Health Design Thinker
Dr. Kate Martin

design thinking

NSHE Southern Nevada Diversity Summit

I had the honor of participating in the NSHE Southern Nevada Diversity Summit yesterday. There were amazing keynote speakers, Eric Deggans and Haben Girma, and sessions focused on strategies to advance institutional equity, intercultural education, and promote access and success for individuals from diverse identity groups in higher education. This year’s theme was “Embracing Community Care: Higher Education’s Role in Addressing Health Inequities,” so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spread the word about our UNLV Down Syndrome Program. Program Coordinator, Samrawit Misiker, co-lead an interactive group discussion that started with a brainstorming activity. We asked the attendees how they would improve their own healthcare experience. After writing everyone’s responses on a whiteboard, it didn’t take long to realize that our audience members wanted the same things we had heard previously from individuals with Down syndrome and their families: more coordinated care, better communication with healthcare providers, and help navigating insurance coverage, to name a few. Making the most of healthcare shouldn’t be so hard! We should all get to reap the benefits of our technological advancements, evidence-based practices and receive compassionate care. Being part of a diverse and expansive university like UNLV provides enormous potential for change that can have a positive impact on our community and beyond. Here’s to a better healthcare system for all of us, healthdesignthinkers.

Samrawit Misiker (left) and Kate Martin (right) are standing on each side of a Southern Nevada Diversity Summit sign that states, "Reaching the Stars: A University / Community Collaboration for Nevadans with Down Syndrome." Samrawit is wearing a brown and white patterned blazer and Kate is wearing a red and black patterned blazer.
Samrawit Misiker (left) and Kate Martin (right) at the NSHE Southern Nevada Diversity Summit

Happy Anniversary, ADA!

Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another “independence day,” one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.

President George H. W. Bush at the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act
July 26, 1990

This year we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. What an important piece of legislation, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, such as transportation, employment, accommodations in public spaces, communications and access to state and local government programs and services. And, as far as we’ve already come, there is so much more work to be done.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, accessible at-home tests for people who are blind or have low vision are finally available. Spread the word! 🙂 And, according to Harvard Business Review, the telehealth era is just beginning. Virtual visits may have been popular during the peak of the pandemic, but they continue to offer several benefits, particularly to people with disabilities, like increasing access to specialized healthcare providers, avoiding exposure to contagious infections to vulnerable individuals in crowded waiting rooms and removing the need for transportation to a distant clinic. These are just a few examples of ideas that can promote better health outcomes for everyone, including those with disabilities, in our communities.

Using your human-centered design super powers, what ideas (Step 3 – Ideate) do you have that would help celebrate this year’s anniversary of the ADA?

Cutout paper depiction of people wearing masks and holding hands including a wheelchair user with the word "inclusion" spelled out beneath the group

Design Challenge

Kate Martin, MD | May 2, 2022

You’ve probably observed a situation that needs to be improved in your daily life. Perhaps you’ve even identified a gap between the current state (the problem) and the desired state (the goal) of a process or a product. Maybe it’s the current wait time until the next episode is released in the latest streaming series that you can’t get enough of. Or, you have an idea that would bring back your favorite pizza. Wait, that one is already taken? No problem. It’s time for a design challenge.

It’s your turn to make something happen. Are you ready?

Health design thinking involves putting your ideas, information, observations and anything else that matters into the context of a human-centered problem statement. Think of a human-centered problem as an unmet need in someone’s life. Here are some examples, from the user’s perspective:

  • I am a wheelchair user and my health is important to me. At each visit, my doctor’s office asks me how much I weigh instead of checking it like they do for other patients. This makes me frustrated and feel like they don’t care as much about me.
  • I have Down syndrome and work at my neighborhood grocery store. I would like to be treated like anyone else my age. However, people talk to me like I’m a little kid. Even my doctor does it! This makes me feel like people underestimate me.
  • I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in elementary school and I’m in college now. Sometimes I have difficulty concentrating. It affects me during conversations with my doctor. I understand better when there are visuals/diagrams provided. However, I feel like people will think I’m not intelligent if I ask for help.

A good problem statement produces a clear statement of the issue that the designer seeks to address, maintaining the focus on the user at all times.

So, now that you know how to develop a human-centered problem statement, you, too can say, “challenge…accepted!”

Primer on Health Design Thinking

Kate Martin, MD | March 29, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant gaps and design flaws in our healthcare system. Long-standing health disparities acutely worsened in vulnerable populations and the need to address them became even more important than ever. Problem-based learning, commonly taught in medical schools, engages students in a subject by working through a poorly-defined problem. Design thinking is a way to develop and promote creativity in the problem-solving process. Health design (a form of human-centered design) takes on the complex social problems often encountered in healthcare.

There are five stages to the health design thinking process: (1) empathize, or exercise the ability to step into other people’s shoes, to understand their lives, and start to solve problems from their perspectives; (2) define – the problem you would like to solve; (3) ideate – AKA idea generation, to find new solutions from the user’s perspective; (4) prototype creation, or map out the most important ideas to propose a solution concept; and (5) test the prototype, incorporating feedback from the user. Note that design thinking is a non-linear process, as depicted below. You can go forwards, backwards and in between!

Now that you have learned the stages of the health design process, what problem in healthcare would you fix, and better yet, how would you start? Send your health design thinker superpowers to the rescue!


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