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Barcelona, January 27th 2014-. "Empathy, creativity and rationality. This is what design thinking is about and these are the skills we need to overcome this crisis." These were the words Montserrat Vendrell, CEO of Biocat, chose to open the workshop Biocat organized last Friday, January 24th, at the Museum del Disseny de Barcelona about the most popular tool for innovation. An event in which prestigious national and international speakers explained how the principles of design thinking can help develop innovative solutions to current problems in the health sector.

"Design thinking methodology helps you be more agile, to better respond to the complexity of the world and to market opportunities," said Humberto Matas, from Designit strategic design firm, during the introductory session. "Users are not as they used to be. Current product/service ecosystems need new, more creative, approaches that place the customer’s needs at the center of the process and this is precisely what the design thinking does."

The kind of thinking championed by Steve Jobs, human-centered, iterative, and practical, can create more than computers and smartphones. It can also improve healthcare systems as several examples explained during the workshop proved.

"The vast majority of the 7 million children who die in Africa every year have never seen a doctor" said Roberta Tassi, from Frog, a research and design agency based in Milan. "Using the techniques of design thinking, we trained people in the communities where these children live to be able to identify and treat the most common diseases. And it works. We have saved lives."

Since the early 2000s, design thinking has become a vital tool in fueling business innovations. It is a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

In healthcare, design thinking has a critical role to design clinical experiences that meet patients' needs. Although over the last 50 years there had been enormous advances in diagnosing and treating disease, the systems of delivering healthcare had changed little. In fact, new tests, treatments and procedures meant that the healthcare experience had become increasingly complex for provider and patient alike.

"Our challenge is to create simple solutions that add value to the system and increase the quality of medical care," said Anna Cucurull, cofounder of A Piece of Pie consulting firm who gave a lecture on how design thinking can help generate new business models. "Accidental falls in elderly cost to the U.S. health system, up to 75,000 million dollars every year. Senior independent living is an emerging opportunity and new perspectives for business are required."

During the event, experienced design-thinkers explored solutions to current healthcare challenges selected among the needs identified by Biocat’s Design Health Barcelona program fellows during the immersion clinic held last November and December at Hospital Clínic, the Guttmann Institute and Hospital de Sant Joan de Déu. Gary van Broekhoven, entrepreneur and designer at Mavericks Health - European Institute of Design and OpenIDEO, pointed out the benefits of applying design thinking to reduce the incidence of Intensive Care Unit Syndrome, a mental disorder that affects about 30% of patients in these areas.

The workshop concluded with an open debate in which all the speakers agreed that, regardless of the use of design thinking, what it is fundamental to boost innovation is to create environments that allow multidisciplinary work. According to Jorge Juan Fernández, academic director of Moebio, Biocat’s talent development initiative, "those companies and institutions that integrate innovative practices into their culture and focus on the needs of its customers, will be the ones that will lead the market in the future."




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