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Health Care Design Conference - 2013 Boston


About Me

As an Experience Design Director with Mad*Pow in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Adam combines what he's learned over 10+ years of working in interaction and experience design with his background in Computer Science, Film and Visual Design to create effective, efficient, and easy-to-use applications, websites, and interactive media. He believes that no matter how utilitarian a tool is meant to be, at the core of its creation lies a story, and uncovering that story is key to its success.

Adam is also a strong proponent of the value of critique, not only in design, but as a key component of collaboration, learning and improvement. Occasionally he blogs about his perspective and approach to design at and

Q&A with Adam

HxD asked speakers to tell us what inspires and drives them in healthcare and design.

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  • Q1: What is your burning mission in health?

    I guess I have two. First, I want to help teams, whether they be patients, doctors, analysts, developers, whomever work better together to improve patients lives. I believe that collaboration is critical, but it takes a lot more understanding and action than just putting people together on a team and expecting them to make something. Second, I want to help bring basic, compassionate, empathic human-to-human interaction back to healthcare and avoid the industry becoming so enamored with technology that patients become database records, or usernames that log into apps and websites. Technology is great, used as an assistive tool it can add both power and speed to interactions, but nothing, nothing is superior to meaningful human interaction, especially when it comes to a person's health.

  • Q3: Why it inspires you?

    Hillman Curtis has been a major inspiration for me. His work, from his time as a musician, to graphic design, to filmmaking is beautiful, yes, but it's his drive to always be creating, to be expressing ideas and emotions and evoking them in others that I appreciate most. He wasn't afraid to experiment, and he let his creative interests guide him. If he wanted to make something he did. I, and many others I know often hold ourselves back. We have ideas, but we don't execute them. We get scared, for various (and not unreasonable) reasons. Hillman, no doubt had many of those same fears, but he pushed past them, he took risks and produced beautiful things that I find myself enamored with every time I see them.

  • Q4: What is your patient story?

    I've had a chronic blood condition since I was 5, as such I've spent many days in hospitals, gone through numerous surgeries and medical procedures, had to take time away from school and work to recover and made countless decisions about my life based on my condition. I've been very lucky to have a few, amazing doctors who've been with me during long periods in my life, and that continuity has been critical to both my comfort and sanity. But I've also had instances of starting over; times when I've had to try and distill my entire medical history into a 5 minute explanation to a new doctor or nurse. Those times have not been easy. I've been given medication and treatments that I should not have been; some that even though I knew were inappropriate and said as much, the provider insisted I do them.

    For me, being a patient isn't about an annual trip to the doctor, or the occasional visit to the hospital for a minor procedure. To me being a patient is a life-long experience. I love the idea of a family doctor, someone who knows, not just your medical history, but you as a human being.

    If I could do one thing to the medical industry, it would be to bring that aspect of humanity back. Maybe things have become too commoditized or complicated for family physicians to ever be the dominant model again, but I want to do what I can to bring that basic human-to-human interaction back to the experience of being a patient.

  • Q5: Why HxD?

    Why not? A conference that collects some of the most creative and talented people in the design and healthcare industries and spends the day energizing them with stories and ideas so that they can go out and take what they've learned and their new inspirations and put it to work making the lives of patients better? Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

  • Q6: Why should someone come to your session?

    A great idea can come from anywhere, but knowing how to find and explore them as well as understanding the problems we're working to solve and how they fit together is critical. If we're going to create amazing new experiences for patients, we need to understand the tools and techniques we have for doing so. In my talk with my colleagues Michael Hawley and Megan Grocki, we'll look at our foundational process for understanding patients, what they're going through, how their experiences tie together over their entire story as a patient and how to use our understandings to generate and collect ideas for improving their situations. In my workshop with Aaron Irizarry we'll look further into how we generate and discuss our ideas in a way that's productive and builds the sense of collaboration and shared ownership in team members.

Adam at the Conference

CONFERENCE | Monday, March 25

Research and Design Methods in Healthcare

Designing experiences that are elegant, simple, intuitive and valuable is hard. Organizations often have a difficult time coming to consensus around design decisions or leveraging outside perspective and research into their design process. In healthcare, the complex web of patient behavior, regulatory systems, and multiple players make the design process that much more challenging. In this fast-paced session, we will share our experiences designing for the multiple facets of healthcare experiences. We will discuss core research and design methods that help overcome organizational barriers to good design, and review research and design methods that work for patient, provider, insurer and other players in healthcare specifically.

WORKSHOP | Tuesday, March 26

Critique and Design Studio: Improving the Way We Discuss, Share and Evaluate Designs and Ideas.

Teams must work together to share and discuss ideas, solutions, and challenges, but often, problems arise during this process. It's not uncommon for team members to feel frustrated with the quality of the feedback and response they get when sharing ideas and designs. But rarely do they get the chance to step back and think about how they might collect useful feedback and make the discussions around their designs more productive.

Similarly, teams often struggle with generating ideas and designs that are built around, consensus and that the entire team feels invested in. Often it's difficult to focus on a single solution to pursue, or too easy to focus on a solution too soon. Additionally, we often see new ideas raised by team members who were not included in the design process, and unfortunately it's too late to explore them without derailing progress.

All of these problems stem from challenges with collaboration. Whether it's creating, sharing, or discussing, collaboration is key.

The first portion of this workshop will focus on the language, rules and strategies for critique. A team's ability to critique speaks directly to the quality of the conversations team members have, whether they be designers, developers or stakeholders, about the ideas and designs they have for the services, products and websites they’re creating. Through a series of group-based activities and role-playing exercises, participants will be provided with takeaways that can immediately be put to work to create a useful, collaborative environment for discussing designs.

Continuing the theme of collaboration, the second portion of the workshop will explore a design methodology and activity called Design Studio. In order to build understanding and consensus, it's important to give the individuals who will be participating in the creation of a product or service a chance to explore their own ideas for solutions and share them with other members of the team. In a Design Studio, all members of a team to contribute their ideas and then work toward refining them through a sequence of sketching, presentation and critique. In the end, the team will have worked through many different ideas and built consensus toward which will be pursued.

Participants will come away from the day's activities with a better understanding of the dynamics, planning and effort that go into fostering good collaboration, as well as techniques and tips they can share with their teams for doing so.

"Last year's HxD conference was so amazingly inspiring, and has definitely caused me to strive harder and become more passionate about improving our healthcare system." - 2012 HxD Attendee

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Watch the 2012 HXD Conference Recap