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HxRefactored Highlights: Blending Design and Healthcare


Last week, I had the pleasure of attending HxRefactored, a 2-day revolutionary design and technology conference co-hosted by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0. Over 500 designers, developers, and leaders in health gathered in the hipster borough of New York City, Brooklyn–the heart of East Coast tech geek meets smooth design artist. This conference was particularly exciting because it was the brainchild of Boston-based Amy Cueva, Founder and Chief Experience Officer at Mad*Pow. Ms. Cueva believes that healthcare apps/technology need to implement “human-centered design.” She says, “The problem is that today in the healthcare field, we aren’t achieving what we’re setting out to in terms of adoption and utilization. We’re creating a log of technology, but we’re falling short of leveraging that to actually create better results. So the core of human-centered design is to involve the people who will be affected by the solutions you create in the process of creating them.” When asked why Ms. Cueva co-founded and chaired HxRefactored, she says, “We noticed that design was often absent from the conversation, and someone gave me the idea that I should put together a conference blending design and healthcare.”


I first attended “HealthCare.gov Drama Revealed” led by Fred Trotter, CEO and Founder of Not Only Development, and Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization in New York. Mr. Trotter also co-authored the first Health IT O’Reilly book, Hacking Healthcare.” Hi company, Not Only Development, focuses on developing game-changing health care software. Mr. Trotter says, “HealthCare.gov was on pace to be the largest Health IT failure in history.” According to Mr. Trotter and Mr. Ornstein, the federal government overpromised when it decided to (1) build a searchable healthcare database and (2) make it available to everyone from the very start. Congress aimed to implement a complicated large-scale system while having a poor understanding of the requirements and of the size of the expected user base. Had the federal government fully comprehended the challenges involved, it might not have failed to follow the first rule in tech: Begin with a minimum viable product. Starting small, getting initial feedback, and making modifications to evolve the product into its final form is quite possibly the most important strategy of lean startups.

The first rule of tech–Begin with a minimum viable product.

Mr. Trotter finished with saying, “But Obama’s crack team of rescuers came in and turned the site around. Whatever you think of Obamacare, the work of the rescue team will stand as one of the most substantial technology turn around stories ever.”


I particularly loved the talk by Boston-based Lisa Gualtieri, Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine– “The Untapped Potential of Patient Activism.” Ms. Gualtieri discussed what it means to be a patient activist, how notable past and present patient activists contribute to improving healthcare, and how tech continues to increase the visibility of patient activism. She concluded with some thought-provoking questions on what motivates patient activists and the stigmas associated with patient activism.

The conference was a buzz with local Boston healthcare technology entrepreneurs, including Michael Docktor, MD, Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Director of Clinical Mobile Solutions and Co-Founder of Hacking Pediatrics and Alexandra Gallant, Web Manager and Designer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Biomedical Research Institute. Ms. Gallant tells us, “My role at BWH is somewhat unique – as a designer, I am frequently working alongside and collaborating with scientists and clinicians.  Most of my interactions with the design community happen on my own time and with designers outside of the healthcare space. HxRefactored offered a unique opportunity that I could not miss – a chance to connect with fellow designers (and developers) that focus on healthcare.”

We asked Ms. Gallant about what she thought about the conference. She says, ” The talks I attended mostly focused on innovation and the design process and were absolutely fantastic. There were two different sessions that touched on creating a culture of innovation from within a large organization – one from Mike Lin of the Innovation team at Kaiser Permanente and one from Ophelia Chiu at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Both were highlights and had a great combination of practical ideas to implement, case studies to learn from and most importantly – how to talk design in a healthcare setting.

How to talk design in a healthcare setting.

Finally, coming from such a research-oriented academic institution, Ms. Gallant tells us she hoped to learn more about design in research. She says, “The one thing I do hope to see included next time is some programming around design for research in a healthcare space. It was almost non-existent as there was just one research related session, focused on clinical research and led by Joseph Kim (Shire Pharmaceuticals). “Research is healthcare” was something he said that I found so fitting. At an academic medical center like BWH, that message is crucial to get across and a concept that I think could be better explored and translated through design.”

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