Experience Team Volunteers

Hi, I’m Xinyue Zhou, first year MDes student, second year at ID. Last year I joined the BarnRaise experience swag team and made the ruler gift for all attendees at Motorola reception. I feel so excited that I could lead a six week “design project” with a group of creative designers and make it real.

My name is Gordon Wells and I am helping lead the experience team. I've spent a number of years designing digital experiences and am eager to expand that experience into more tangible experiences.

Q1: What does the experience team do?

We create two-and-half-day physical and digital environments in all spaces for all participants to enjoy BarnRaise without any trouble. 

Q2: What are your goals and expectations?

We are trying to create an experience that captures to connection between design, technology, and healthcare. There are a lot of different activities happening throughout the BarnRaise conference and teams will be focused on their challenges in varying locations. While they work on a specific challenge, we also want participants to feel like they are part of a larger group effort that is working to improve access to care and make a difference. 

The team of volunteers is thrilled to be designing the conference experience and shaping the feeling participants have throughout the two-and-a-half days. Their desire to build on their existing knowledge and learn outside of the classroom really highlights their commitment to the community. 

Check them out in LinkedIn!

Announcing our 2015 Team Challenges!

 Photography by Aaron Wolf

Photography by Aaron Wolf

BarnRaise is just three weeks away and we could not be more excited to share our team challenges with you! Below are the "How Might We..." questions that will be guiding each team's work over the course of BarnRaise 2015. 

For those unfamiliar, "How Might We..." questions are a common way that designers frame their brainstorming or ideation within a topic space. They allow us to be focused in our investigation, maintaining a point-of-view while not being too narrow in our thinking.

Each of the following questions has been formulated with one of our amazing community partners. We will be announcing the design firm and community partner pairings soon, as well as more detailed design briefs that accompany each of these questions. In the meantime, here is a sneak peak of the work we will be taking on together!



How might we improve community-leader adoption of the Livibility Index to help Chicago communities prepare for our aging population?


American Medical Women's Association

How might we support stroke prevention by empowering community leaders to educate community members


Broadway Youth Center

How might we create a safe community and sense of belonging for both LGBTQ adults and marginalized youth in a shared space?



How might we engage caregivers directly and expand our user base by providing immediate value during the sign-up process?


Chicago Women's Health Center

How might we improve access to affordable integrative health services and engage new patients in the health center’s community?


Human Practice

How might we involve patients in decision-making to support patient engagement and follow through on referral appointments?


Illinois Hospital Association

How might we ensure palliative care conversations between patients and their medical care providers become commonplace?


Janus Choice

How might we optimize the experience for all users involved in the discharge decision-making process?


Smart Chicago Collaborative

How might we engage new clinics in a partnership to improve their patients’ medical and computer literacy?



How might we encourage young adults to seek treatment at first signs of mental illness to prevent perpetuating homelessness and other ramifications?


Varsa Health

How might we improve patient engagement in self-reporting health data through a digital provider ecosystem?


YMCA of the USA

How might we link clinical and community-based services to help older adults prepare for and recover from joint replacement surgery?


BarnRaise Experience Trail

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The experience team had their second meet up about concepts and overall BarnRaise experience on Sep.17th!

Swag, logos, posters, stickers, etc. were discussed during the meeting. Volunteers shared sketches and drafts about their ideas.

Would there be digital badge for checking in? Gift-like stickers that are also valuable after the event? Color stickers that shows people's background to encourage participants to network? 

There is A LOT to expect!

Stay tuned for more updates about our volunteers' work!



Better Health, By Design

We have had the privilege of consulting and sharing with students and faculty involved in Design+Health, a partnership between Brown University's Alpert Medical School and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), during the planning for BarnRaise 2015. Design+Health is a great example of an initiative that is leveraging different types of expertise to cross-pollinate design and healthcare.

This post, written by Ravi Sarpatwari was originally published on Footnote, a website that brings academic research and ideas to a broader audience.

How do bottles of Coca Cola reach even the most remote regions of the world, while essential medicines for conditions like diarrhea remain unobtainable?

