This year’s IDSA Medical Design Conference, NEXT, delivered a rich, thought-provoking experience. Speakers covered a range of topics, from best practices to the influence of emerging technologies and smarter systems. Here are Farm’s key takeaways impacting design’s role in the industry:
AI is a hot topic, especially in Healthcare, where transforming data into actionable information can mean the difference between life or death. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time to evaluate, prioritize, and make decisions are among the core tasks providers grapple with daily. Jeff Hersh, CMO GE HealthCare, Mike Rayo, Asst Prof of Cognitive Systems Engineering at Ohio State, and Priyama Barua, Experience Strategy Director Mad-pow, shared their thoughts on the readiness of AI to help in this regard.
The panel made clear the distinction between AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AI (Augmented Intelligence), also referred to as, IA (Intelligence Augmented) to properly frame the technology’s role as a ‘supporting resource’ that can aid clinicians with analysis and decision making. Until machine biases can be eliminated and the technology can ‘reason’ like a human being, AI rendering clinical diagnosis is still beyond the horizon. But still, building trust between clinician and machine is an immense barrier to adoption. Understanding how to integrate AI to improve current workflows and facilitate collaboration between care providers may be a key strategy to embracing it as a new tool. Clinicians don’t want a ‘black box’ telling them what to do, but rather a means to make the approach they already employ more effective.
Another point made clear by the panel is that it’s not a one size fits all world. Every patient has his or her own history and an individual response to medication and treatment. There is an overwhelming amount of information clinicians must manage for each patient forcing clinicians to spend a disproportionate amount of time logging and sifting through the data. Finding opportunities for AI to help providers cut through the endless variability and be efficient connecting the dots has the promise to deliver a more effective and holistic approach.
Evidence Based Practices
Evidence based practices were touched on by Chris Lawer, Founder, CEO Umio, who spoke on designing smarter health ecosystems by applying what studies have already revealed about the contexts in which people experience disease. Considering social determinants such as quality of education, cultural experience, availability of housing, safety, healthy foods, access to services, and social economic conditions, are all key factors that can drastically impact one’s perspective when interacting with health services. The information is available, but it’s up to design teams to seek and apply it in ways that can inform a better way.
Thoughts on alarm fatigue were shared by Mike Rayo. Mike’s study in this area suggests false alarms, in conjunction with the aggregate of similar sounds across various pieces of medical equipment, can make it difficult to know when to ignore, override, and/or properly acknowledge all the ‘beeps and boops’. Mike referred to this type of sensory overload as the ‘cry wolf’ phenomenon. Findings suggest an opportunity to expand guidelines, currently more focused on frequency and volume, to consider contextual elements specific to the equipment’s function. Theoretically, this would provide another dimension to further distinguish audio prompts and assure clear communication.
Hospitals can be scary for anyone, especially for an innocent child. Jonathan Podolsky, Sr. VP of Strategy and Service Design at MadPow, shared his experience working with a hospital, on designing an environment that is more empathetic to the needs of children to abate their fears. Pictures on a wall meant for a child’s view hung at an adult’s height, the use of stuffed animals and ‘cutesy graphics’ on equipment as a strategy to distract from uncomfortable tasks are just a few examples of the hospital’s good intentions that fell short. While these examples were well-meaning, they’re manufactured without kids in mind. They also didn’t address the higher order problem, which was to achieve a lasting impression that subdued anxieties stemming from uncertainty and the unfamiliar.
Knowing what kids love to do best, thoughtful areas of play were eventually incorporated into the hospital’s design. The authentic sounds of children engaging in joyful activities made the long-term difference. Emotions are highly linked to our cognitive functions says Jonathan. Healthy attitudes facilitated by authentically familiar and comforting engagements (vs. contrived ones) can subside fears and have a positive impact on mindset and healing. Although hospitals are a serious place, doing serious work, they don’t necessarily need to look and feel serious to be a place for getting well.
A Peek Ahead
A glimpse into the future was provided by a few speakers. Greg Johnson, Director of design at Worrell, remarked that products, packaging, and services related to gene therapies, stem cell therapies, new precision pharmaceuticals, and non-invasive techniques are the emergent areas to keep an eye on. Out of hospital care and AI give way to new providers such as Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Google, Facebook, and IBM, who are best skilled to mine the data and write the algorithms that create the interactions for the new healthcare experiences on the rise. Nichole Rouillac, of Level Design, presented her company’s work on Kardiamobile, a personal EKG device and a great example of how products and care are moving beyond the clinical setting. Not only does Kardiamoblie promise to be safe, effective, and easy to use, but it also considers features and aesthetic choices appropriate for integration into the new ‘consumer’ context.
Lastly, this year’s keynote and famed inventor, Dean Kamen, demonstrated the promise of fusing biology and engineering through the case study of his LUKE prosthetic arm. LUKE uses peripheral nerve stimulation, electrodes attached to the nerves above the amputation site to pick up the brain’s signals and move the prosthetic according to the user’s mental commands. Not quite ‘Steve Austin’ but amazing, ground breaking work over the arch of 8 years of development, making a difference today and foreshadowing a future when it may be realized.
The Power of Story
Byron Wilson, of ArtCenter College of Design, rounded out the event with a compelling presentation on the power of story. The content touched on the teachings of Neuroscientists, Dr. Roger Sperry, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, and communication Theorist, Dr. Walter Fischer. Through the ages, people have used story to pass along complex ideas and build on the cumulative knowledge of generations preceding their own. Humans are hardwired for story, so it can be a powerful tool to connect and, bring about change. It’s more than a passing buzz word in design and business.