Every year, the famed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota convenes leading healthcare industry luminaries and upstarts and challenges them to think differently about healthcare. Research scientists mix with product designers, marketers with physicians. At this year’s Transform symposium, GE’s Chief Marketing Officer Beth Comstock and GE Healthcare’s Global Design head Bob Schwartz joined Dondeena Bradley, Vice President for Global Design and Development for Nutrition Ventures at Pepsico, James Hackett, the President and CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase, and Dr. Paul Grundy, Global Director of Healthcare Transformation at IBM, for a discussion on the role of corporate creativity in driving healthcare innovation. Their top insights and observations are below:
Check out highlights from a “Brain Bowl,” hosted by GE at the Mayo Clinic’s Transform symposium. Participants were invited to brainstorm and collaborate on ways to improve cancer care. In just 18 minutes, the 48 attendees generated 864 ideas, in 6 different categories. Stay tuned for more news coming soon from GE about using collaboration to address the challenges posed by cancer.
1. Healthcare Innovation Requires Empathy, Not Just Science: One key to a better patient experience is designing healthcare technology with emotional benefits in mind. Comstock cited this as an example of the kind of disruptive thinking needed to drive healthcare innovation. “Medical devices stare at you with no look on their face,” said Schwartz, “They basically make you wonder, am I going to die now?” He pointed to GE’s Adventure Series—an offering that transforms pediatric imaging rooms to help make an often frightening experience for children more inviting with colorful characters, engaging visuals and related activities—as an example of a piece of healthcare tech with empathy built in. Comstock mentioned how one young brain cancer patient asked her mother if she could “do it again,” after getting an MR scan in an Adventure themed imaging room.
2. Promoting Healthy Eating is Complicated: Encouraging people to eat nutritionally isn’t as easy as it seems. Pepsico’s Bradley reeled off some surprising obstacles: “We don’t have enough land in the U.S. to grow the amount of fruits and vegetables required if every American ate the five recommended servings of fruits and vegetables a day.” Also, people don’t purchase enough produce at the grocery store because they think it will perish before they’ve had a chance to eat it. Understanding attitudes like these is essential for making nutritional info understandable and, more importantly, actionable. Bradley said Wal-Mart had taken a creative approach to the problem by placing produce front and center in its stores.
3. To Understand Health, Look to How We Work: Steelcase’s Hackett proposed that a good proxy for thinking about how healthcare is changing is the evolving workplace, which has been his company’s specialty for the last three decades. To successfully adapt, Hackett said, you have to “trick the mind to leave behind the virtues that made you great.” Getting office furniture right means getting human patterns right and similar gains can be achieved in designing the next generation of healthcare tech by understanding human patterns.
4. Harnessing Data: With new IT tools, leveraging big healthcare data is an important new development in promoting good health and improving the healthcare system. GE has begun to explore some of the possibilities of learning from data with MIT. IBM’s Grundy mentioned the company’s Watson supercomputer and work with Wellpoint to “do for doctors’ minds what the X-Ray did for doctors’ vision.” Transparent data has big implications for cost control as well: “For the first time in history,” said Grundy, “I know exactly what it costs in a specific geographical area.”
5. Applying Creativity and Innovation to Change the Course of a Major Disease: Comstock and Schwartz emphasized that the next step in GE’s journey will be to apply the lessons learned from its healthymagination initiative—a shared commitment to improving health for more people via disruptive thinking and collaboration—to confronting the challenges of a specific major disease like cancer. “Later this week we’ll be announcing some new efforts targeted at breast cancer,” said Comstock. “We think it’s going to revolutionize breast cancer screening and treatment.” She and Schwartz then unveiled a sneak peek at a design “concept car,” produced by GE Healthcare’s design team, a rendering of the design for a more portable breast cancer screening technology. Stay tuned for that announcement, coming this Thursday, September 15.