Simon Berry noticed this discrepancy while working with the British Overseas Development Agency in Northern Zambia in the 1980s. Dehydration from diarrhea can be easily treated with low-cost interventions such as oral rehydration therapy, yet diarrhea remains a leading cause of death in children under five worldwide. Berry wondered whether the empty spaces in each crate of Coca Cola could be used for drug delivery. Two decades later, he invented the Kit Yamoyo, a self-contained aid-pod with oral rehydration salts and zinc tablets for treating diarrhea. The Kit Yamoyo went on to win many design awards and, in initial trials in Zambia, increased the share of sick children receiving treatment from less than 1% to 45%.[1]

The Kit Yamoyo is merely one example of how design can be harnessed to tackle significant public health problems. Design does not deal merely with aesthetics or superficial beautification – at its core, it provides a strategy for critically analyzing problems and creating solutions that enhance our lives. It addresses the social and cultural elements that are as critical to health as scientific and clinical advances. Other fields, from technology to business to education, have recognized the value of design and creativity and integrated these approaches into their work. To tackle the complex healthcare issues we face today, we need to follow their lead and make design a fundamental part of medical research, education, and practice.

  Students in the Design+Health class, a partnership between Brown University's Alpert Medical School and the Rhode Island School of Design

Students in the Design+Health class, a partnership between Brown University's Alpert Medical School and the Rhode Island School of Design

Better Health, By Design

As advancements in technology provide us with increasing resources at our disposal – from minimally invasive surgical tools to 3D printed organs to the current surge in wearable technology – design plays a critical role in how we implement these technologies to positively impact health.[a]

Nowhere is the evidence for design’s ability to advance healthcare clearer than in the development of medical devices. Insulin pens are a prime example. For decades, patients with insulin-dependent diabetes have had to manage their blood sugar by frequently injecting themselves with syringes after manually drawing insulin from a vial. This process is cumbersome and requires fine dexterity; since peripheral nerve damage is a common complication of diabetes, it can often be difficult for patients to do themselves. Since the advent of insulin pens in 1985, patients can now administer their medication with convenient, discreet, one-touch devices. Studies have shown that these pens increase medication compliance, provide more accurate dosing, and improve user satisfaction.[2]

The design of physical space is another promising way to improve health. In the clinical setting, environment has a considerable impact on the delivery of care by either enhancing or inhibiting providers’ natural workflows.[b] For example, a redesign of the coronary care unit at Indiana University Health’s Methodist Hospital reduced the number of patient rooms, but each room became more versatile and adaptable to changes in the severity of the patient’s condition.[3] Patients could be admitted and discharged from the same room, allowing for a 90% reduction in patient transports and handoffs. This led to 70% fewer medication errors and to greater efficiency, permitting more time for direct nursing care. Additional studies have found that specific design elements can contribute significantly to improved patient outcomes.[4] For instance, exposure to sunlight and views of nature from hospital rooms have been shown to decrease patients’ stress, pain, and the length of their stay.

Integrating Different Worlds

Despite the success of individual design solutions in addressing health problems, there are still several barriers to institutionalizing a greater integration of design and healthcare. First, practitioners in each field approach their goals in fundamentally different ways. Physicians are trained to be analytical, to follow guidelines and procedures, and to support their actions with clear evidence and rationale. Designers, on the other hand, are encouraged to be empathetic and creative, to experiment with ideation, and to challenge the status quo.

This does not mean that the practice of medicine lacks creativity or that design is not rigorous or systematic. Rather, these very distinct lenses through which doctors and designers approach problem solving can contribute to ineffective communication and difficulty in recognizing the potential benefits that the other party brings to the table. Moreover, our healthcare system is so mired in complexity that even experts struggle to grasp it as a whole. Layers of bureaucratic red tape obstruct or dissuade non-healthcare personnel from entering and understanding the clinical environment.

Just as important is the need for thorough, peer-reviewed research on design’s role in medicine. Although design is understood to influence health, the mechanisms of how it helps and the extent to which it helps have not yet been analyzed in a systematic manner. In a review of existing literature on the impact of healthcare facility design, researchers found that “well-designed physical settings play an important role in making hospitals safer and more healing,” but noted that existing evidence, particularly high-quality randomized controlled trials, is limited.[6] Until more rigorous research is performed to evaluate the impact of specific design interventions on patient outcomes, as well as the pathways by which these interventions have an effect, it will be difficult for the value of design to garner full acceptance within the medical community.

