Designing a Better Patient Experience: Why Healthcare Needs Designers

Lisa Helminiak


Improving the patient experience is a focus for many healthcare companies and practitioners. It makes sense. For patients and their families, it leads to better engagement and a better understanding of their role in health and healing. For practitioners, payers and providers, it leads to better outcomes and higher service quality. But as an industry, healthcare is struggling to find a clear way forward.

As designers who’ve worked across a myriad of industries, we want to make the case that healthcare and health technology organizations need to bring the right thinking to the problem. Designers are not simply focused on aesthetics; we are equipped to solve the complex issues at the core of patient engagement.

Designers know how to tackle big problems in logistics, communications, resource coordination, quality goals and service alignment, all while working within a set of business constraints. Retail, travel and even highly regulated industries such as financial services use designers to craft industry-defining innovations that directly impact business outcomes. We have the expertise, experience and tools to help healthcare organizations identify and meet patient needs and eliminate obstacles that stymie improved patient outcomes.

Designers’ roles have changed. As a design consultancy that works with health technology start-ups as well as some of the largest payers and providers in the market, we believe designers add value to patient engagement initiatives. Here’s why:

1)   Designers focus on human values.

Designers represent desirability in the desirability-feasibility-viability equation at the core of most business decisions. The process of human-centered design is particularly effective at uncovering unmet needs and then creating products, services and businesses to meet those needs. As the industry gets more competitive, desirability is becoming a key differentiator for healthcare organizations.

2) Designers are system thinkers.

Designers understand that every component of a system impacts outcomes. One flawed interaction can ruin an otherwise effective experience. Designers can help organizations get beyond siloed thinking to create cohesive and consistent patient experiences and address how all system components need to work together.

3) Designers are at the center of the most successful businesses.

In 2013, the Design Management Institute published a report on design’s impact on business and business value ( This study shows that businesses where design is central in their strategic decision-making processes have outperformed the S&P 500 by over 200 percent in the last ten years.

As designers, Azul 7 is excited to be a sponsor and judge for the inaugural HX360 Innovation Challenge. We will apply our human-centered design lens to evaluate how Challenge participants meet human needs, and design for better outcomes for both for patients and providers. We believe this approach will encourage better technology, better adoption and better outcomes for patients and their families.

Lisa Helminiak is the CEO of Azul 7, a human-centered design consultancy.

Learn more about the HX360 Innovation Challenge: