Time to Bring Designers to the Table: Thought's From Mayo's Transform Symposium

Sep 14, 2011, 2:52 AM, Posted by Al Shar

I'm just back from an exciting Mayo's Transform  Symposium. Before saying anything about the conference, I need to mention that being a pedestrian in Rochester, MN may present a significant health danger. I'll have to remember that cars don't stop on the East Coast just because someone is ready to cross a street.

We brought some guests to the meeting both to excite and engage them in helping move our support of Project ECHO forward. I'll let others write about that aspect of the meeting.

Regarding the meeting. I didn't realize that the theme was one about design innovation more than health or healthcare. At first this was off-putting: I wanted to learn about innovation that was going to help change health, not health packaging. I was wrong. I thought that figuring out how to solve a problem was the hard part. Implementing the solution would more or less follow. That's naive. Understanding the way people and the environment react to how solutions are packaged and presented is critical in their acceptance and ultimate success.

This is a good thing and bringing skilled designers to the table is important. We know that understanding where and how a person lives is important in determining what interventions will work but it's equally important to frame them in ways that are consonant with what they think and feel. Seeing the effect of a pediatric MRI designed to look like a pirate ship ride on a child's acceptance of the study or even just a simple reframing of an intervention in a context that resonates makes a world of difference.

It's sad that a collaboration between design and medical professional, with active consumer engagement, is not more common. Designing a solution to the wrong intervention and poorly implementing the right one are wasteful at best. But when things come together well, it can be a beautiful thing.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.