Design Thinking: A Short Primer

These days, very few things have me as excited as Design Thinking. It is a model to identify problems with a focus on a human centered approach (called human centered design).

While the concept has been applied to business, it is also used in education and healthcare, among other industries.

By definition, design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process which seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.

It revolves around several steps: Empathy -> Define -> Ideate -> Prototype -> Test

As mentioned in a webinar below, we could add “accept” to the begin – a step to accept that you have a problem.

D.thinking can also be broken down into:

  1. Experimentation
  2. Deep Understanding
  3. Creative Reframing

From a business standpoint, you can find it broken down by:

  1. Desirability
  2. Viability
  3. Feasability

It is also seen as a culture of mindsets:

  1. Re-framing
  2. Curiosity
  3. Radical Collaboration
  4. Mindful of Process
  5. Bias for Action

Another interesting framework coming out of d.thinking is the double diamond design. This includes:

Discover -> Define -> Develop -> Deliver

Over the next several posts, sporadic or otherwise, most of the topics will including DT and how it can be used in healthcare.

The references below are the ones I came across so far and is not an exhaustive list. I’ll continue to update it as I find more.

Useful References:

(Last updated February 2020)


The Right Way to Lead D.Thinking by Christian Bason & Robert Austin / Mar-Apr 2019 Harvard Business Review (HBR)

Non-disruptive Creation: Rethinking Innovation and Growth by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne / Spring 2019 MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT-SMR)

Design for Action by Tim Brown and Roger Martin / Sep 2015 HBR

Design Thinking Comes of Age by Jon Kolko / Sep 2015 HBR

Why Design Thinking Works by Jeanne Liedtka / Sep-Oct 2018 HBR

How Indra Nooyi Turned Design Thinking into Strategy by Adi Ignatius / Sep 2015 HBR

How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse by Youngjin Yoo and Kyungmook Kim / Sep 2015 HBR

The Elements of Good Judgment by Sir Andrew Likierman / Jan-Feb 2020 HBR

Biggest Threat to Health? Solving the Wrong Problems / HuffPost 2017


The D.Thinking Hybrid: An Evolution of Innovation / Stanford Center for Professional Development / Bill Burnet

Designers – Think Big / Tim Brown – TedGlobal2009

Tales of Creativity and Play / Tim Brown – 2008

Human-centered Design / David Kelley – Ted2002

How to build your creative confidence / David Kelley Ted2012

Design is in the details / Paul Bennett TedGlobal 2005

Transforming healthcare for children and families / Doug Dietz TEDx2012


101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar

Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley

Design Thinking at Work: How Innovative Organizations are Embracing Design by David Dunne

The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design by IDEO

Change By Design by Tim Brown

Click to access Double%20Diamond%20Model%202019.pdf

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

“But my doctor ordered it.”

Please enjoy a brief digression from the usual focus on learning. This is a great anecdote and illustrates some of the confusion in our current healthcare system.

The healthcare system is like a giant jigsaw puzzle and it can be very confusing to put all the pieces together.

A friend was talking about prescription insurance challenges she is engaged in when working in a community pharmacy. Occasionally, a patient is unable to get a medication because the insurance does not cover it. The misperception is that Pharmacists in the community are the cause of this limitation in access – this denial of something that can be of great importance to us as a medication.

However, Pharmacists are in the middle…of a few systems. They get the prescription from the doctor – but – that does not mean the insurance will cover it. That medication claim is submitted to the insurance and the insurance decides if they will cover it. This second interaction is with the insurance. The last is with the customer and if the medication is not covered, it’s the pharmacist or pharmacy technician who tells the customer the insurance is not paying for it. It’s a frustrating place to be, on both sides.

The (very) basic process is:

Doctor/APRN/PA -> sends prescription to pharmacy -> pharmacy submits to insurance

From there, the insurance accepts or denies the claim, based on a pre-approved list of medications, called a formulary.

Some doctor’s offices have begun to get realtime coverage of medications, which helps to reduce the risk of a medication not being covered but the majority do not use this technology yet.

From a patient’s perspective, there are important questions you can ask. Setting aside questions related to interactions and side effects with new medications, one question is “will the insurance cover this medication?” If not, the doctor will find an alternative. Better to figure this out earlier and save yourself frustration later on.

The End of an Era

From Tower Ave. to Abrahms Blvd., the Hebrew Home, now Hebrew Senior Care, was a unique place to work. For over 10 years as Director of Pharmacy, it was a great place to learn and develop. Over this time, colleagues (who became friends) came and went and yet the Pharmacy remained.

The Hebrew Home was one of the few Nursing Homes with an in-house Pharmacy. Now only a couple still stand in Connecticut. The big change: May 14th, 2019 will be the last day our Pharmacy is open.

While we will have Pharmacists on site a few hours a day, the bulk of the work is outsourced – a trend we had been able to push off for quite a long time.

I was talking with a mentor a few days ago and he said “it was the end of an era.” Interestingly, our Nurse Manager used those same words as we were cleaning a few things out.

And yet, the end of one thing becomes the beginning of another.

What I’m holding onto is that our perspective is shaped by how we choose to frame the situation.

First, we celebrate where we are and what we had.

And then shift to new opportunities, new colleagues, and a different way forward.

Thank you to everyone who made this a great journey. I am grateful for the amazing and wonderful friends who worked in the Pharmacy (and outside the Pharmacy) and know we will cross paths again soon.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash