What a September! This spring, I received the wonderful news that I would be attending Stanford Medicine X in September as an ePatient.
For those asking themselves, what is MedicineX is… “A premier gathering of patients, providers, researchers, designers and technologists who are leading disruptive innovation in health care.” 
Within the MedicineX ePatient programs is the Design Track. The IDEO challenge is an amazing opportunity to be a nexus of a patient-centered design project. I had the opportunity to work with a designer from IDEO , a global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to solving problems. 
I am infectiously enthusiastic about design; good, bad or ugly. This was the perfect track for me. I am truly honoured to have been selected for this track and, to have had the opportunity to work with the amazing team Nedo and sharpen my design thinking.
The big question in design thinking is “How might we?”. I needed to prepare my patient story. Simple right? I tell it all the time, who better to tell it then me. Well, I had to approach it from a different lens. I needed to prepare it in a way, that would provide enough context to those in my team to provide adequate understanding and knowledge of what living with crappy lungs is like. While working on what my “problems” really were, I explored a range of ideas from better systems for patients to engage in clinical trials, to getting a good night sleep.
I have a modest design background with some academic study and professional experience in Industrial Design. However, this experience flipped my approach and preparedness upside down. I thought I would have been spending my day as a worker bee, deep in the trenches of problem solving this project. I was indeed, however, it was so much more to be at the centre of the project as the patient/user. As many of you know often things are about the patient, with the patient somewhere in the backseat. This is not the case in this approach, the patient is front and centre.
The day started with a fantastic tour of the IDEO Palo Alto studios. It was everything I dreamed of and more. There were many things that could not be photographed but were immensely inspiring. My tour was led by the incredible Dennis Boyle, Partner of IDEO, If you want to be inspired, spend time with Dennis and his team.
“Tell me a time when…”
This phrase became pivotal to extracting the information my team needed to look at my problems. After sharing my patient story, which I delivered a little differently than I had been practicing. It all came out a bit differently than I had expected. I was in the moment and went with it. I was concerned that it might have been as a bit disjointed but I think it all turned out fine. We set out to choose the problem to focus on and selected my sleep issues and the need to create better sleep system for dealing with severe asthma, mucus hypersecretion while improving quality of life. Essentially, better sleep systems for chronic illness. During this process our group facilitators Nick and Farzad asked me a series of questions that really expressed empathy. “Tell me a time when…” I felt the best, the worst, that I had concern for someone else’s sleep and quality of life. These questions hit my core. It was time to pony up all the feelings. One of the flip sides of being a patient is that sometimes we operate on autopilot, “Everything is fine” when it isn’t, and that we don’t want to cause any more hurt, guilt or concern so we generally just carry on. I am sure that better design can drastically improve these factors.
All the ideas and Post It notes!
An integral part of our process was using Post It notes to ideate sleep systems . I was very enthusiastic about this, as half my life tends to be on a Post It note. There was so many fantastic ideas generated from this amazing group. I let go of the ideas that I had come in with and, was taken in different directions. There were solutions that I never considered, and possibilities that seemed dreamy but also achievable. After all that idea generation it was time to play.
We were tasked with prototyping our concepts and presenting them to the workshop in video format. We were able to use an array of neat mediums play-do, pipe cleaners, costumer and entire Tickle Trunk of fun toys. My team was a buzz of energy from those working on prototypes, those finding images for our video, getting the script for the narration written and even recording the narration in a washroom. Check out the pitch of our concept. Many thanks to Nick who produced and edited our video in record time.
Our day concluded with a reception and a chance to reflect on the day. It was an incredible day. During the reception, the effects of jet lag were beginning to set in and the need for an inhaler. I was a bit jet lagged and overwhelmed from the day but, I was left with such an exhilarating energy that this work needs to be continued. I am going to keep working on the prototypes and flushing out the ideas. I have started to look at some grant funding and potential collaboration opportunities that have both come out of MedicineX and the conversations that are continuing. I am excited to see where this will go.
A huge thank you to:
- Stanford Medicine X , especially the ePatient program for the opportunity to be a Design Track ePatient.
- Dennis and Farzad of IDEO for your warm welcome, openness and mentorship.
- The fabulous Team NEDO (Nick, Sean, Yin-Juei, Lisa, Rebecca and David) for your openness and care with my patient story, your inquisitive nature, creative spirit and for pushing me to go in all sorts of new directions.
- To John, Stephen, Stephanie and Andrea my fellow Design Track epatients in the workshop, I couldn’t ask for better ePatients to share the day with.
Medicine X website http://medicinex.stanford.edu