic and user-friendly approach to creative problem-solving … it’s not about making things beautiful, but rather, about making things work beautifully,” he says. 

The concept of design thinking has its roots in other industries, where it’s “been widely used to engage diverse stakeholders, drive innovation, design products, and to create compelling consumer experiences,” says Joyce. In recent years, a growing number of health care organizations have also been adapting this model to improve the value they bring to their target audience and the communities they serve.


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