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Businesses Take a Page From Design Firms

When New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center wanted to make the chemotherapy process easier on patients three years ago, it sought help from an unusual place: the design firm IDEO Inc.

Clinic staff from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York role-play patient-care scenarios with consultants from design firm IDEO. The hospital has enlisted designers ‘to look at problems differently.’

The IDEO consultants approached the problem the way they design eggbeaters or CD players: by closely watching patients and testing little changes.

The process delivered surprises. Clinic staffers thought patients disliked long waits for treatments. But patients said other worries were more stressful, so the clinic changed how patients are tested, how they learn about chemotherapy and how they get to the clinics.

The hospital enlisted designers “to look at problems differently,” says Wendy Perchick, head of strategic planning and innovation. IDEO’s process “was the first time for us to see [chemotherapy] through patients’ eyes,” she adds.

Sloan-Kettering’s work with IDEO comes as businesses increasingly tap the design world for fresh ideas on management. Some are struggling with new business models and unexpected rivals; others seek new approaches to old problems. Read more…


Publish date: April 19, 2009