A Systemic Role for Design

The next phase in the integration of design into healthcare is a move from individual successes like the Kit Yamoyo and the insulin pen to a more formal, robust incorporation of design as a fundamental component of medicine. The Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI) represents one institution’s attempt to officially bridge medicine and design by employing an in-house interdisciplinary team that uses design thinking to solve health problems. One outcome of CFI’s efforts is the Jack and Jill Consult Room, developed after the team realized that the majority of patient-doctor interactions revolve around conversation rather than the physical exam. The team redesigned the traditional exam room to accommodate this dynamic, a change that served to improve workflow as well as patient and provider satisfaction.[c]

Despite calls for innovation in the areas of academic medicine and medical education, there are still relatively few formalized education and research endeavors that wed medicine and design.[7] Pioneering initiatives like the University of Virginia’s Center for Design & Health and the Texas A&M University’s Center for Health Systems & Design are pushing for interdisciplinary collaboration and research at an institutional level, but even these visionary programs tend to limit their scope to topics such as health facility design and urban planning. Programs like the Stanford BioDesign Innovation Fellowship and the “Innovative Thinking” course at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston aim to instill design thinking among participants, but are geared primarily towards post-graduate or graduate students and are situated outside the realm of primary medical education.

Sending Design to School

There are few precedents for interdisciplinary, collaborative learning opportunities for design and medical students early in their education. During this critical phase, students are absorbing their respective disciplines with enthusiasm while also challenging traditional concepts and seeking out ways to incorporate progressive thinking into their future careers. Through early collaboration, these eager minds gain exposure to unique perspectives and expertise that can broaden their respective skill sets for problem solving. Medical students can acquire skills for innovative thinking and production and design students can gain conceptual grounding in clinical medicine and health in order to direct their creative talents.

To promote the value of cross-disciplinary collaboration, we created Design+Health, a developing partnership between the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).[d] One of Design+Health’s first projects is a joint course that seeks to increase awareness of the capacity of all fields of design to influence health, and to foster collaboration and effective communication between the health and design disciplines. By bringing together design students and medical students during their formative educational experiences, our goal is to break down traditional silos in education in order to unlock innovative capacity and create a new approach to best understand and respond to complex problems involving health.

The human element has always been as important to medicine as the scientific side. Design takes this human factor into account by analyzing how healthcare is provided and used and how the behavior of doctors, patients, and other actors promotes or impedes health. Through novel systems that bring medical resources to underserved areas, redesigned hospital and exam rooms that help providers offer better care, and medical devices that empower patients to improve their own health, design has a pivotal role to play in healthcare. What we need now is to integrate design as a fundamental component of medicine by creating opportunities for the two worlds to meet, from the classroom to the research lab to the clinical setting.

Ravi Sarpatwari is a M.D. candidate at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. Having previously studied architecture and worked in educational design, Ravi was exposed to the impact of conscientious design on health, and his current interests focus on expanding the use of design to address medical and public health challenges. Ravi is a co-founder of Design+Health, a collaboration between the Alpert Medical School and the Rhode Island School of Design that serves as an incubator for innovative design solutions to improve individual and community health. 

Ravi would like to thank Jay Baruch for his guidance and comments; Ameet Sarpatwari, Angelina Palombo, and Pranav Reddy for their additional input; and the entire Design+Health team for their efforts in this collaborative endeavor.

Side Notes

(a) Hackathons have recently expanded from computing and engineering into healthcare and medical devices. These events bring together participants with diverse skill sets to generate ideas and rapidly develop responses to specific challenges. At a health hackathon hosted by the MIT Hacking Medicine group and Massachusetts General Hospital, a physician and an engineer collaborated on a device to help infants who have difficulty breathing at birth, a problem that kills 1.8 million newborns a year. Within a matter of days, they created a working prototype for the Augmented Infant Resuscitator, a low-cost device that monitors and provides real-time feedback on resuscitation efforts.

