Experts address the next steps for human-centered design

By Austin Price | November 5, 2019

What is human-centered design? In an article published in October in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Berkeley Public Health’s Jaspal S. Sandhu, along with coauthors Tracy Johnson of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Nikki Tyler of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, answer that question: Human-centered design means analyzing problems in their true context and using “the real experiences of people at the forefront” of designing innovative solutions.

According to the article, “As the practice evolves, the human-centered design approach can help the health community shift from prescribing solutions according to a perception of people’s needs, to identifying solutions that actually meet their needs. The more these ideas address people where they are, not where we think they are, the better chance we will have in dealing with complex global challenges in health and health care.”

For example, in 2015, Gobee Group, a design company co-founded by Sandhu, provided human-centered design training to New Jersey-based CompleteCare Health Network. CompleteCare redesigned its breast cancer screening process for the 25,000 women the network serves—ten percent of which are migrant farm workers—to decrease delays between screening and definitive diagnosis. By using human-centered design, and “engaging patients and frontline staff as the experts who know most about the screening experience,” CompleteCare overhauled their process and cut diagnosis delay nearly in half. 

The past few years have seen a rapid increase in the use of human-centered design in public health solutions. Building on this success, Sandhu, Johnson and Tyler provide guidelines for “design consumers,” non-designers adopting a human-centered design approach, to improve the process and meet people’s real needs. 

The goal, says the authors, is to put real people at the forefront of design, and therefore yield better design consumers: “Good human-centered design practitioners don’t claim that design is a magic bullet. But they believe design can play an important role in helping non-designers in health understand the ‘why’ behind people’s behavior.

Read the whole article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.