A recent Biodesign Innovation class got off to an unusual start. Instead of asking students to pull out their laptops and listen to a lecture, organizers handed out envelopes assigning students to mysterious roles as a patient, caregiver or observer. Then, the students left grad school behind.
For the next hour, the students immersed themselves in chaotic, sometimes wrenching hospital scenarios that included an emergency room; a quiet patient room where a woman lay dying; and physical therapy consultation with an ornery fall victim. As each simulation played out, the students struggled to obtain appropriate care and make critical medical decisions against a frustrating backdrop of financial limitations, overburdened providers and conflicting family wishes.
The purpose of the unsettling exercise? To give students in this class, which focuses on developing medical devices and other technology-based solutions to problems in health care, a chance to observe problems in health care delivery firsthand. According to the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, this is an essential first step for innovators hoping to invent viable technology solutions that fully address an unmet need.