(b) Design can be just as potent outside of clinical settings, in the everyday living and working environments where peoples’ health is largely determined. Physical inactivity, along with poor diet, is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Efforts to design engaging and safe public spaces, such as parks, bike paths, and better sidewalks, can promote walking, running, bicycling, and the use of stairs to get people to move more. [4]

(c) In a house, a Jack and Jill configuration refers to a bathroom with doors into two bedrooms located on either side. The Jack and Jill rooms at Mayo have an exam room with an attached conversation room on each side where doctors can meet and talk with patients before and after the physical exam.

(d) Design+Health serves as an incubator for innovative ideas at the intersection of medicine and design. It aims to generate novel solutions to medical and public health challenges as well as new forms of research that promotes the use of design in healthcare.

End Notes

  1. Rohit Ramchandani (forthcoming) “ColaLife Operational Trial Zambia (COTZ) Evaluation,” Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  2. Jean-Louis Selam (2010) "Evolution of Diabetes Insulin Delivery Devices," Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 4(3):505-513.
  3. Ann L. Hendrich, Joy Fay, and Amy Sorrels (2004) "Effects of Acuity-Adaptable Rooms on Flow of Patients and Delivery of Care," Am J Crit Care, 13:35-45.
  4. Jeffrey Walch, Bruce Rabin, Richard Day, Jessica Williams, Krissy Choi, and James Kang (2005) "The Effect of Sunlight on Postoperative Analgesic Medication Use: a Prospective Study of Patients Undergoing Spinal Surgery," American Psychosomatic Society, 67:156-163; Roger S. Ulrich. (1984) "View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery," Science, 224:420-421; Francesco Benedetti, Cristina Colombo, Barbara Barbini, Euridice Campori, and Enrico Smeraldi (2001) "Morning Sunlight Reduces Length of Hospitalization in Bipolar Depression," Journal of Affective Disorders, 62:221-223; Sara Malenbaum, Francis Keefe, Amanda Williams, Roger Ulrich, Tamara Somers (2008) "Pain in its Environmental Context: Implications for Designing Environments to Enhance Pain Control," Pain, 134:241-244.
  5. Robin McKinnon, Heather Bowles, and Matthew Trowbridge (2011) "Engaging Physical Activity Policymakers," Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 8(1):S145-S147.
  6. Roger Ulrich, Craig Zimring, Xuemei Zhu, Jennifer DuBose, Hyun-Bo Seo, Young-Seon Choi, Xiaobo Quan, and Anjali Joseph (2008) "Healthcare Leadership: White Paper Series: a Review of the Research Literature on Evidenced Based Healthcare Design," The Center for Health Design.
  7. Roberta Ness (2011) "Teaching Creativity and Innovative Thinking in Medicine and the Health Sciences," Acad Med, 86:1201–1203.

BarnRaise Chats with DFA 2015 Summer Studio Participants!

Design for America (DFA) has been a great promotional partner of BarnRaise 2015. We had the pleasure of hearing directly from student participants of their 2015 Summer Studio about the excellent design work they did in the Access to Care space around sustained care for liver transplant patients with type 2 diabetes. 

Tell us a little bit about yourselves; your various backgrounds and why you decided to join the DFA 2015 Summer Studio?

We are all undergraduate students at Northwestern University; Ashley is a senior studying Computer Engineering and Design, Robert is a sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering and Business, Vincent is also a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering, and Eleni is a junior studying Comparative Literature and Global Health/Medical Anthropology. Even through each one of us joined the Summer Studio for slightly different reasons, we were all driven by our interest in human-centered design and the desire to create social impact, to design something that people will want to use to improve their day-to-day lives. 

 Ashley, Robert, Vincent and Eleni

Ashley, Robert, Vincent and Eleni


This year at BarnRaise we are focused on improved access to care. We've heard a lot about your work this summer in patient care as it relates to diabetes. Tell us more?

We partnered with a research team at Northwestern Medicine to improve transitions of care and education for liver transplant patients with type 2 diabetes

Liver transplant patients have a uniquely challenging transition of care after surgery because the operation is high risk and complications are common. After surgery, patients are required to be on as many as 10 different medications to deal with the pain and prevent the new liver from being rejected. However, these medications, in combination with the added stress of surgery, cause 50% of patients to have elevated blood sugar levels and to eventually get diabetes post-op, Typically, patients have poor mental cognition for days after surgery which makes listening to the important instructions given by doctors and nurses impossible to comprehend. They are completely dependent on a caregiver who has to learn not only how to take care of the patient's post-op recovery, but also how to manage their diabetes. After 2-3 months, the patient can begin to take charge of their new condition. 6,000 patients go through this process every year, The transition out of the hospital is confusing, frustrating, and scary. We chose to ask:

"How can we ease this overwhelming transition to promote better health after transplant?" 


