Embracing Human-Centered Design in Healthcare

Dec 11, 2023 | Articles, Leadership

 by Rabiha Ahmed


When crafting a patient-centric experience, many of us employ various problem-solving frameworks to effectively identify and address gaps or issues that patients may encounter. Two prominent approaches stand out among these frameworks: Lean Six Sigma and Human-Centered Design (HCD). In this article, we will delve into the concept of Human-Centered Design, shedding light on its core principles and illustrating how you can leverage it in your projects.


At the heart of Human-Centered Design lies a fundamental principle: cultivating an empathetic mindset. Designers harness empathy to ensure that the products and experiences they create cater to users’ obvious and subtle needs. This ethos aligns closely with Lean Six Sigma’s “respect for people” principle. Designers actively engage with the individuals affected by the problem, conducting research, making observations, and holding interviews. These activities allow them to delve deeper into the problem, experiment with potential solutions, and kindle their creativity in designing experiments or crafting product prototypes. Through a process of iteration and feedback loops with end-users, designers arrive at solutions that resonate emotionally with users and provide a satisfying physical experience.


In addition to empathy, designers must embrace a mindset of creative confidence. Creative confidence is rooted in an optimistic belief in the potential for positive change. When individuals believe they can shape a better future, they approach problems with enthusiasm, actively seek feedback, and endeavor to find lasting solutions. It’s the notion that the energy designers project into the world can significantly impact their creativity and problem-solving approach.


For those new to design thinking, the process may initially seem chaotic, possibly leading to a feeling of being stuck. Fortunately, designers employ tactics to overcome such obstacles. These tactics involve reframing perspectives and include:

  1. Asking Empowering Questions: Start by framing questions with “How might we…” to spark creative thinking.
  2. Question Brainstorming Exercises: Engage in brainstorming sessions centered around brainstorming critical questions.
  3. Six Thinking Hats: Explore the problem from six different angles, fostering a comprehensive understanding.


If you’re keen on delving deeper into Human-Centered Design, consider exploring the resources offered by Ideo U, an online design thinking school. Ideo U provides both free and paid learning opportunities, allowing you to delve into the art of Human-Centered Design and gain insights into real-life problem-solving scenarios successfully tackled by the firm.


Incorporating Human-Centered Design principles into healthcare projects enhances the patient experience and fosters a culture of empathy, creativity, and optimism among designers and professionals dedicated to improving the human experience and the impact of their work.


Rabiha Ahmed-Sheikh, MHA, is Senior Program Manager, Neuroscience Service Line at Stanford Health Care. She serves on the CAHL Communications Committee.