How Design Thinking Helps Advance Pharmaceutical Treatment

Design thinking is a structured philosophy of putting the final user first and developing solutions to support that user experience. Forward-thinking healthcare organizations are applying this approach and achieving improved therapeutic results on behalf of their patients.

Design thinking draws upon the ethos of the design industry and the experience of design professionals to deliver a human-centered experience. In design, as a discipline, you start with the user in mind and build the solution around them; organizations are now applying this principle to service delivery, as well as engineering, architecture, and consumer goods.

The Human-Centered Design Approach To Medication

Stanford University is responsible for much of the work applying design thinking to healthcare. The profession of design is not just the artsy application of form to commercial products; it is the total package of creatively integrating services that supports the outcome. Design thinking in technology solutions is the feedback loop that puts prototyping and the results into the proper context; it creates solutions that reflect goals.

The change in perspective is becoming more prevalent in healthcare, and it shows promise in helping the pharmaceutical industry provide medication to patients much more efficiently and humanely. In hindsight, this is perhaps obvious, but it is not the traditional way of delivering drugs to patients.

The design thinking-based goal of pharma prescribes solutions that respect and leverage patient behavior; this is challenging to an industry that has been built on a culture of rationality, detached and analytical decision-making, without regard to patient experience. The new paradigm empowers professionals to balance intuition and feeling with the analytical and rational, a demanding and subtle balancing act.

Design Delivered By A Five-Step Framework

One advantage that design brings to any project is the discipline of a structured approach. Design thinking imposes a five-step framework:


It is the process of understanding the needs of patients holistically, which means studying patients as people and how to best use pharmacology in order to improve patient health and wellness. Pharma can improve services and effectiveness through a better understanding of the motives and mindsets of patients, and benefit both the industry and patients through more consistent involvement and cooperation.


Once healthcare agencies understand patient behavior better, they can create definitions that look more like conventional problems in search of solutions.


In response to defined problems clinicians can create alternative solutions with the intention of producing superior outcomes. In the context of pharma, ideation means developing solutions that integrate medication into the lifestyles of patients and achieving better therapeutic results.

Prototyping and Testing

The testing and rollout of programs that put the ideas and insights of discovery into practice. This shift in the process provides feedback on how well the programs meet expectations, what sort of experiences emerge from testing and repeating the cycle until the result is a satisfactory prototype.

Design Thinking Principles In Support Of Pharma

As the balance shifts in the relationship between customers and providers, in response to changing technology, those organizations that adapt and embrace the opportunities offered by digital media will pull ahead of those that do not.

Placing the final user at the heart of systems design creates a responsive solution in many applications. In pharmaceuticals, the framework of design thinking is being deployed to improve the patient experience. If design thinking can live up to its promise in support of pharma it represents a positive shift for both the wellbeing of patients and the healthcare organizations that serve them.

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