Design Thinking for Healthcare

I was invited to give a talk on innovation and a designing thinking workshop to students of a state university last Saturday. Their background was healthcare so in a way, I was in a position to talk to them about innovation because during grad school, my partner and I immersed ourselves in hospitals operations, observing the behaviour of doctors and patients.

Have you ever fallen in line in front of a doctor’s clinic for more than 2 hours, only to be seen for around 10 minutes? You are already feverish with a mind-splitting headache, and even had to take a leave for a whole day. It’s a common paint point for a lot of people especially in emerging economies. We designed a system to reduce the patient waiting time from 180 minutes to just 15 minutes. To bring it to life, we even partnered with a Singaporean based company to use their engine.

Going back to my talk, I presented to them innovations in mental health diagnosis and therapy, in using big data to predict the borrowing patterns of patients so they can maximise credit, uses of virtual reality and artificial intelligence in medicine, and the latest updates on gene editing through CRISPR.

I guess the students were interested because they don’t teach those lessons inside the classroom. Or perhaps the curriculum has yet to be updated. I ended my 2-hour talk with a design thinking exercise – from empathy to ideation point only. The problem that I want them to solve was the increasing rate of HIV. I encouraged them to generate really wild ideas, to let their mind fly to Mars and return to Earth with something novel.

From artificial (rotating) vaginas, to condoms that light up when the virus is detected, to portable condom dispensers, nano bots who aid our immune system, mobile clinics to diagnose and treat people with HIV, and to that one suggestion of just sending everyone who has one to Mars – very Kingsman Golden Circle if you ask me. A person would say his idea, and someone can build on it.  It started from an enhanced sex doll, then evolved into a 3D printed doll of your crush, then to using virtual reality or 3D printing in case you tire with the face over and over again.

In the ideation part of design thinking, one shouldn’t be constrained by anything – time, money, ethics, practicality, etc. You do that in the next phase. When we’re done with this 30 minute exercise, I left the room with smiles and cheers on everyone’s faces. I guess it’s rare for students to stretch their imagination to something as wild as what we did. We need more people who can imagine the future because in the advent of artificial intelligence and machine domination, imagination may be one of the last frontiers that humans can still champion.

Together with my classmates from AIM under our innovation and strategy firm, Why Not, we can provide trainings on design thinking and other consulting services related to bringing your tech ideas into life from prototypes to designing a business model and validating with your customers.


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