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The powerful benefits of clinical ‘design thinking’

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Amitha Kalaichandran, M.D., a hospital resident physician and journalist based in Toronto, writes in The New York Times about the growing attraction of “design thinking” by clinical teams. (Cambridge Management Group has done a lot of work in such design thinking.)

Dr. Kalaichandran  writes: “In recent years, a growing number of healthcare workers have been stepping up to create innovations by applying ‘design thinking’ – a human-centered approach to innovation that was originally developed in the business world to create new products. Traditionally, hospitals were designed with input from administrators. With design thinking, the innovations come from those who actually work there, providing feedback to designers to improve the final product.

“A 2016 report that looked at ways in which a health system can implement design thinking identified three principles behind the approach: empathy for the user, in this case a patient, doctor or other health care provider; the involvement of an interdisciplinary team; and rapid prototyping of the idea. To develop a truly useful product, a comprehensive understanding of the problem the innovation aims to solve is paramount.”

As an example of what can come out of design thinking by clinical teams, Dr. Kalaichandran writes that:

“The leader of our trauma team  now wears an orange vest.

“The easy-to-spot garment, called the trauma team leader identification vest, clearly identifies who’s in charge. It’s a simple yet effective innovation created by a nurse after a hectic gunshot trauma simulation, in which a huddle of highly stressed emergency room staff members spoke over one another and there were no clear roles. In particular, no one knew who was leading the trauma code. The orange vest became routine part of emergency care at our hospital earlier this year, and the trauma team reports it has helped clarify who’s in charge and strengthened communication among members.”

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