Stanford Medicine Newsroom: Design Thinking as a Way to Improve Patient Experience

Students in a two-day course offered by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford looked for ways to improve the patient experience in the Stanford emergency department.

Stan Nowak, PhD, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, typically spends his days using X-ray spectroscopy to understand the chemical and electronic properties of matter. But on a recent Saturday afternoon, he played the role of the estranged father of a fictional young woman brought into a simulated version of Stanford Hospital’s emergency department after an automobile accident.

The patient — actually a high-tech mannequin voiced by a woman in a nearby control room — was conscious on a gurney. “Oh, it hurts,” she said. “Ow, that really hurts!” 

Ten genuine Stanford doctors, nurses and technicians provided simulated care to simulated patients. 

The exercise was part of a two-day course in design thinking offered by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, known informally as the


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