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Design Thinking as a Process for Healthcare Innovation | engaging cross-disciplinary collaboration through design and development

We propose to develop a cross-discipline health design training program for students who are interested in digital health applications. This curriculum will combine graduate students from the Departments of Biomedical and undergraduate students from the Multi-Disciplinary Design program. This cross-listed course will also be offered as an elective to medical students and other students across campus.

We hypothesize that applying best practices in digital product innovation (i.e., Human-Centered Design, iterative prototyping, and development) will equip teams to solve opportunities in clinical system usability. To do this, we will modify an existing graduate practicum offered in Biomedical Informatics by presenting new models for investigation that apply human emotions and needs to scientific, logical systems. This course will be co-taught by faculty in Design and Biomedical Informatics. Students enrolled from each department will be encouraged to share their unique perspectives and approaches.

Current Status

During the 2020 -2021 academic year, our interdisciplinary team comprised of design educators, biomedical informaticists, and physicians explored integrating design and design thinking principles in health system settings. We worked in three phases where we first conducted background research on programs and labs dedicated to cross-disciplinary health design innovation programs across the United States. We then ran a pilot effort where we utilized an existing graduate-level Biomedical Informatics course to explore the development of a design-focused curriculum. The third phase is offering a cross-listed course that will be available for all students but specifically focused on health science and design students. During the Spring of 2021 semester, a graduate-level course in the Biomedical Informatics department was co-taught by faculty from Biomedical Informatics and the Multi-Disciplinary Design program. This course was titled “Health X Design Thinking: Building the foundations of a FHIR App.” The course was structured so that we introduced students to a phase of the design development process each week. Then these phases structured the final project where students built a final application that had clinical or health care user significance. The collaboration between our units was very fruitful. Not only did we develop a repeatable curriculum for a course that could be cross-listed, but we have also partnered on submitting a $10 million workforce development grant that would instruct students on design and design thinking practices. In addition, the team is utilizing this foundational course to explore other academic offerings, including a more advanced design thinking course, a certificate on app development, and a focused master's program in design.


James Agutter
College of Architecture + Planning
School of Architecture
Project Owner

Damian Borbolla
School of Medicine
Biomedical Informatics

Bruce Bray
School of Medicine
Biomedical Informatics, Internal Medicine

Project Info

Funded Project Amount

design thinking, healthcare, innovation, mobile applications, digital technology development, curriculum, transdisciplinary, immersion

Project Status
Funded 2020

View poster (pdf)
Last Updated: 12/7/22