Redesigning Healthcare

Start-Up Nation Central tackled the topic of Redesigning Healthcare in a recent Jerusalem: Where Tech Meets Design webinar, positing that when discussing innovation in healthcare, it’s vital to broaden the conversation to explore how we might adopt a more human and patient-centered approach when building companies. 

COVID-19 has led to a surge of innovation across many sectors, but perhaps most significantly to healthcare. A recent McKinsey survey of healthcare leaders found that 90% of them agreed the pandemic will fundamentally change the way they do business – requiring new products, services, processes, and business models.

Israel is a global leader in the Digital Health and Life Sciences sectors, and Jerusalem is a key player in that ecosystem (A third of the city’s start-ups are in the biotech and life sciences space). As such, it creates a unique venue for driving a global conversation on the future of healthcare, design, and technology. 

Start-Up Nation Central tackled the topic of Redesigning Healthcare in a recent Jerusalem: Where Tech Meets Design webinar, positing that when discussing innovation in healthcare, it’s vital to broaden the conversation to explore how we might adopt a more human and patient-centered approach when building companies. 

To explore this and other topics, we partnered with the Jefferson Health Design Lab, to host a webinar and follow-on workshop for a select group of startups. Based in Philadelphia, PA at Thomas Jefferson University, the Health Design Lab is an interdisciplinary space that brings together medical practitioners and designers to develop new design concepts for the health care sector, and trains medical students in design thinking methodologies. 

Though not a formally trained designer, Dr. Bon Ku, the Co-Founder and Director of the Health Design Lab and a practicing emergency room physician, understood the importance of design and began visiting architecture and design studios to see how he and his team could apply their frameworks to the world of healthcare. “Working in an emergency room and in a hospital system in the US, you quickly realize that there is bad design everywhere,” Dr. Ku says. 

At Health Design Lab, they’ve built their own version of a design studio, with lots of customizations along the way. Rather than using traditional physical materials, Dr. Ku and his team leverage medical data from procedures such as MRIs and CT scans in their design processes. 3D printing, in particular, offers the ability to create customized anatomical prototypes to explore how to improve surgical operations. They encourage medical students and doctors to use design and storytelling to show their work. Methods such as storyboarding, skits, and prototypes are quick ways to iterate on the way to building new products and services.

Dr. Andrew Ibrahim is an Assistant Professor of Surgery and Architecture at the University of Michigan and is the Chief Medical Officer at HOK, a global design and architecture firm. He argues there are tangible benefits when architects understand healthcare delivery and public health. Using the Affordable Care Act as a case study, Dr. Ibrahim shared four lessons for design that entrepreneurs should consider when building their products, services and platforms:

Dr. Ibrahim shares his belief that “rookies” should be part of the design process. “So often teams are made up of experts in dedicated areas, but those who are naive enough to question why certain things are the way they are, offer unique advantages for identifying new and innovative solutions,” he said.

Allan Chochinov, the Founding Chair of the MFA in Products of Design, the graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and a partner of Core77, offered his expertise around incorporating design into products

Chochinov believes that “to design anything is to design everything” and shares a comprehensive (but not complete) list of things to consider when designing your product and company. 

Entrepreneurs and others working at start-ups can focus on co-creation, a method that Chochinov explicitly teaches to his students, as a way to build empathy. When conducting design research, it’s less about validation of your ideas and more important to learn from and engage users and other members of the community to shed light on insights you didn’t even know existed. This often requires comfort with ambiguity, a feeling designers are trained to get comfortable with. 

“Too often, startups bring in the expertise of the patient too late,” says Dr. Ku, “once the team has already developed a product.” Patients are the experts in the experience of their diseases and it’s critical to facilitate a continuous conversation with them, he argues 


Following the webinar, a small number of startups participated in a closed workshop, facilitated by Allan Chochinov and members of the Health Design Lab team. 

Each of the startups was set up to speak with “patient experts” (or “users”) living with chronic diseases, offering the entrepreneurs an opportunity to put to direct use what they had learned in the webinar about uncovering insights and co-creation. 

They wrapped up the workshop with a unique exercise that anyone can do with their team, quickly and inexpensively. Each founder had to write the “top positive” and “top critical” Amazon review for their product. The exercise is written from the perspective of the user and articulates what value they see it providing (or not) in their life. 

For those who couldn’t make it, we made the webinar available for viewing here and urge you to listen and learn. 

about the author

about the author

Alona Stern

Product Strategy Consultant

Alona Stern is a product and design thinking consultant. She uses methods including user research, prototyping, competitive analysis, product roadmapping and content design to help organizations identify and act on untapped opportunities.

Alona has served in senior product management positions in a number of consumer and manufacturing companies in Israel and the U.S. She taught design thinking & prototyping in the Masters program at Bezalel Academy of Art, is a mentor and speaker at Mass Challenge Jerusalem, and is a regular speaker at the Delta Pre-Accelerator class at Tel Aviv University. She has an MBA from MIT with a focus on marketing and operations, and a B.A. from the University of Chicago where she studied Economics and Public Policy.

Outside of work, Alona enjoys spending time with her husband, Gilli, her 4.5 year old son Asher, and her big-eared dog, Amalia. She can usually be found with her nose in a book and is most excited about her recent local finds for herring and kombucha.

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