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Reporting on the 2012 Healthcare Experience Design Conference and unchoking design

On March 26th, I joined fellow second-year students Sera Koo and Michael Yap for a brief preview of designing for the challenges and opportunities of the real world while attending the second-annual Healthcare Experience Design Conference in Boston.

The atmosphere was electrified as designers, researchers, investors and business leaders offered their unique perspectives on everything from organic food to EHRs.

But there was something especially magical and expansive about the keynote delivered by Todd Park, the newly appointed U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Maybe it was his self-confessed Paula Abdul-esque energy or his inclination for words like “awesome,” but I think there was more.

Park’s statements seemed at first overstated—“we’re in a classically disruptive moment right now, from which more good will come than we can possibly imagine“—but his supporting evidence was substantial, and its implications for the future undeniable. He enthusiastically railed off dozens of real projects—iTriage, Healthline, Vitals.com, PatientsLikeMe, BlueButtonData.org, and the like—that are helping tens of millions of patients today, and that would not have been possible without the Health Data Initiative (HDI)—a government effort to release huge amounts of health data, make it accessible, and make it exciting to innovators.

It was ironic then, when he said, “We didn’t even do anything. We just made it available.” In part it was true, because the HDI did not build the projects themselves, they merely enabled the creativity to happen.

However, in an industry where regulation, multiple stakeholders, and wicked problems can make all but the most bold creative problem solver feel like Katniss in the Hunger Games, it is exactly this unchoking of creative potential that will allow for the revolution in medicine we are all hoping to create.

Benjamin Gadbaw

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