One huge problem for US healthcare is that technology moves at a much faster rate than the system of change and adoption in the current system. For obvious reasons, there are a lot of regulations, studies, and tests to help ensure effectiveness of processes and products that are introduced into healthcare services. Unfortunately, this system means the technology and ideas that could benefit patients and healthcare workers are years behind.

On Monday, at the Institute for the Future HealthCare 2020 open space meeting on Science and Technology in Health, which took place at the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Center, participants expressed frustration that rapid prototyping and iterative learning were not syncing up with the demands of scientific rigor. It seemed the rigors of science were being perceived as putting a bind on using new technologies and modes of interaction to quickly improve information and conditions for patients.

An idea that came up several times was to use crowdsourcing to get a greater amount of information and data more quickly and easily than clinic trials. While potentially very effective rife with opportunity, participants said such services are not seen as scientifically valid.

Like most complex challenges, this presents several opportunities for designers. One role designers can play is to ignore the current system, focus on the people and enablers, and design services that through their success and uptake transform the current system. For example, we could use crowdsourcing to enable people to share their information and stories to better understand their condition and help others. That is, I believe, what PatientsLikeMe aims to do.

But another role designers could play is facilitator between the needs of science and scientific rigor and the real, messy world of people and the technology enablers that provide new opportunities for healthcare services. In this role, we could find ways to engage all stakeholders, learn through doing, and through engaging and doing create advocates that will help propel transformation to a system that takes advantage of emerging technology, embraces rapid prototyping where appropriate, and improves the situation for everyone.