A weekend workshop shows patients and clinicians a new approach to think about solutions to their everyday issues


Nine clinicians and ten teen patients along with their siblings opted to spend this past weekend trying out some new skills. Thanks to a group of dedicated design experts and the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, who hosted the event, the group came away with a fresh perspective, deepened empathy and a new approach to facing challenges.

Design Daze was a three-day design sprint, where teams of teens and clinicians worked with design mentors and experts to identify needs that are important to them as patients, family of patients or clinicians. Then the groups went to work constructing solutions to meet those needs, and finally they pitched their ideas to a panel of Silicon Valley executives.

“I’m so pleased our clinicians and patients have this opportunity co-create solutions together” said Krisa Elgin, NP, the HP Director of Research and Innovation at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “It’s exciting to have this partnership to introduce a creative problem solving approach to our patients and staff to solve for real-world problems.”

Teams tackled issues like patient empowerment, medicine adherence, transitioning to life at Ronald McDonald House and the issue that impacts all patients — waiting.


Teen and mentor work on designing their prototype.

Donald Olgado, co-founder of The Design Farm, or DFarm, a Palo Alto nonprofit dedicated to educating teens on the design thinking method, said “the best people to solve teen issues are teens themselves and more often than not, they’ll exceed that and end up solving for adult issues as well.”

This was the first occasion that the DFarm invited adults into the workshop, and it was particularly exciting to see how a team of clinicians versus a team of teens approach the same need area. For example, the issue of “The Wait” — the teen’s team focused on an app solution to improve communications between clinics and patients to avoid long waits around appointments. And the clinician team focused on the families who face long wait periods, weeks to months, associated with their medical care, and how they could make the wait as productive and entertaining as possible.

The panel of judges was made of a group who are very familiar with taking an idea or concept to fruition and into market:  Peter Coughlan, former head of medical practice at IDEO; Paul Chamberlain, former Director at Morgan Stanley; and Walter Barry, CEO of Stinson Orthopedic. The judges heard two-minute pitches from each team, and responded with questions and recommendations to help further the concept.

“Some ideas we’ve heard could be implemented here at the house if they were further developed,” said Annette Eros, CEO of the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. “It’s our mission to take care of the non-clinical needs for families and provide a sense normalcy, so these insights help tell us what matters to teens.”


Teams worked with a variety of materials to build prototypes.

Teens like Sina Sulunga-Kahaia (pictured above, front left), 15-year-old transplant recipient from Hawaii enjoyed the process, working with peers on a design to improve in-home care for patients on dialysis. “It’s nice to apply what I know from being a patient, maybe our idea could make things easier for future families that go through this.”

On the closing day of the workshop awards were given out by the DFarm to the teams, the “Wackiest Idea” – which involved Beyoncé greeting families at the House (totally awesome), to the “MacGyver Award” for best prototyping. But the “Best Overall” was deliberated on by the judges who admitted to the pain of choosing between such examples of ingenuity, and they based their decision on the idea that would be able to most immediately impact the greatest number of people. The winner was a team dubbed, ‘Children for Catfish’ and their idea was a guide for families arriving at Ronald McDonald House to help smooth their transition and provide key information in a variety of languages.

Ultimately, the participants and collaborators found the magic in the process of the work rather than the end result.

“This approach of engaging teams with observing, empathizing, understanding and improving is the most valuable takeaway,” said Ross Venook, co-founder of DFarm who also teaches Bioengineering at Stanford University. He says it’s not necessarily an immediate return on investment, but that’s not their goal. “We measure our success by how many we can educate on this approach, because we’re confident that somewhere down the line that knowledge will spur something that will make a difference.”

Krisa Elgin hopes to send more Packard Children’s clinician volunteers through this type of training, “this process brings a new tool for the clinician’s improvement tool belt,” said Elgin. “This experience brings us closer to our patients, and builds a better understanding of their needs and challenges.”

See the article about Design Daze featured in Monday August 15th edition of The Mercury News.

See our gallery of photos from the event.


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