Design Thinking and Health Care Delivery

By the early 2000s, the field of design had come to encompass a broad range of activities that served consumers.

Product design involved the study of consumer behavior and needs so as to create a maximally useful and pleasing product, such as a shopping cart or vegetable peeler. Service design involved organizing all of the components of a complex service, such as airline travel or education, so as to improve the customer’s experience. Interaction design focused on improving the interaction between people and technology, especially computers.

Firms like the design consultancy IDEO began to argue that “design thinking” could be used in any industry to help to create a more carefully tailored user experience. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, explained,

As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful. These experiences will not be simple products. They will be complex combinations of products, services, spaces, and information. … Design thinking is a tool for imagining these experiences as well as giving them a desirable form. 1

At Mayo Clinic, Doctors LaRusso and Brennan wondered whether design thinking might offer a set of methods for improving the health care experience. 



  • 1. “Design Thinking,” Harvard Business Review (June 2008).


Read more about design thinking at the IDEO company website.

Compare IDEO with design firm Doblin.

Read a skeptic's view, "Design Thinking: A Useful Myth" by designer Don Norman.