Dell Medical School teams up with UT for Design Institute for Health

(Frank Martinez/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dell Medical School is teaming up with the University of Texas College of Fine Arts in what officials are calling a “unique collaboration designed to integrate design and health care.” This comes just hours before the kickoff of SXSW’s new Health and MedTech Expo.

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Officials say the Design Institute for Health is a first-of-its-kind institution dedicated to applying design thinking and creative solutions to the nation’s health care challenges — and integrating that perspective into medical education and community health programs. The announcement for the Design Institute for Health happened at The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center Art Museum.

Organizers say providers are moving toward a system that focuses as much on people’s lives, priorities and loved ones as on their particular sickness. The Design Institute for Health aims to generate designs and strategies that reinvent the ways doctors are taught and Americans get healthy and stay healthy.

“In health care, there are endless opportunities to rethink products and systems so they better serve people who need them,” said Stacey Chang, who oversaw IDEO’s health-related portfolio and will be the institute’s executive director. “The Design Institute for Health will take on these longstanding challenges in a way that’s fully integrated with the Dell Medical School’s efforts to create a vital, inclusive health ecosystem and make Austin a model healthy city.”

Chang is one of the two veterans of the design firm IDEO whom will lead the institute. Chang is IDEO’s former managing director of health and wellness. Chang joins forces with Beto Lopez, who is a former global lead of systems design at IDEO and is also a UT alumnus.

The nation is more than ready, Chang said, for creative, human-centered designs that reduce waiting room times, streamline insurance payments, help people tend to their health and create a more compassionate atmosphere in hospitals and clinics.

“This institute will systematically use design and creativity to create better health outcomes at lower costs, increase value in the health care system and improve the lives of patients and providers,” said Lopez, who will be the institute’s managing director. “We’ll examine everything from the design of health products to the architecture of the hospital to the functionality of the health ecosystem itself; it’s an incredibly exciting project.”

More about Dell Medical School and the collaboration

The Dell Medical School is the first medical school in decades to be built from the ground up at a top-tier research university. Dr. Clay Johnston, inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School, said that newness will help the school embrace novel solutions without worrying about effects on existing models and practices.

“In health care, ‘redesign’ has become such a buzz word, but few entities are using the principles of design thinking to take on these challenges,” Johnston said. “Creative, uniquely Austin solutions are required to make this a model healthy city. These guys are the creative gurus.”

Both Johnston and Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, credited UT Austin President Bill Powers and Provost Greg Fenves for supporting initiatives such as the Design Institute with the potential to improve health and transform health care.

“The joint appointments of these design experts to the faculties of Fine Arts and the Dell Medical School is a first, big step in an exciting new collaboration between our two colleges,” Dempster said. “Our goal is nothing less than to redesign healthcare delivery in America. In the process, we are ensuring that our design program is a unifying entrepreneurial discipline at The University of Texas.”

More about IDEO

IDEO is credited with a number of landmark designs that established its reputation, including the original computer mouse, the folding laptop computer and the Palm PDA device. Since then, IDEO has expanded its reach into the design of offerings as diverse as educational systems, public policy, retail spaces and children’s toys.

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