Penn Healthcare Innovation Challenge

Gordon Hui

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.

When you’re moving fast it’s crucial to quickly build trust between team members and align around a common goal. Starting day one of the project; an intense working session where you unpack the problem and begin to generate solutions areas can serve as the first iteration in discovering where powerful solutions might lie, while understanding the different perspectives and personalities on the team.

We found success in 2015 by applying these principles but we know 2016 will involve refinements and new approaches. Here’s to a transformative 2016 full of new products and platforms that better serve people and your organizations.

Richard Whitehall
Partner, New York

Conduct experiments rather than testing concepts

Framing more ambitious projects as experiments encourages teams to push boundaries. A dramatic change of course based on new learning should be seen as a victory rather than a failure. Innovation experiments require piloting in a real-world context but also need to operate under the radar. This could mean piloting in a region outside of the primary market or in a restricted area such as within a corporate campus. The key is to get something convincing up and running in a realistic enough environment to make the learnings valid. It’s better to be approximately right rather than precisely wrong.

Use data to support human stories

Data has a role both at the outset of a program to landscape existing behaviors and patterns, and once prototypes go live, to track behavior as design work evolves. Data analysis isn’t a substitute for deep qualitative learning, but it gives the opportunity to go broader and see patterns over longer timespans. The combination of human stories backed by data enables quick decision-making and creates the organizational momentum required to be successful more ambitious projects.

The end is just the beginning

Traditional projects are focused on delivering a presentation or prototype however this is always just the beginning of another phase of the effort. Often teams change between phases and ensuring a good transition to new team members should be the main focus. This requires creating compelling and shareable artifacts to communicate the project journey and in-person time working one-on-one with new team members to ensure a smooth transition.