Design vs. Disruption in 2015

The healthcare industry is experiencing a mighty wave of technology that is inevitably changing its landscape. Last year, we saw the telehealth market booming, and a wide-scale adoption of telemedicine and remote monitoring took place. Those changes indicate the coming of a bigger and more divisive force that could change the face of healthcare sector completely. Many are wondering if the approach is best suited for the healthcare industry, or if a more sustainable and design-oriented approach is more appropriate. A recent article featured in discusses the Disruption vs. Design conundrum in the context of the healthcare industry.

The article cites the views of Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, senior manager for clinical design for San Francisco-based Castlight Health, who has questioned the viability of the disruptive model of innovation in her review of “Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation.” The book, written by the three founding members of Mayo’s Center for Innovation, Nicholas LaRusso, Barbara Spurrier and Gianrico Farrugia, talks about a more subtle approach to innovation in healthcare: sustaining or “transformational” innovation, which is “an evolutionary form of innovation built on an undivided focus on the customer and customer experience,” they write.

Design is an important factor for these authors and they assert that, when applied properly and practiced over time, it can eliminate the need for disruption. Kellerman has observed that the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation is “implicitly skeptical” of the disruptive theory:

“The authors of ‘Think Big’ are quick to acknowledge the relatively modest ambitions of their brand of innovation. ‘Is our Pediatric Phlebotomy Chair a disruptive innovation? … Probably not,’ they write.” Although it did transform the patient experience, it’s hardly a game changer —and really, that’s by design. Tearing down everything and starting over is not an option in health care.” According to Kellerman, supporting design-oriented innovation is not meant to reject the disruptive approach, but rather to promote “non-disruptive innovation—not because the theory of disruption is bankrupt, but because sustaining innovation is a necessary and valid endeavor in its own right.”

With the promise of new technologies starting to transform the healthcare industry, the coming years will witness industry evolution in new ways. We’ll have to wait and watch if the changes that occur disrupt or take on a more design-oriented approach.

We would love for you to share your thoughts about the pros and cons of the Disruption vs. Design approach in the healthcare industry. Which way do you think we are headed?

Jeff Miller

About Jeff Miller

Jeff has been working in the professional AV integration industry for over twenty years. During that time he has served as Designer, Project Manager and/or Account Executive for hundreds of projects. As an Account Executive at Avidex, he specializes in Medical, Education, and Control Rooms. He can be reached at

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