HEALTH: Tell us more about CIC and its differences from Digital CoLab.
NAKAGAWA: CIC embodies our vision of how academic medical centers can collaborate with industry to foster thought leadership and innovation.
Industry has always collaborated with academic medical centers, but I think some of the expense and bureaucracy has to do with intellectual property. What if we didn’t have to worry about IP and just focus on troubleshooting? CIC is a platform for any health system, patient or clinician to be able to post issues they see in health equity. From there, we work with them to brainstorm and prototype solutions, without IP or budget constraints as those are often the barriers that can hinder innovation and collaboration.
We have many patients and clinicians with amazing ideas, but they don’t know who to go to or how to create technical specifications for an app or prototype. How do we remove the barriers so that they can bring their expertise and ideas and we can handle the rest? This type of model can leverage a lot of untapped potential in healthcare to solve big problems.
HEALTH: What does human-centered design mean for your organization?
NAKAGAWA: We determine human-centered design as the practice of reframing the narrative about the person and the experience rather than the technology. We prioritize understanding the problem or experience as deeply as possible. How do we think about innovation as human-initiated and experience-driven, with technology only an enabler?
In medicine, this type of practice is especially difficult because we rely on expertise passed down through generations of training to make sure our patients receive the best care possible. But for the practice of innovation, we want to take the opposite approach: we want to step away from our expertise and challenge our unconscious biases, or at least be able to understand that no matter what we do, we bring a certain amount to prejudice. If we can be more aware of our own biases, we will naturally want to include other people in the equation. We try to approach everything with a “startup mind”.
HEALTH: What successes or failures have you noticed when structures to ensure that DEI are applied or not applied in a project?
NAKAGAWA: Unfortunately, I can’t give you good examples of success stories yet, but we are very aware of the two main points of failure in the design and testing phases.
In the design phase, I don’t think we invest enough to understand the problem. When it comes to innovation, we jump too fast to figure out what the solution is. When looking at reducing health inequalities, it takes a long time to uncover the root causes of these inequalities. Being able to step back and realize that this isn’t going to be a quick exercise—even saying that out loud to the team at the beginning—is important. In medicine, we often need to respond quickly to situations, especially in the ICU or emergency department. In innovation and design, we have the luxury of taking our time to explore the problem and let curiosity guide us.
Another key point of failure is in the testing phase. When you want to test your solution, it is natural to test with patients nearby. For us, because we’ve had to provide care to a geographically and demographically diverse patient population, we’re also putting systems in place to ensure that we’re always testing and validating with a diverse patient population. If you make that upfront investment, those solutions can grow a lot more in the long run.