Be Like Water: Strategies for Infusing Design in Health Care Organizations


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Picture a large academic medical center full of passionate and committed people — nurses, doctors and many other staff — who feel constrained by a rigid and hierarchical environment that doesn’t always support the best user experiences for patients or employees. Now imagine two lone designers trying to make a difference in this setting, navigating a dense bureaucracy, looking for kindred spirits and building productive partnerships across silos. In this talk, we will share stories of how human-centered design can infuse humanity and bring about cultural change within a hospital, mediating organizational needs with those of end users who may be stressed or vulnerable.  

We will discuss projects that span the design of systems, clinical processes, services, environments, digital interactions, and printed materials. These vignettes show how we have used generative, participatory, and action-oriented methods and tools to creatively and empathetically solve complex health care problems, all the while changing perceptions of what work looks like. Learn how human-centered design can help bring the human scale back to the heart of our health care institutions.

By the end of the session audience members will understand:

  • By the end of the session audience members will understand:
  • How human-centered design methods bring a more humane - and successful - approach to problem-solving in large organizations
  • How to build a practice of co-creation with end users
  • Strategies for changing culture through action, facilitation, participation, modeling behavior, and creating new perceptions of what ‘work’ looks like


Jeremy Beaudry is an experience design strategist at The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Previously, he was a professor of design and director of the Design for Social Impact masters program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His research and design practice focus on creating collaborative tools and methods with organizations, communities and leaders in the service of systems-wide change and innovation efforts, especially in the context of health care. He has written, publicly presented, and led workshops on the power of participatory design to change organizations and systems from the inside out. After helping a close family member navigate the complexity of health care during a serious illness, he was drawn into that world as a place to use his experience and skills as a designer to help health care become more humane.

Katie McCurdy is a patient and designer focusing her work on health care. She has spoken and led workshops on participatory design, patient engagement, and visualizing health data at conferences like Medicine X, Healthcare Experience Refactored, EYEO festival, Digital Health Conference, the Open mHealth Summit, and the UX Strategies Summit. She likes to write articles about why design matters in health care systems. She is co-chair of the Medicine X Design Council, and she organizes a health care meetup group in Burlington, VT that has over 500 members. Her work is more than a job; it’s a life mission, a calling, and it warms her heart to see how design makes a difference for patients (like her) and providers.