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Design Institute for Health Brings Creativity to Health Ecosystem

Two veterans of the pioneering IDEO design firm will lead the Design Institute for Health.

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AUSTIN, Texas – Two veterans of the pioneering IDEO design firm will lead the Design Institute for Health, a first-of-its-kind institution dedicated to applying design thinking and creative solutions to the nation’s health care challenges, and to integrating that perspective into medical education and community health programs.

The Design Institute for Health is a collaboration between the new Dell Medical School and the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. The institute will be led by two veterans of the internationally recognized design firm IDEO: Stacey Chang, IDEO’s former managing director of health and wellness; and Beto Lopez, former global lead of systems design at IDEO and a UT Austin alumnus.

IDEO is credited with a number of landmark designs that established its reputation, including the original computer mouse, the folding laptop computer and the Palm PDA device. Since then, IDEO has expanded its reach into the design of offerings as diverse as educational systems, public policy, retail spaces and children’s toys.

In announcing the institute’s creation at The Contemporary Austin Jones Center art museum on Monday, the first day of the inaugural South by Southwest Health and MedTech Expo, Chang said there are great design opportunities in health.

Providers are moving toward a system that focuses as much on people’s lives, priorities and loved ones as on their particular maladies. The nation is more than ready, Chang said, for creative, human-centered designs that reduce waiting room times, streamline insurance payments, help people tend to their health and create a more compassionate atmosphere in hospitals and clinics.

The Design Institute for Health aims to generate designs and strategies that reinvent the ways doctors are taught and Americans get healthy and stay healthy.

“In health care, there are endless opportunities to rethink products and systems so they better serve people who need them,” said Chang, who oversaw IDEO’s health-related portfolio and will be the institute’s executive director. “The Design Institute for Health will take on these longstanding challenges in a way that’s fully integrated with the Dell Medical School’s efforts to create a vital, inclusive health ecosystem and make Austin a model healthy city.”

“This institute will systematically use design and creativity to create better health outcomes at lower costs, increase value in the health care system and improve the lives of patients and providers,” said Lopez, who will be the institute’s managing director. “We’ll examine everything from the design of health products to the architecture of the hospital to the functionality of the health ecosystem itself it’s an incredibly exciting project.”

The Dell Medical School is the first medical school in decades to be built from the ground up at a top-tier research university. Dr. Clay Johnston, inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School, said that newness will help the school embrace novel solutions without worrying about effects on existing models and practices.

“In health care, ‘redesign’ has become such a buzz word, but few entities are using the principles of design thinking to take on these challenges,” Johnston said. “Creative, uniquely Austin solutions are required to make this a model healthy city. These guys are the creative gurus.”

Both Johnston and Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, credited UT Austin President Bill Powers and Provost Greg Fenves for supporting initiatives such as the Design Institute with the potential to improve health and transform health care.

“The joint appointments of these design experts to the faculties of Fine Arts and the Dell Medical School is a first, big step in an exciting new collaboration between our two colleges,” Dempster said. “Our goal is nothing less than to redesign health care delivery in America. In the process, we are ensuring that our design program is a unifying entrepreneurial discipline at The University of Texas.”