What were some of the insights you uncovered in your user research?

For the first couple of weeks, we tried to see the problem through the users’ eyes; we interviewed patients, their caregivers, and providers, conducted secondary research, and detailed personas and timelines. We soon realized that some of the issues these users were facing were due to standardized healthcare protocols.

For example, diabetes education management training happens at discharge, when patients are also receiving an overwhelming amount of information from different groups of providers. When they go home and take charge of their condition, they have to re-learn how to monitor their blood sugar, administer insulin, and take all their medications on time. They use equipment, such as glucometers, that may not be the same as what they were trained on.

Perhaps the most overarching insight though, is that learning to manage diabetes can be extremely hard. Even though this project is focused on liver transplant patients with type 2 diabetes, what is great about it is its scope; liver transplant patients have about a 50% risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which makes them the highest risk case of diabetes. They are prescribed many medications, some of which have blood sugar related side effects or prolong the post-op low cognition state. They may not be leading the healthiest lifestyles, which also doesn’t help their diabetes management. So if we can teach this population to manage their diabetes right out of the hospital, then we can teach almost any other population to do so.


How has the Human-Centered Design approach helped your work specifically as it relates to your problem space?

The human-centered design process is focused on the users in every stage. We began by empathizing with users and reframing the problem space; does the problem lie within the hospital and its methods of care, or does it lie within a patient’s interaction with his or her health provider? Our insights led us to focus on the patient’s transition from hospital to independence.

We took these insights to the ideation phase, and formed questions centered around our user based on our insights to guide our brainstorming. For example, one insight we uncovered was that people with type 2 diabetes have trouble organizing information given to them in the hospital. Then, our user-centered question might be: “How can we empower liver transplant patients during their transition out of the hospital to easily comprehend their medical instructions?” We brainstormed answers to each of these questions and came up with hundreds of solutions. We then synthesized and eliminated ideas by determining how well aspects of each design addressed user-needs we had identified through our research.

As we moved on to the prototyping and testing phase, we received constant feedback from users; we observed them interacting with our low-fidelity mockups and gained insights from their interaction and comments. It has been extremely valuable for us to have direct access to liver transplant patients with type 2 diabetes through our community partner, the Northwestern Medicine Research Team. They have played a very important role in acquiring resources and feedback on our designs.

The Human Centered Design process has provided an invaluable framework for us to immerse ourselves in the problem space, uncover insights, and test our mockups. The focus on the end user and approach that we followed has set VERA up as user-centric and user-friendly system of products to help liver transplant patients with type 2 diabetes transition to independence.

 Prototypes of student concept, VERA

Prototypes of student concept, VERA


We heard that your team has recently made a pitch to your community partner at Feinberg School of Medicine. What are your next steps?

We’ve discussed our goals moving forward and have made arrangements to meet regularly with a faculty advisor to apply for grants. Additionally, Eleni will be applying for an Undergraduate Research Grant through Northwestern University to conduct ethnographic research on diabetes narratives and do product archaeology. We have an independent study planned in the winter to refine our prototypes and conduct more user testing. We continue with support from our community partner, the endocrine research team at Northwestern Medicine, and will be working with them on our prototypes and user sessions.


As a team working to influence this space of patient care, what do you hope to see in the area of accessibility in the future?

We hope that patients will have better access to personalized health care for diabetes management. There’s lots of incredible technology being developed that can make diabetes education more intuitive. However, it’s very important that innovation addresses the needs of the targeted user groups, and that’s where user-centered design really comes in. Every patient is different, not only in a medical sense, but also as it relates to their context, be it social, educational, or cultural. We are really excited to see technology being used to span these differences while creating effective individualized solutions.


Thanks for sharing with us, Ashley, Robert, Vincent and Eleni!