Physicians and Designers

SPARC and the Center for Innovation brought together physicians with designers, an unlikely marriage that could produce at some times excitement and at other times confusion.

Physicians were deeply guided by tradition, and because they bore the responsibility for the patient's life and well-being, they were as a group risk-averse. Physicians were scientists who needed to see data and proof before trying something new. This conservative culture affected doctors' willingness to try not only new drugs and treatments but also new administrative procedures and educational methods.

Designers, on the other hand, operated in a more qualitative world. They experimented freely and preferred "rapid prototyping" to careful proof. They wished to see their ideas applied in real-world settings, but they shared with fine artists a love of creativity and risk-taking.

CFI staff from both cultures admitted that they faced challenges in communicating with each other, but they also believed that it was the differences that enabled innovation. "It's a match made in heaven," said one physician.


Photo of Dr. Victor Montori

Watch CFI physicians talk about design thinking in the medical setting (YouTube version for slow connection).

Watch CFI designers talk about working with physicians (YouTube version for slow connection).