Design / Health tech

This Jefferson ER doc says ‘making people healthier is a creative pursuit’

Dr. Bon Ku, who heads up the Health Design Lab at Thomas Jefferson University, laid out healthcare's design problems at Fortune's Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore.

Ku says poor design abounds in the healthcare realm. (Video via Fortune, gif by Roberto Torres)

The systemic problems of healthcare delivery in 2019 should be addressed by borrowing a page from the design world.

That’s been a central theme in Dr. Bon Ku’s career, both in his role as a practicing emergency medicine physician and as assistant dean for health and design at Philly’s Thomas Jefferson University. Earlier this month in Singapore, at the 2019 Fortune Brainstorm Design, Ku once again stumped for the potential of design in healthcare.

“Like all of us in this room I believe that good design is good business, but I also believe that good design is good medicine,” Ku said. “We can make healthcare better by design.”

Ku alludes to the ubiquity of fax machines in healthcare settings to highlight the fact that healthcare doesn’t have a technology problem, but a design one.

“Electronic Health Records (EHRs) were supposed to revolutionize healthcare, instead they have crushed the souls of physicians,” Ku said. “Emergency room doctors like myself make 4,000 clicks on a keyboard during a shift. The design of EHRs is so bad that doctors in the U.S. blame them as one of the major factors for burning out.

It was Ku who pitched Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College on a program that would train medical students in design thinking, in a bid to bring practitioners into the design space. That program is today known as JeffDESIGN, and routinely holds hackathons and pitch competitions.

“Healthcare suffers from a lack of creativity,” said Ku. “There’s a misconception that if you’re a creative type then you’re never going to go into healthcare. I believe that making people healthier is a creative pursuit.”

Here’s the full the talk (including a surprising fact about rectal thermometers):

Companies: Thomas Jefferson University
People: Bon Ku

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