Penn Healthcare Innovation Challenge

Gordon Hui
April 27, 2016

Smart Design’s recent collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Healthcare system emphasizes our commitment to making healthcare more accessible. Through design and innovation, we can better understand patient perspectives and how to improve their experiences within healthcare systems. As the corporate sponsor of the Penn Healthcare Innovation Challenge, an initiative hosted by the Wharton Innovation & Design Club, we mentored graduate students from across Penn’s campus to tackle a challenge facing the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). Drawing students from various disciplines (Engineering, Medicine, Business, Nursing, Design, Computer Science), the challenge provides an immersive opportunity for students to apply their diverse skillsets on a meaningful social impact project while learning the fundamentals of design & innovation.

For this year’s challenge, the students set out to improve patient preparation for joint replacement surgeries. For Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s joint replacement population, as many as 1 in 8 patients failed to complete their pre-admission testing requirements, and only 1 in 4 patients attended joint education class. In addition to impacting patient safety, these challenges in the pre-operative journey were leading to cancelled surgeries and hurting the hospital’s bottom line.


Innovation Workshops & Coaching

To prepare students for the challenge, Smart Design’s Gordon Hui, Jamie Nicholson and Mark Breneman led highly interactive workshops that guided each team through the various stages of innovation.

To kick things off, an immersive workshop walked the students through stakeholder interview techniques and best practice in conducting design research. On completion of this preliminary research stage, we advised the teams as they brainstormed ideas and brought them to life through paper and digital prototypes.

The students embraced this human-centered design approach. Generative research was conducted to unpack patient and hospital needs, and define the key opportunities to solve for.  After creating these initial prototypes, teams went back into the field and gained detailed feedback on their solutions from Penn Medicine staff and patients. To help ensure the success of the effort, we provided coaching to the student teams and supported program implementation with the Wharton Innovation and Design Club.




Making An Impact

To conclude the challenge, the students presented their recommendations and prototypes to diverse members of Penn Medicine leadership team which included the Chief Administrative Officer of the Musculoskeletal Service Line and Chief Medical Officer of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. The winning team developed a system that simplified the patient’s access to information they needed by implementing an icon system to communicate next steps clearly. They were able to creatively rethink what information a hospital bracelet could provide and an easy way to access information digitally. Their phased approach would allow Penn Medicine have immediate impact while scaling some of the other recommendations across the system. As Katherine Lopez Hayna, a Penn Integrated Product Design graduate student shares, “I learned a lot about teamwork and how to work with a client and engage in real challenges and problems.” These thoughtful, diverse solutions from students provided Penn Medicine new perspective on addressing the challenges they’re currently facing.

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Video editing by Dario Steffanuto